World Heritage site in the sky: Aoraki International Dark Sky Reserve

“We fall into a dream of magical when lying on the bed of sands at night, and eyes full with stardust of the sky.”

This is my greatest feeling of the time when I reach Lake Tekapo on my first road trip in my life, where now the most left inside my memories is not the breathtaking lake, neither the lovely bed of lupin flowers, but the skies of stars in the dark sky.

The stars from the famous dark reserve of Lake Tekapo, New Zealand.

The International Dark-Sky Association is a non-profit organization established in 1988. Their aim is to “preserve and protect the nighttime environment and our heritage of dark skies through quality outdoor lighting”.

There are more than 40 Dark Sky Preserves, Reserves and Parks around the world. Although there are different terms used for these “Dark Sky Places”, the New Zealand one was given the title of Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve because reserves consist of a dark core zone with a populated outer area where policy controls are in place protect the core’s darkness.

New Zealand holds the world’s largest dark sky reserve, the Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve.  And they are the only dark sky reserve in the southern hemisphere. The 4300sq km area is inside the Mackenzie Basin of the South Island, which encapsulates Aoraki Mt Cook National Park and the villages of Tekapo, Twizel and Mt Cook.

Earth and Sky in Lake Tekapo run day and night tours to the Mt John Observatory. Take a tour at night to get a hands-on experience of using telescopes. If you have a camera with manual settings, their astro-photographer will even get you some photos.