STAR GAZ­ING

Go Travel New Zealand - - Westland Mackenzie -

Star gaz­ing in one of the world’s top ‘clear sky’ lo­ca­tions has been launched by Tekapo Springs in New Zealand’s Macken­zie country.

The multi-award-win­ning South Is­land tourism at­trac­tion – renowned for its in­no­va­tion and on­go­ing busi­ness in­vest­ment – will take view­ing the South­ern night sky to whole new levels with the in­tro­duc­tion of Tekapo Star Gaz­ing.

The star gaz­ing tours take ad­van­tage of the fact that the tiny town­ship of Tekapo sits within the world’s largest in­ter­na­tional dark sky re­serve (4144sq km), only the fourth such re­serve in the world. But this is star gaz­ing with a dif­fer­ence – in­cor­po­rat­ing a 40-minute guided night sky tour with trained star guides fol­lowed by a 40-minute soak in the hot pools. Guides will con­tinue to give in­for­ma­tion, an­swer ques­tions and ‘story tell’ on re­quest, and re­lax­ing astro mu­sic will play to soothe the soul.

The out­door pools at the com­plex will be lit with low red light­ing to add to the mood, and guests on the tours will be sup­plied with floata­tion de­vices to help them re­lax in the water. The com­plex’s Tahr Bar and Café will be open for drinks and snacks through­out the tour.

Tekapo Springs owner Karl Burtscher said visi­tors didn’t have to know about as­tron­omy to en­joy their ex­pe­ri­ence. “Our trained star guides will de­liver a tour that in­cludes in­for­ma­tion on some of the clos­est and bright­est fea­tures in the night sky such as stars, plan­ets, con­stel­la­tions, and gal­ax­ies,” he said.

“Guests will hear about the mythol­ogy and cul­tural as­pects of the night sky in­clud­ing nav­i­ga­tion for Maori and Euro­pean cul­tures. Our tours have

an em­pha­sis on story telling mixed with some facts and en­ter­tain­ment. Be­fore en­joy­ing the pools, guests are in­vited to get ‘closer to the stars and plan­ets’ by look­ing through two Ce­le­stron re­flec­tor 9.25 aper­ture tele­scopes and a Sky Watcher re­frac­tor Esprit 120 Tele­scope, which Mr Burtscher de­scribed as “mod­ern go-to’ tele­scopes”, sit­ting on the pa­tio out­side the com­plex’s Tahr Bar & Café.

Tours will go ahead no mat­ter the weather and will op­er­ate year-round, with guests en­joy­ing an ex­cit­ing in­door guided tour with the use of a high def­i­ni­tion pro­jec­tor if the sky is not vis­i­ble at all. English and Man­darin-speak­ing tours are on of­fer and tour times will de­pend on the time of year and when it gets dark enough to see the night sky.

Mr Burtscher said Tekapo Springs had been con­sid­er­ing adding the night sky prod­ucts “for the past two or three years” and the tim­ing was now right.

“Adding Tekapo Star Gaz­ing will con­tinue to broaden what we of­fer, and ex­tend the range of ‘things to do’ in Tekapo at night. Many Asian visi­tors in par­tic­u­lar are en­tranced by our night skies be­cause they can’t see the stars at home due to ex­ces­sive light pol­lu­tion. Star Gaz­ing tours start at $89 per per­son and trans­port is avail­able from the Tekapo Springs info cen­tre. Book­ings are highly rec­om­mended.

Tekapo Springs is a year-round at­trac­tion nes­tled on the shores of stun­ning Lake Tekapo, beloved by visi­tors from all around the globe. Last year it was a win­ner of the 2016 South Can­ter­bury Cham­ber of Com­merce Busi­ness Ex­cel­lence Awards and a fi­nal­ist in the Cham­pion Can­ter­bury Busi­ness Awards 2016.

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