Sky’s the limit for astro tourism

Photography by: New Zealand Tourism/Dark Sky Project

The world’s first indoor multimedia experience combining Maori astronomy and science, has opened in Takapo

A new home of astronomy and astro tourism has opened in Takapo (on Lake Tekapo), offering the world’s first indoor, multimedia experience combining Maori astronomy and science. 


Dark Sky Project, formerly Earth & Sky, recently opened the doors to its new 1140sqm building on the Takapo lake front. The centre includes the Dark Sky Diner, offering spectacular lake and mountain views, and a range of day and night dining options.

It will be the departure point for the astro-tourism business’s outdoor evening stargazing experiences. Mana whenua / local Maori leaders from Arowhenua, Waihao and Moeraki runanga (tribal groups) blessed the building, named Rehua, and the Governor-General Hon Dame Patsy Reddy opened the new experience. 

Dark Sky Project is a joint venture between Ngai Tahu Tourism and co-founders, Tekapo locals Graeme Murray and Hide Ozawa, who first dreamed of turning the skies above this little South Island town into a sanctuary for the stars. Their dream evolved into a sustainability project on a major scale as the region built a reputation as one of the best night sky destinations in the world. 

Graeme says it has been incredible watching the development take shape, especially the moment the large observatory dome was craned on in April. The dome houses the 125-year-old Brashear Telescope, which stands up to nine metres tall and was in storage for five decades before being restored over the past two years.

The Victorian masterpiece is part of the new 45-minute Dark Sky Experience. "Ever since Hide and I stood on the summit of Otehiwai (Mt John) looking up at the night sky 15 years ago, it has been our dream to develop a home for astronomy in the heart of the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve, so that we could inspire a lifelong understanding and passion for our night skies," Graeme said.

With Takapo in the middle of the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve – the world’s largest dark sky reserve and the first to receive gold status – it’s the ideal place for a new home of astronomy.

Source: New Zealand Tourism

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