Wonder Women

The night sky above Aotea calls people from all walks of life to admire its beauty. For Good Heavens Dark Sky Sanctuary guides, Deb Kilgallon and Hilde Hoven, their journey is about opening doors and windows for others and providing opportunities to experience the untouched beauty of the night sky inspiring a deeper connection with nature.

Left, Deb Kilgallon – Right, Hilde Hoven

“When you spend time in nature, it often takes a little while before nature comes to you” says Hilde, “it takes 30 minutes for your night vision to adjust before you see the full magnitude of the dark sky and before these treasures truly reveal themselves.”

From growing up in small town Kerikeri where she was first “mesmerized” by the stars, to spending 15 years overseas mainly living in and around the hustle bustle of London, Deb and her husband wrote a list of all the things they loved in the world, “we decided to try and find that place that had all those things, and Aotea met the brief”. 

For Hilde, looking up at the night sky didn’t come until she left the Netherlands, “I had never looked up in that way, people tend to stay inside after dark and don’t seem to look. I remember walking in the middle of the night in the Swiss Alps, looking up and thinking wow.”  

Good Heavens Tour at Medlands, Credit Good Heavens

Hilde’s adventure to live on the island wasn’t quite as organized as Deb’s, “I came over and stayed at the backpackers. After spending some time at the pub and us not having a car, I was convinced by other travelers to chat up a local for a lift. That was when I met Roger.” 

Scottish researcher Deborah Slater came up with a typology for stargazers of dark sky tours: The Stellar Explorers, passionate about astronomy; The Transtemporals, interested in space and time travel; The Inquisitors, intrigued by astrology, spirituality, and the occult; The Collectors, who seek out Dark Sky locations for challenge and excitement; and The Socialisers, who enjoy stargazing with family and friends. According to Hilde and Deb, only 10-20% of the people they see at Good Heavens have a background or interest in astronomy. They say most are socialisers, making a new sub-category “The Romantics”, who come for a proposal, an anniversary or a birthday with their loved one. 

Good Heavens has been operating since the start of the Aotea Dark Sky Sanctuary in August 2017. Over the last seven years they have carried out hundreds of dark sky experiences and would have guided a few thousand stargazers through Aotea’s dark starry sky. 

Regular tours take place whenever there is a clear sky and there is a minimum of four stargazers, usually at least twice a week. Stargazers can book through their website www.goodheavens.co.nz.

Deb and Hilde are participating in two free community stargazing events for international Dark Sky Week. They will be run on Wednesday 3 April (8-9.30pm) at the Tryphena Club and Friday 5 April (8-9.30pm) at the Claris Sports Club.  

In the first week of April, locals can receive a discount of 50% with code IDSWLOCAL for their regular experience at Medlands Beach.

So, what kind of stargazer will you be? 

Words by Georgie Higham

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