Observatory stargazing set to return to Takapō

Jul 2, 2020

New Zealanders can once again enjoy stargazing with the reopening of Dark Sky Project, the leading astro-tourism attraction in Takapō (Tekapo).

The company will reopen on 3 July, offering its Crater Experience at Cowan’s Private Observatory and access to Mt John Rd from Thursday to Monday, and opening its retail store at weekends.

Dark Sky Project board chair Graham Kennedy says the reduced operation is a starting point and the board will continue to assess conditions for reopening its wider operations.

“We are delighted that visitors to Takapō will have the opportunity to enjoy an incredible stargazing experience, right in the heart of some of the world’s purest night skies and just in time for the school holidays.”

Dark Sky Project co-founders Graeme Murray and Hide Ozawa have been working with their joint venture partner, Ngāi Tahu Tourism, to enable the reopening. The attraction was paused in March due to the significant impacts of Covid-19, resulting in a reduction of its workforce.

Mr Kennedy says the reopening will mean four additional people can be employed.

“We are thankful to the local community, our partners and the industry for their patience while we have been navigating a number of challenges and identifying new opportunities while our country’s borders are closed.”

The Crater Experience at Cowan’s Private Observatory, nestled in a giant purpose-built crater to provide maximum wind protection and minimum light pollution, is hosted by expert astronomy guides and takes 75 minutes, including transport from Dark Sky Project’s lakefront base.

The company’s other stargazing and astronomy experiences, as well as the Dark Sky Diner and the Astro Café at the summit of Ōtehīwai Mt John, will remain closed for the time being.

“We are continuing to assess conditions for reopening our wider operations, particularly the Summit Experience at the University of Canterbury Mt John Observatory.”

For bookings, please go to: www.darkskyproject.co.nz. The adult rate is $99 (normally $129) and the child rate is $59.