• Frequently Asked Questions

Planning a star gazing experience here in Aotearoa New Zealand is once in a lifetime for many so we want to make sure you have the best experience with us at Gisborne Astro Tours.

Here are our most frequently asked questions to help you prepare for your tour.

Where is Gisborne Astro Tours located?

Gisborne Astro Tours is located an easy 15 minutes’ drive from Tairāwhiti Gisborne, just south of the small township of Patutahi at 23 Bilham Road, Patutahi.

When travelling from Gisborne, head west until you come to the large roundabout at the Waipaoa River, take the last exit (to Patutahi), head along this (Wharekopae Road) and take the fifth road on the right (Bilham Road),  Gisborne Astro Tours is the first building on the left – the big shed set off the road in the paddock. Entrance is through the gate into the paddock – signposted.

What time does the tour start?

Gisborne Astro Tours runs tours on Wednesday and Saturday nights. BOOKING ARE ESSENTIAL!

Because the sun sets at different times throughout the year, starting times will vary.

The following are Gisborne Astro Tours starting times:

Non-Daylight-Saving Time (~early April until ~late September) – 7:00pm

Daylight-Saving Time (~late September until ~early April –) – 8:00pm

Note: In Summer, because it’s still slightly light in the evening, tours also include meeting and feeding some friendly sheep.

Please note that for the six days around the Full Moon of each month, when the Moon blots out most of the stars, tours will not operate.

This is done so that your experience under the stars is the best that we can offer. The monthly closed nights are the night of the Full Moon and the three nights before Full and the two nights after Full Moon – e.g. if the Full Moon is on the 15th, there would be no tours on the 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th, 16th and 17th.

What if we can’t see the night sky? Will I get a refund?

If you have paid for a booking and the sky clouds over before the tour starts (or if it’s raining) then you’ll receive a full refund, minus a $5 booking and administration fee.

You will be contacted before your tour starts if your tour is cancelled.

If you arrive when the skies are clear but during the tour, it clouds over, visitors will be invited to an in-depth and insightful talk on astronomy with incredible photos of stars, planets and galaxies.

If the sky hasn’t cleared after this presentation and your tour did not allow for a telescope viewing, then you will receive a 50% (half) refund.

I need to cancel my booking. What is your refund policy?

If you contact us and cancel a booking 3 days prior to your reservation, you can receive a full (100%) refund, minus a $5 booking and administration fee.

How will I know if a tour has been cancelled?

Gisborne Astro Tours will notify you if a tour is cancelled – and you will receive a full (100%) refund, minus a $5 booking and administration fee. This will be done by email, text and/or phone call.

Can children participate in this tour?

Definitely!  I am a qualified school teacher and love it when a child gets wowed by the universe. Having had many decades of telling others about astronomy – and teaching, the delivery will be pitched at a level that everyone can understand.

What should I wear on the tour?

Warm clothes! This includes a jacket, scarf and a beanie – especially in the non-summer months. Also, it’s a good idea to wear gumboots or footwear that slips off easily – no shoes allowed inside the lecture room sorry. It’s a good idea to bring a small torch too.

Do you offer pickups or any transport options?

No, Gisborne Astro Tours does not offer a pick-up/drop-off service at this stage.

Do I need to know about astronomy to understand your tour?

Not at all! Your expert guide John Drummond is one of New Zealand’s top amateur astronomers with years of experience holding lectures and talks on astronomy. From all ages and backgrounds, you will gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of the skies above with Gisborne Astro Tours.

Can I bring my camera?

Yes, of course! The Gisborne Astro Tours owner/operator, John Drummond, is one of New Zealand’s top astrophotographers – having run the Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand Astrophotography (photographing the stars) section for thirteen years.

John will show you how to take photos through one of his astroimaging telescopes and provide helpful tips for astrophotography. As an experienced astrophotographer, some of John’s photographs have been published in books, magazines, calendars as well as New Zealand Post stamps.

What type of telescopes are you using?

The main telescope is a 50cm (20″) f2.9 GoTo Newtonian Reflector. It follows the stars as you look at them – so they don’t drift out of the field of view. This telescope is a real ‘light bucket’ and allows us to see many faint galaxies, nebulae and other targets that smaller telescopes would struggle to see. In addition, Gisborne Astro Tours is situated under a dark, rural sky (SQM ave 21.5) and permits beautiful views of astronomical targets. In addition, a smaller 41cm (16″) Newtonian will be used – so people can alternate between the two telescopes (less waiting time).

How long are the tours?

The tours will run for 1.5 – 2 hours. An outline of your Gisborne Astro Tour includes:

  • Welcome and astronomy intro = 20 minutes
  • Constellation identification with a laser = 15 minutes
  • Telescope viewing = 45 minutes
  • Warm-up/cup of coffee and biscuits = 20 minutes