We turned up to the Dark Sky Project on a beautifully clear and dry summer's evening for our Crater Experience (stargazing through telescopes). We planned ahead, booked on a night where no cloud cover was expected and, upon arrival, were relieved to see conditions couldn't have been any better! 3 hours later, we were told our Crater Experience was cancelled due to lack of visibility.
That seemed odd. We stepped outside and could still see the entire sky from horizon to horizon so clearly that even our little smartphones could capture photos of the constellations we had driven hours and paid hundreds of dollars to view through high powered telescopes...
At this point, a simple refund would have been fine. Instead, we were given a 25% refund and forced to endure a "virtual stargazing" experience: in other words, sitting in brutally uncomfortable chairs while being shown fake planets on a sceen.
At 11pm we were reading the Dark Sky Project's information board about how humans spend too much time looking at screens, and how we must take time to enjoy the darkness and the stars in one of the last remaining truly dark skies on Earth. At midnight, we were trapped inside looking at a computer simulation of Saturn on a giant TV, instead of enjoying the most spectacular night sky we had ever seen outside in the Gold Standard Night Sky Reserve.
When the virtual experience was mercifully over, we went outside and took ourselves stargazing (alongside dozens of others people) beneath what had continued to be a beautifully clear night sky.
We appreciate that stargazing is dependent on weather and visibility, but if those conditions weren't good enough for the experience to run, I can't imagine what is. The whole thing felt like a scam: a way to flog overpriced tickets to the "virtual" experience by selling the Crater experience, then just cancelling it. Unless you're passing Lake Tekapo at midnight and can pop in on a whim, please don't invest any time, money or energy in specifically visiting this place in the hope that your experience will go ahead, because they don't even refund you when it doesn't.
It's also worth noting that there is nowhere to eat after 9pm in Lake Tekapo and, despite their main attractions being midnight stargazing, the Dark Sky Project don't provide any kind of refreshments after 8.30pm. They don't even have a vending machine: the staff look at you like you're crazy if you ask where you can get a cup of coffee or a snack. If you're driving from out of town it's worth eating before you get there!