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Lake Tekapo and Lake Pukaki Day Tour
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Ways to Experience Mount John University Observatory
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Traveller rating
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All reviews walk up mount john dark sky clear night clear skies beautiful view cafe observatory toll tekapo stars lake nz
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Reviewed 29 June 2019

It’s a well designed tourism experience, but could be better.

Firstly, we had perfect cloudless weather. Ideal for the night tour. Hazy or cloudy weather would have reduced it to an ordinary night.

The much-vaunted dark sky experience can be had pretty much anywhere in the Island if you get yourself 30 minutes drive outside a town with over 5,000 people. It’s no different. BUT: at Mount John you get knowledgable and passionate guides who were rarely stumped for an answer. They know their stuff and their informative patter is perfect for all visitors from novice to astro-hobbyist.

We learned a lot about some of the more visible objects in the night sky and viewed nebulae, planets and stars through three or four telescopes and were fortunate to get a fantastic view of Saturn’s rings. The time flew by.

Good:
Great booking customer service.
Very well organised with greeting, distribution of lamps and cold weather parkas, bus boarding and disembarking.
Excellent guides - well trained and organised.
A brilliantly designed tour including extra touches like hot chocolate on the mountain and souvenir postcards and night sky information on return to the bus.

Not-so-good:
1. The hot chocolate was tepid. Barely lukewarm. I realise it must be difficult to make and serve a tray of twenty steaming hot chocolates in ambient freezing weather, but you need to find a way. Get your thinking caps on, as the concept was great (we would have loved a warming cup of chocolate) but the execution was a failure. Maybe a thermos or two?
2. We were invited to hand our dslr cameras to the astro-photographer who has numerous mounts set up and will take some great night sky photos. Once again a great idea and someone should be congratulated for including the service. However the astro-photographer took one look at my $8,000 camera and lens and said: “Mirrorless? Our policy is only DSLRs.” I tried to explain that it has the same functions and controls as any pro DSLR but she repeated “Our policy is no mirrorless.”
Seriously? It’s 2019 and all photographers know by now that DSLRs are on the way out. Every major brand has released pro mirrorless cameras. If the astro-photographer can’t tell the difference between a mirrorless camera and a point-and-shoot, or isn’t aware that mirrorless cameras operate exactly the same as her old DSLR, Earth and Sky needs to get her some training. Otherwise she is going to be telling a lot of people that their pro cameras are not good enough. She doesn’t even need to be shown how to use them; they operate just like her DSLR.
3. Do some paving to remove the hazard of walking around in the dark on unpaved and stepped surfaces. Get smooth, well marked (more of that lumo strip you already have) paths.

Those minor points aside it was a good night. I recommend it on a clear night but wouldn’t bother if hazy or cloudy.

Date of experience: June 2019
2  Thank John C
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.
Reviewed 27 June 2019 via mobile

Highly recommend to visit this place if you're visiting Lake Tekapo. The magnificent view really worth every moment we spent up there.

There's a cafe at the Observatory area. We were enjoying our coffee while admiring the scenery.

Date of experience: June 2019
1  Thank C_stephie
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.
Reviewed 11 June 2019 via mobile

We went up during the day, so didn't experience the observatory as such, but this is so worth the drive up for the most stunning 360° views of the surrounding mountains and lakes. We were there when the mountains were well covered in snow. Just spectacular. $8 per car road fee. It is a sealed, though narrow, road. Great cafe at the top. Toilets also available. If going in winter, wrap up warmly, the wind can be eye-wateringly cold.

Date of experience: June 2019
Thank Jane J
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.
Reviewed 9 June 2019

Certainly a very expensive night, but at least it includes door to door service and drop off at the end of the night.

We had an almost perfect night, crystal clear and were able to see the patterns of Jupiter and the rings of Saturn. Our guide Sam, was knowledgeable, funny and kept us distracted from the near freezing conditions.

Well worth the price if you can score the right weather conditions.

Date of experience: June 2019
3  Thank Jay M
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.
Reviewed 5 June 2019 via mobile

Did the Earth and Sky tour. Your was very informative and viewing through the telescopes - large and small was great. However found the group too large and long queue for turn at telescope. Time was therefore limited. Excellent viewing of Milky Way stars planets and all.

Date of experience: May 2019
2  Thank Christine Y
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.
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