At Tekapo Springs, in New Zealand’s central South Island, visitors can now soak in a natural hot pool while stargazing into one of the clearest night skies in the world.
The small town of Tekapo, three hours’ drive from Christchurch, is the hub of the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve – one of the world’s largest sky reserves (41,44sq km) and one of only two in the Southern Hemisphere.
Tekapo Springs owner Karl Burtscher is excited to be adding the latest unique offering to the established facilities.
The stargazing tours with a difference will enable guests to navigate the southern night sky’s bright stars and constellations from the warmth and comfort of the hot pools.
They can enjoy the late-night soak from 9.30pm onwards, watching the moon and stars above as nature paints her ever-changing colours.
Tekapo Star Gazing will be an audio–visual experience, with relaxing star-inspired ‘astro music’ playing in the background as qualified ‘star guides’ point out the brightest features.
Once guests have enjoyed the pools, they’re invited to get ‘closer to the stars and planets’ by looking through two new 9.25 aperture Celestron telescopes sitting on the patio outside the Tahr Bar & Café.
The café boasts stunning views over Lake Tekapo towards the magnificent Two Thumb mountain range, and guests can relax with a glass of wine as they reflect on their night-time experience.
During the winter, in addition to the hot pools, the multi-award winning Tekapo Springs offers ice skating and snow tubing while the summer programme features a huge inflatable waterslide.
Tours are scheduled to start early 2017. The 1.5 hour tours will run year-round.
Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve
Aoraki Mackenzie is a gold-rated dark sky reserve, in recognition of the quality of the almost light-pollution-free skies of the Mackenzie Basin.
The dark sky reserve is located in the Mackenzie Basin, in the South Island of New Zealand, and includes Aoraki Mt Cook National Park and the villages of Lake Tekapo, Twizel and Mt Cook.
The 4300sq km area is bounded by a spectacular alpine landscape with the Southern Alps in the west, and the Two Thumb Range in the east.
A high number of clear nights throughout the year, along with the stability and transparency of the local atmosphere and its unique dark skies, contribute to the Mackenzie’s international recognition as one of the best sites for viewing and researching the southern sky.
This is partly due to a lighting ordinance incorporated into the Mackenzie District Plan which has provided lighting controls throughout most of the reserve since it was enacted in 1981. It was one of the first such ordinances in the southern hemisphere.
The Magellanic Clouds - satellite galaxies to the Milky Way that are only visible in the southern hemisphere - can be seen continuously throughout the year.