Dark Sky® Team

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Apólonia Rodrigues

President of Dark Sky Association

Apolónia Rodrigues, born in 1973 in Aveiro, has a degree in Tourism Management and Planning from Aveiro University, is a champion of animal welfare with special affection for the “little felines”, she has always fallen in love with the challenges in creating new destinations and future trends in sustainable tourism. She started her professional career in the Tourism Region of Évora in 1998, where she implemented several projects until 2007. Founder and creator of the destination brand Dark Sky® and Dark Sky® Alqueva, is currently the President of the Dark Sky® Association, and President of the Rede de Turismo de Aldeia do Alentejo. She also coordinates the European Network of Places of Peace since 2010. Between 2010 and 2016 she was co-leader of the Task Force Indicators (NIT). NIT was created by NECSTouR – Network of European Regions for Sustainable and Competitive Tourism, Brussels, Belgium. Between 2014 and 2016 she was a member of ETIS POOL of Experts, a group created by DG Grow, European Commission, to develop and test the European System of Tourism Indicators for sustainable practices and destination management. Between 2005 and 2014, Apolónia was a member of the Tourism Sustainability Group (TSG), a group that created the Agenda for the European Sustainable and Competitive Tourism, where she took on the co-leadership of the Working Indicators Group. This group was set up by DG Grow of the European Commission. Between 2009 and 2013 she was also a member of the Eureka European Tourism Advisory Committee.


International Awards and Distinctions: In 2007 her European Network of Village Tourism project was honored with the Ulysses Prize of the United Nations World Tourism Organization. In 2016, IDA awarded Apolónia with the Dark Sky Defender Award. In 2020 and included in The Bizz Award given by Worldcob, she received the distinction of World Businessperson and by the ACQ5 Global Awards the distinction of Gamechanger of the Year.

With her Dark Sky® Alqueva project, it received the Runner Up award from the Ulysses Prize in 2013, and in 2019 the Bronze CTW Chinese Welcome Award. In the same year, Dark Sky® Alqueva received a Tourism Oscar from the World Travel Awards as Europe’s Responsible Tourism Award 2019.

In this year of 2020 in the middle of this pandemic situation, Dark Sky® Alqueva and Dark Sky® Association receive different distinctions. In February, Dark Sky® Alqueva is awarded a Corporate Travel Awards, as Europe’s Leading Tourist Destination 2020, followed by a distinction awarded by the Business Intelligence Group, the Sustainability Leadership Award 2020. In October, Dark Sky® Alqueva becomes part of from the Sustainable Destinations Global Top 100 by Green Destinations. And in November, it receives the ACQ5 Global Awards in the category of Company of the Year (Astrotourism) and receives two Tourism Oscares Awards from the World Travel Awards, such as Europe’s Responsible Tourism Award 2020 and Europe’s Leading Tourism Project 2020.

The Dark Sky® Association receives also in 2020 The Bizz and The Peak of Success, given by Worldcob and an ACQ5 Country Awards, in the category of Portugal – Best Practice Operator of the Year (Astrotourism).

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Miguel Claro

Official Astrophotographer and Observatory Director

Born in 1977 in the north of Portugal, and today based in Lisbon, Miguel Claro is a Portuguese professional photographer, author and science communicator in the astronomy field, promoting the scientific divulgence of astronomy through public talks, stargazing sessions, articles, exhibitions and astrophotography workshops. Over the past few years he has specialized in astronomical photography of landscapes or Skyscapes, a concept that makes a connection between the Night Sky and the elements on Earth, valuing the architectural, cultural and landscape heritage, as well as enhancing in an educational and scientific way, the Universe, which is full of stars but nowadays stays unnoticed to the majority of people. He is the official astrophotographer of Dark Sky® Alqueva — the first “Starlight Tourism Destination” in the world, located in the eastern part of Portugal’s south–central Alentejo Province, and dedicates a lot of his work to images that capture the beauty of the Deep Sky from the Oficial Dark Sky® Alqueva Observatory, in Cumeada. Miguel is a Photo Ambassador for ESO – European Southern Observatory – (ESO Gallery by M.Claro), a Space.com Contributor and a TWAN photographer member – The World at Night – representing Portugal (TWAN gallery by MClaro). He also jury president of the international competition for night sky photography “Photo Nightscape Award – PNA” held annually in Paris, France. Miguel has also been a lecturer in two editions of TEDx, in Lisbon and Caldas da Rainha, and a speaker at CEDIC´17 “Central European Deepsky Imaging Conference” in Austria. He collaborates regularly with National Geographic (Portugal), Astronomy (USA), Astronomy Now (UK) and Ciel et Espace (France).


Between 2009 and 2013 was member of the European Consulting Committee of Eureka Tourism

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Rebecca Slade

Sustainability and Activities Coordinator

Rebecca Slade is a Sustainable Tourism and Ecology specialist with Dark Sky® Alqueva. She graduated with a BSc Ecology and Wildlife Conservation and a MSc Tourism and Hospitality Management from Bournemouth University in the UK.

Her passion for nature and the environment has taken her to all over the world, working alongside projects that promote local community development with minimal negative impacts on the environment. From Marine Conservation and Research in Greece and Madagascar, witnessing the battle against poaching in Mozambique, to Butterfly Conservation and Livelihoods Development in Cambodia, she returned to Portugal to help preserve our starlit skies and encourage sustainability in the Alentejo.