The Backyard Universe
Stargazing & astronomy experiences.
Nature, scenery, food & wine tours.
Frequently asked questions
What's it like on a stargazing tour? Watch our timelapse video of a Wilpena stargazing tour (MP4, 38MB, no audio).
What are the tour Terms & Conditions, cancellation policy, etc? Read them here.
What is included in the tour prices?
The advertised prices include GST, booking fees, credit card fees, agent commissions, any winery tasting fees, and any entry fees to third-party venues & tours. Some tour prices also include meals. See the individual tours’ descriptions for any additional inclusions or exclusions from their advertised prices.
Most tours are charged as per person regardless of age. If a tour offers “adult”, “child” and/or “family” pricing; then a “child” is anyone 3 to 15 years old, an “adult” is anyone 16 years and older, and a “family” is up to 2 adults plus up to 3 children.
What if don't have a MasterCard or Visa card for online tour bookings?
Contact us for other payment options; for example cash, Direct Payment to our bank account, or on-the-spot payment with American Express, Mastercard, Visa, or your smartphone.
Phone or SMS 0488 705 224
What should I wear for a stargazing / astronomy tour?
Our advice is to wear more layers of clothing than you think you will need. It's easy to remove a layer or two if you're too hot, but it's impossible to put on an extra layer if you forgot to bring it to the tour.
We also recommend closed footwear such as walking shoes or boots. Thongs and sandals and high heels are likely to painfully discover sharp sticks, pointy gravel or protruding stones in the dark.
Remember when you're choosing your clothing that (1) you're outdoors in an exposed area, (2) there's usually some air flow, and (3) winter night temperatures at some venues may drop below zero degrees C after midnight.
The mosquitos at all of our astronomy venues are active all year, and they like tourists.
If you bring a torch we prefer it to be a *red* torch (less likely to spoil night vision).
What if it's totally overcast / raining / foggy on the astronomy tour night?
Stargazing & astronomy evening tours are all “Weather Permitting”.
Telescopes are not much affected by cold, but they don’t like strong winds and they can’t see through clouds or rain.
Nocturnal cloud forecasting at many of our venues is far from reliable, which is why we always check the expected weather/cloud conditions for each tour on the day.
If conditions are unfavourable the tour will be cancelled, and you will be notified via email or SMS before 5pm on the day of tour. You may then choose either an alternative tour date (if possible), or receive a full refund.
At some of our venues we can do an alternative tour using planetarium software on a big screen.
Are the astronomy tours suitable for very young children?
Depends on the child. We've met some 3 year olds who stay alert & well behaved for an entire tour session and ask us profound questions. Even though it's later than their usual bedtime. But don't be surprised if your young child falls asleep during the tour, after their long and active day.
Can our group / school / event book a private astronomy tour?
Yes, subject to our availability on your proposed date. We can also do talks or presentations to your group during the daytime. Contact us to arrange dates/times, costings, and payment options.
All of us have National Police Clearances, and DCSI Working With Children / Vulnerable Persons clearances. We've also done First Aid training as well.
What should I wear for a nature/scenery tour?
We strongly recommend closed footwear such as walking shoes, sandshoes or boots. Thongs and sandals may slide off of your feet on slopes and rocky surfaces, and they offer insufficient protection against rocks and sticks and thorns. Some of the venues we visit also require closed footwear as their condition of entry.
In sunny weather it's also a good idea to wear a hat and sunscreen, and bring a water bottle.
Our company geologist wears shorts when he develops our tours so he tends to avoid dense or spiny vegetation. And arthritis is slowing him down a bit nowadays so the walking on our tours is "Moderate" or "Easy". But we still haven't trained him to avoid all steep slopes yet!
Can we collect rock/mineral/fossil specimens on tour?
Collecting small rocks from creek beds, beaches, rubble slopes, or fallen naturally from outcrops, is generally okay. If in doubt ask us during the tour. However:
- Australian law prohibits collecting by the public within all National Parks, all Conservation Reserves, and from any officially registered historic and heritage sites (including some old mines).
