Following This Maori Astronomy Course, Your Star Observation Experience Will Be Transformed

The Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve in New Zealand’s South Island is said to offer a breathtaking view of the night sky. Local Māori guide Tutepourangi Manihera-Thomson, or ‘Tu,’ from the Dark Sky Project team, provides a different perspective on stargazing. He introduces the concept of tātai aroraki (Maori astronomy), which uses the sky as a practical roadmap for navigation and marking the passage of seasons.

Through Maori astronomy, stargazers can understand the sky not just scientifically, but also spiritually. The Maori believe that stars connect the living on Earth with the gods (or atua) and dead ancestors (tipua) in the sky. This belief is still followed by many today, though interpretations vary between different tribes, or iwi.

During the tour, the guide points out constellations and explains their significance in Maori culture. For instance, the constellation of Scorpius, which is seen in the Milky Way, is interpreted by Maori as a waka, or star canoe. These celestial canoes are symbolic of the vessels used by the Maori in the 13th century to navigate the vast expanses of the South Pacific and discover New Zealand, or ‘Aotearoa’ as they call it.

Moreover, the tour includes time in a purpose-built observatory where visitors can look deep inside the Milky Way. In this context, the Maori believe that the three stars representing Orion’s belt are celestial brothers who provide guidance and wisdom, reminding people of the importance of family and ancestors.

The Crater Experience tour also offers a different interpretation of the night sky, making stargazing a unique experience. The Dark Sky Project’s Crater Experience tour provides a masterclass in Maori astronomy, which is a completely different way of reading the night sky. This surge in astrotourism has led to a 25-percent increase in the number of clients requesting astrotourism experiences in the past 18 months, according to New Zealand luxury tour operator Southern Crossings.

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