Travel Trend: Dark Skies International
From the Southwestern United States to Eastern Europe, the dark-skies movement is taking hold—and stargazing has never been better.
City dwellers have long been deprived of dazzling stars in the night sky, but a new travel trend has them flocking to remote areas to see what they’re missing. Many hotels are tapping into the dark-sky movement, which got its start in the Southwestern United States about 10 years ago when amateur and professional astronomers started to question the amount of light pollution in the night sky. They advocated banning illuminated billboards, adjusting the angles of night signage and limiting light output. The ideas caught on fast, and spread through the U.S. in the name of conservation reaching far beyond the scope of astronomy. “Dark Sky Places have become very popular with travellers,” says Ameé J. Hennig, Program Manager of the International Dark-Sky Association. “We believe this is because there are very few dark-sky places available to the world any more, and those that are, are difficult to get to and tend to be far from populated areas.”
The result of IDA’s work and that of like-minded organizations is a network of more than 35 dark-sky-protected and dark-sky-designated areas in the U.S., U.K., New Zealand, Namibia, the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Spain and Canada, which leads the way with 16. “The designation is meant to recognize locations that have gone to exceptional lengths to protect a place from the encroachment of light pollution while preserving it for future generations and opening it for current generations to enjoy star-filled skies,” says Hennig.
The movement also led the way for a new form of conservation called scotobiology, the biological study of darkness. In Florida, beachside condo and hotel lights were legally blackened to protect baby sea turtles, which migrate to the sea by moonlight. Ditto for Hawaii, whose seabirds were thrown off course by “resort glow.” Reports of light pollution harming animals such as birds, fish, frogs and moths emerged from the Americas, and the news moved quickly across the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, leading to light pollution controls in Europe as well as Asia, where the movement is still in its infancy. Next up for the dark-skies movement: IDA is launching a new project to help urban areas develop dark-sky zones.
Four Seasons is also working with dark-sky initiatives. Here is a list of Four Seasons properties with stargazing and night sky programs.
Hawaii: Lana‘i, Hualalai and Maui
Camp Koele at Four Seasons Resort Lāna‘i, The Lodge at Koele, offers traditional camp pursuits for kids such as stargazing, hiking and archery. Four Seasons Resort Hualālai at Historic Ka‘ūpūlehu recommends off-site star navigation on the summit of Mauna Kea. Both Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea and Four Seasons Resort Lāna‘i at Manele Bay are known for their excellent stargazing opportunities.
Santa Barbara, California
During summer months, Four Seasons Resort the Biltmore Santa Barbara hosts monthly stargazing parties on the Monte Vista Lawn, where expert astronomers lead engaging sky-watching sessions.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Also during warmer months, Four Seasons Resort and Residences Jackson Hole hosts sky-gazing events that begin at sunset with cocktails and appetizers. When the night sky emerges, you can gaze at galaxies, comets, nebulae, double stars, planets and the moon with a state-of-the-art Schmitt-Casigranian telescope. Families and groups can also organize stargazing excursions to Grand Teton National Park, with a package that includes a chef-prepared dinner under the night sky.
A professional astronomer leads complimentary stargazing talks under the Sonoran Desert sky weekly at Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North. Couples can also enjoy a more intimate stargazing experience with a romantic picnic, packed complete with a constellation chart.
The new high-powered Meade LX200 telescope at Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo offers a beautifully focused look at the night sky. Named by Travel + Leisure as one of the world’s best places to stargaze, this area provides views whose marvels are matched only by the astronomy expertise of Recreation Manager Luis Salas.
Sharm El Sheikh
The clear air and minimal light pollution of the Sinai Peninsula make it an ideal spot for stargazing. Four Seasons Resort Sharm El Sheikh offers weekly sessions with an astronomer who will navigate you through the night sky above. See our first-hand account of this stargazing experience in Sharm El Sheikh here.