As a dark-sky savvy audience, you probably expect me to say: There was light. But no, there wasn’t. Rather, it began because of a shadow. A very particular shadow – an eclipse.
In case you’re wondering how Dark Sky Traveller began, here’s a quick overview.
It began with THRIVE, Tourism, Helping to Rejuvenate, Inspire through Valuable Experiences. For three years, I took trips to Nepal believing that the experience of the Himalayas and volunteering in Orphanages were both life enriching experiences both psychologically and physically.
It was after one tour in 2006 that mum and dad went to Libya. There, amongst three thousand people, they watched a 2.5min phenomenon: A Total Solar Eclipse. Inspired by this, they returned to Australia and enthusiastically suggested I start an astro-tourism venture. The thousands of people prepared to camp in the Libyan desert to see something so short, proved a viable market.
At the time, I had only a basic knowledge of astronomy, had been stargazing on camping trips in my past, but had never seen an eclipse. Undeterred we sought a host. Dad suggested I contact Prof Fred Watson, some radio personality, presenting regularly on astronomy on the ABC who I’d never heard of. Again, undiscouraged, I wrote to him to see if he could host an Australian eclipse tour in 2012. A positive response ensued, and phone calls, emails and a meeting later, Fred had signed up not only to host a THRIVE eclipse tour in Cairns, but to tag along on our (quickly rebranded) archeo-astronomy journey to Peru.
Peru tour under his belt and plans to create a journey tracing the history of the telescope, I felt it was an asset to make it obvious Fred was part of our program. Fred Watson Illuminating Tours was launched a few months before our journey through England, Italy, Scandinavia and the Netherlands to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the telescope. This was a trip of a lifetime and firmly cemented a group of loyal travellers. Delightedly, I can say that everyone who came on this tour has travelled with us again, and several doing so annually.
After two years operating as Fred Watson Illuminating tours, and over a sunset tipple in Namibia, one of these loyal travellers, pointed out that this, when abbreviated, became F Wit Tours. Promptly we dropped the ‘I’ and became known simply as Fred Watson Tours.
For the next several years we operated as Fred Watson Tours, until last year when we rebadged ourselves TravelOgg due to Fred’s new position with the Federal Government. (It seems an Astronomer At Large, cannot be a commercial entity!) A nice play on my last name and my role in life and tickled a few people’s funny bones, and our company is still under this title.
Most recently as my interest in preserving the night sky became a passion, I again retitled our outfit to be Dark Sky Traveller. This is our most important iteration.
We continue to focus on experience-rich tour programs, out of the way areas and unique accommodation, we remain true to our mission to inspire understanding of our planet and how we impact it.
Earth. Sea… And Sky
Preferably dark ones!