Fiordland’s Dark Sky

The night sky certainly does sparkle here in Fiordland!

Our minimal light pollution makes for a phenomenal night sky. Couple this with a relaxing soak in your own private hot tub (or even just a luxurious bath inside), and you’ll be in a star-gazer’s paradise.

Truly dark skies are now a rarity across the world; a 2016 scientific study found that more than 80% of the world’s population lives under light-polluted skies. The Milky Way galaxy is invisible to an astonishing 60% of Europeans and nearly 80% of North Americans – yet we take its vibrant presence for granted here in Aotearoa New Zealand.

– Dark Sky Sanctuary Application

In fact, our night sky is so luminous that our region has put in an application with The International Dark Sky Association (IDA), to formally assess whether Fiordland meets the requirements to become an ‘International Dark Sky Sanctuary‘. We at Fiordland Eco-Retreat are personally involved in this mammoth project, with Glen being a founding member of the Fiordland Dark Sky Community Outreach Group.

“An International Dark Sky Sanctuary (IDSS)… possesses an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and nocturnal environment…”

International Dark Sky Association

– Dark Sky Tours

Glen is truly passionate about astronomy and astrotourism. He is a qualified ‘Dark Sky Ambassador’, and is a real fount of knowledge (in everything – not just the night sky!).

Aided by an incredible telescope, astro binoculars and the naked eye, he can guide and teach you about our southern hemisphere’s night sky during a night sky tour, right here at the Eco-Retreat. Please click below to find out more!

– Aurora Australis

We’re incredibly fortunate that we also get to see the ‘bucket-list item’ of the Aurora Australis, or Southern Lights here in Te Anau.

– Māori Significance

The stars were used by ancient Māori navigators to guide their waka (boats) across the ocean, towards their new home of Aotearoa New Zealand. Since then, the stars have played a pivotal role in Māori life, including guiding them through the seasons, enabling crops to be planted and harvested at the most opportune time.

We love to share Māori stories during our night sky tours here at Fiordland Eco-Retreat, and we acknowledge that these often vary between different regions. We care about Māori kaitiakitanga (stewardship), and that the the stories we share and the information that we provide are true to our local iwi’s (Maori tribe’s) beliefs. As such, we are in the process of consulting with our local rūnaka (iwi tribal authority), Ōraka Aparima, and the wider iwi of Te Waipounamu (the South Island), Ngāi Tahu, to ensure that we are passing on true and correct Māori interpretation for the Fiordland area.

– Matariki

The annual rising of the Matariki constellation takes place in mid-winter and, for many Māori people, heralds the start of the new year.

The Matariki cluster consists of 9 stars. Matariki is the mother, and the other stars are her children:

  • Tupuānuku – associated with food from the ground
  • Tupuārangi – associated with food found in the tops of the trees
  • Waitī – associated with freshwater and water creatures
  • Waitā – associated with food harvested from the sea
  • Waipunarangi – associated with the rain
  • Ururangi – associated with nature and the winds
  • Pōhutukawa – connects Matariki to those who have passed
  • Hiwa-i-te-rangi – the wishing star that our dreams and desires are sent to

This is of such importance to Māori culture, that a dedicated public holiday now takes place in Pipiri (June) or Hōngongoi (July) each year – the date will shift each year to align with the maramataka (Māori stellar-lunar calendar). It is a time to:

  • Remember: Honour those we have lost since the last rising of Matariki.
  • Celebrate the Present: Gather together to give thanks for what we have.
  • Look to the Future: Look forward to the promise of a new year.