Cape Town


SAAO is situated in the suburb of Observatory, about 5 km SE of central Cape Town, 13 km from Cape Town’s international airport, and about 1 km from Observatory station. Shops and guest houses are nearby, and hotels and larger shopping districts are readily accessible by train and bus. The University of Cape Town (UCT) is about 3 km away. The precise location of the Observatory (Gill transit circle) is 18°28´35.7″, 33°56´02.5″ S. The mean time in South Africa is South African Standard Time (SAST). SAST is ahead of UT by 2 hr.

Communicating with SAAO

The postal address of the Observatory is:

South African Astronomical Observatory
P.O. Box 9
Observatory, Cape Town, 7935
South Africa

The street address is:

South African Astronomical Observatory
Observatory Road
Observatory, Cape Town, 7925
South Africa

Telephone No: 447-0025 (office hours–0800 to 1630)
Fax No.: 447-3639
Dialling codes: National: 021; International: +27 21
E-mail address:


The Business Manager is in charge of administration and is responsible to the Director. Any administrative questions should be directed to the Business Manager in the first instance. Visitors are requested to assist as follows:

  • If equipment is to be brought for an observing run, observers should where possible use the “carnet” system for customs purposes. To avoid possible delays in customs clearance, equipment should arrive in Cape Town a week before the start of the observing run.
  • Bills for accommodation, meals, telephone calls, fax messages and transport etc. should be paid when rendered.

Travel Arrangements

In order to avoid difficulties at the start of an observing run, visiting observers should allow adequate time for discussions and preparation in Cape Town, and should arrange to visit SAAO on the Monday preceding their trip to Sutherland or earlier. In any event, visitors are advised to arrange to arrive in Cape Town at the latest on the Sunday before a run, to allow time for acclimatisation and recovery from their trip, and to safeguard against late arrival of a flight. Visitors should arrange to spend sufficient time (usually two working days) in Cape Town after their run if reductions or data copying are to be undertaken by SAAO staff. Normally, visitors arriving at Cape Town airport should take a taxi to their hotel or guest house, and the same procedure should be followed on departure.


The Koornhoop Manor House is located within walking distance of the Observatory. Other guest houses can also be found nearby, and some may be cheaper. Numerous hotels and guest houses are available elsewhere in Cape Town at a wide range of prices, but travel to the Observatory by public transport can be difficult from some areas.

Alternatively there is self-catering accommodation available within the tranquil grounds of the Observatory in Cape Town. Rates are displayed below. Reduced rates are available for long term stays. Payments can be made by credit card.

Please confirm accommodation rates at the time of your booking as they are subject to change.

Please contact Valencia Cloete regarding your accommodation arrangements. Visitors who arrange their own accommodation should supply the Observatory with an address and telephone number for emergency purposes.


A transport officer is in charge of all official vehicles and none of them may be driven without a driving licence that is valid in South Africa (e.g. an international licence or one bearing the driver’s photograph). Visitors may not drive official vehicles before providing a copy of their licences to Valencia Cloete. Unscheduled trips require pre-approval and the visitor will be responsible for the invoice.


There is no cafeteria or canteen, but a microwave in the kitchen can be used to heat lunches or parts thereof. Morning tea (10:30) is provided in the library, afternoon tea (15:00) in the kitchen. A number of restaurants and a miniature “supermarket” are located a short distance away in the village business centre of Observatory.


Visiting observers are welcome to use the library facilities during their stay. Desks can be found in the Atlas Room. Any queries can be directed to the librarian.