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Travelers heading to New Zealand’s South Island in 2017 may want to plan an evening stop at Tekapo Springs, a natural hot springs facility by Lake Tekapo where folks will be able to enjoy a nighttime soak under some of the nation’s clearest skies.
About a three-hour drive from Christchurch, the small lakeside community of Tekapo is the hub for the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve, which spans 1,600 square miles of South Island’s Mackenzie Basin and is one of only two such preserves in the Southern Hemisphere.
Regional officials enacted an ordinance limiting light pollution there in 1981, and the area’s small population, combined with a high number of cloud-free nights annually, has made the Dark Sky Reserve a respected destination for research.
Karl Burtscher, owner and managing director of Tekapo Springs, says he decided to create a new 90-minute stargazing product for guests after fielding a number of inquiries from his clientele.
“We have had many requests from customers via social media for a product that included sitting in the hot pools watching the stars,” Burtscher said. “There is obviously huge demand from tourists for stargazing.”
Slated to launch in early 2017, the Tekapo stargazing product will kick off at 9:30 p.m. with a chance for guests to look through high-powered, 9.25-inch aperture Celestron telescopes during a presentation highlighting “the 10 to 15 brightest features of the southern night sky,” according to Burtscher. A “Star Guide” will provide commentary about the objects’ “history, distance and unique features, and also the story behind many constellations,” Burtscher says.
Cocktails and snacks will be included during the presentation, along with time dedicated to viewing celestial objects in the high-powered telescopes.
“Stargazers are then invited to get changed and enter the hot pools whilst listening to relaxing and inspiring ‘astro’ music,” Burtscher said. “The lights are obviously out, and this is the time to relax in warmth and soak in the magnificent night sky.”
Burtscher adds that the new Tekapo stargazing product may especially appeal to visitors from the U.S., because the southern skies are so different from those over North America.
“For U.S. citizens, they don’t see the night sky from this perspective, so it will be an educating and enlightening experience for them,” he said. “Many Northern Hemisphere countries experience much more atmospheric pollution than we do, particularly in urban areas, and simply don’t get to see the night sky as we do here in Lake Tekapo.”
The 90-minute Tekapo stargazing product will run about $60, according to Burtscher.
Tekapo Springs is home to five hot springs pools that range in temperature from about 89 to 102 degrees Fahrenheit. The facility also features a range of activities for all seasons, including an ice-skating rink and snowtubing during the winter months.