In the words of JR Tolkien "Not all those who wander are lost". My passion and loves are my family, travel and writing. I'm fortunate to be able to combine all three for an extraordinary life adventure....
Published December 27th 2017
Photo by Michael Radov, tour participant
Cairns and the surrounding region is most famous for the World Heritage sites of the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest. Yet, in the heart of this region, is an expansive starry rich sky awaiting your exploration as a special addition to your 'must see' list.
If you've ever spent a day camping out under the stars it would be of no surprise to know that we are pretty lucky in Australia when it comes to spectacular night skies. We see 100 times more stars than the Northern Hemisphere because we look directly into the heart of the Milky Way. We also don't have to travel too far out of our major cities and towns to escape the light pollution which masks the brightness, intensity and the gazillion of stars hidden from our view.
An hour's drive, inland from Cairns and heading towards Mareeba, is the perfect spot for some star gazing set on a private 5000 acre bush property with your very own astronomer guide, Ian from Night Sky Secrets.
We may think that the more obvious places to head for an informative and educational experience should be a city-based Observatory or Planetarium, however, hanging out in the natural bush environment, with the infinite sky above you, a couple of awesome telescopes and someone there to help you unlock the secrets of the night sky is a unique experience.
This year, instead of trying to find the perfect Boxing Day bargain, we chose to search for something else pretty special - stars beyond our reach but extraordinary all the same.
Our drive from Cairns to the Night Sky Secret tour location was through scenic rainforest up the mountain range and past the charming town of Kuranda. There is the option of camping overnight on the property for an additional $10 per person. Please arrange with Ian at the time of booking. There are composting toilets available and many great spots to set up a tent with a lake view.
We made use of our time while on location, to enjoy a swim and paddle in the enormous lily pad lake, observe some interesting bird life and finally relaxed on the grassy hill taking in the sights, smells and sounds of the bush surrounds.
Ian, and his wife Rose, had set up a comfortable and welcoming space and preparations were already underway when we arrived. I couldn't resist but get straight into the camping swing of things by helping out with the cooking of some 'damper style' bread over the fire. Rose had added some special ingredients and flavour to the traditional simple recipe with an aroma of coconut oil and fennel seed wafting through the air.
Ian by this time, had set up two enormous and very impressive looking telescopes to provide us with some interesting insights into the deep mysterious night sky. Our first viewing was the moon which was exceptionally bright and vibrant this evening. My sons and I were in awe at the amazing close-up view of the moon's craters, peaks and unusual surface. It was like nothing I had ever seen before first hand.
A little break and a camp dinner around the fire ensured we were well fed before any further universe mysteries were solved! For the remainder of the night, Ian was able to pinpoint specific constellations and globular star clusters accompanied by useful information, stories and folklore. We discovered and learnt more about some of the more familiar constellations, as well as others that we had not heard of before.
There was time throughout the evening for telescope viewing, discussions (some Tim Tams!), and also plenty of just simply sitting back, head tilted, gazing up in awe at the enormity and vastness of the sky all around us.
Ian and Rose from Night Sky Secrets conduct regular tours to coincide with a moonless sky and sometimes special celestial events such as planetary conjunctions, Comets, Nova Stars and more.
The seasonal tours are run from May until November each year & are weather dependent. Tour dates are usually selected to maximise deep sky observing opportunities and are most often run on a Monday, Wednesday or Friday night from 6:30 - 9:30pm.
If you are interested in subscribing to get the latest information on all matters astronomy, see; Everything Astronomy
If you are interested in purchasing astronomy equipment - including telescopes, binoculars and other accessories, please visit this site. Night Sky Secrets has a shop front in Cairns City for bookings, products, and/or if you want to find out more about how to develop the astronomer in you!
Why? Intimate star gazing tour from an outback bush location near to Cairns. Experienced astronomer reveals hidden Nebula, Galaxies, Star Clusters & Planets with large aperture telescopes & a guided tour
When:Tours usually run from May to November period. Other tours may be arranged outside these months. Held from 6:30 - 9:30pm