While the appeal of switching off the lights for an hour of quiet darkness may have lost its lustre thanks to load shedding, Earth Hour is celebrated for other important reasons.
On March 30, 2019, from 20h30 to 21h30 local time, South Africans are encouraged to join in to help raise awareness of environmental issues affecting our planet.
To help celebrate this important initiative, here is how Earth Hour is celebrated in ten leading travel destinations around the world.
Sydney is the birthplace of the Earth Hour concept. It started in 2007 when 2.2-million Australians switched off their lights to show their government they care about climate change. Today, the initiative is organised by the WWF and involves more than 180 countries.
On Australia’s east coast, Sydney is one of the first major cities to reach the designated time and have their turn to switch off lights. The two most famous icons, the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge, usually twinkling with lights, are also turned off. Watching the spectacle from the Sydney Observatory situated high up on a hill with sweeping views over the city and both monuments, is a tradition for locals and travellers alike.
This year, there'll also be an evening of talks by environmental experts, stargazing tours guided by astronomers and other fun and educational family activities.
Northern Lights countries
Where better to be reminded of nature’s rare beauty than catching one of the most surreal natural phenomena on Earth? Watching the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) dance across the sky is a worthy bucket-list experience – book your trip now for next year.
Sweden, Norway, Iceland and even parts of Scotland and Alaska, are some of the best places to view the lights – that’s if you’re lucky. However, you’ll need to be in the right destination, in the right season, with low levels of light pollution. Long winter nights are good, as are conditions near equinoxes.
Did you know that more than one-third of the world can’t see the Milky Way, even on clear nights? The World Economic Forum reported in 2016 that electricity-powered artificial lights create an effect known as ‘skyglow’, and the light pollution makes the stars appear rather hazy.
“Namibia is one of the best destinations in the world to stargaze,” says Sue Garrett, General Manager of Marketing and Product at Flight Centre. “The whole of the country has really dark and clear skies, creating some of the best stargazing conditions on earth, and it’s just a short flight or road trip from South Africa,” she adds.
Garrett recommends Sossusvlei for the best stargazing experience – Earth Hour or not. “The Sossusvlei is particularly spectacular, and many of the lodges have telescopes. You can also book a guided stargazing tour.”
From countries with low light pollution to a city with some of the worst, Hong Kong’s light pollution has been rated among the worst on the planet. While the city’s always-on skyscraper-studded cityscapes are part of the appeal for visitors, seeing this lit up city plunged into darkness is a sight to behold.
According to WWF Hong Kong, locals consume more (from switching on lights to buying clothes) per person than most other countries. This year, there is a considerable drive to adopt more sustainable lifestyles. A host of activities and events will be held at the Earth Hour Village next to the Tsim Sha Tsui Clock Tower, centred around the city's two priority environmental policies this year: saying no to single-use plastic and preserving local biodiversity.
In the city that never sleeps, New York is plunged into darkness (if only for an hour). The Empire State Building is one of the iconic buildings that turns off its lights. Watching this from Top of the Rock at the Rockefeller Center, one of the best places for a bird’s eye view of the famous city, is a local’s and visitor’s favourite way to take in Earth Hour.