- Any land owner can also refuse permission to enter or to collect specimens from their property.
- Breaking off pieces of outcrops at any time is regarded as vandalism, and is not permitted on any of our tours.
- We won't let you collect big heavy specimens of loose rock either, because of the risk of injury to you and others. Larger rocks may also be concealing venomous snakes, centipedes and/or scorpions.
- Rock specimens will have to be declared to your local Quarantine officials, and will need to be sterilised, and may require an import permit.
- Australian law prohibits removal of fossils from Australia without an export permit.
- Rocks are easily detected by airport security scanners.
What if it rains on a nature/scenery tour day?
The nature/scenery tour will be cancelled or modified en route if there's thunderstorms or heavy rain in progress, or forecast to happen during tour.
The tour will also be cancelled if the roads & tracks we use have been officially closed by rain or flood damage.
We will do the tour if it's only light rain / occasional showers, but we may modify it to avoid walking on any steep slippery slopes, or driving on any "dry weather only" tracks.
What if it's very hot on the nature/scenery tour day?
Shade temperatures exceeding 40 degrees C are common during the summer months. If it's a hot day our vehicle(s) will be carrying extra drinking water; but if you're part of a tag-along tour then your vehicle needs to carry extra water too. We may modify the tour to reduce your risk of heat exhaustion.
If Catastrophic Fire Danger conditions are forecast then many of our venues will be closed as per their safety policies, and we will cancel the tour due to "severe weather" as per our tour terms and conditions.
Are the nature/scenery tours suitable for very young children?
In our experience young children will ignore our presentation and try exploring for whatever interests them. You may have some extra rocks and other items by the end of the tour.
I'm a geologist. Will the nature/scenery tours interest me?
If you're not familiar with the tour's geology you will find the tours interesting, because we introduce you to some great outcrops amongst photogenic scenery. Our geology explanations are intended for the 99.9% of people who aren't geologists, but feel free to ask our company geologist questions afterwards.
If you are a renowned expert on the tour's specific geology or paleontology, then we could be asking you a few questions... :-)
Are you associated with any of the other "backyard universe" websites / operators?
No we're not, apart from sharing a common interest in stargazing. And practically all of them seem to be based in the northern hemisphere -- which puts them at a serious disadvantage for viewing our wonderful southern hemisphere night skies. We at The Backyard Universe actually feel sorry for them; and we invite them to come to South Australia and enjoy the more spectacular half of the sky with us. During the daytime we invite them to join our nature/scenery tours too.
How will I know if my vehicle is suitable for a tag-along tour?
Most of our tours use public roads and can be driven by any roadworthy car. If the tour, or some parts of it, require something more capable then we will say so in the tour's detailed description.
For example the Other Big Bang Tour does long distances on unsealed roads & tracks.
Descriptions for longer tours will also include driving distances and refuelling locations.
Can I do a tag-along tour in my rental vehicle?
Carefully read your rental terms & conditions first! A few rental companies will not permit you to drive their vehicle on any unsealed road anywhere, unless you have hired a 4WD. Other companies are more reasonable and will let you drive their cars on unsealed public roads, but not on rough farm tracks or cross-country.
Also for long trips beware of the Excess Kilometres Fee that will be charged by many car rental companies.
Where do I meet you for a tour?
Every tour description includes the starting / pickup location(s) and time(s). For tag-along tours please ensure your vehicle has sufficient fuel to complete the tour; or to at least reach our next fuel stop.
Do you work with other tour operators & venues?
Yes, and here's links to some of them:
BIG4 Adelaide Shores caravan park
Mt Ive station
Rawnsley Park station
Wirrina Cove Holiday Park
Encounter Coast Spirits
Iron Knob mine tours
Lazy Ballerina winery
Lush Pastures B&B
Mt Jagged winery
Prairie Hotel, Parachilna
Smiling Samoyed brewery