Doubtful SoundMarch 12, 2020 in New Zealand ⋅ 🌙 7 °C
Fiordland National Park is New Zealand’s largest national park, covering almost 13,000 square kilometres in the southwest corner of the South Island. Pretty much every visitor to New Zealand’ South Island will visit here during their travels. As a place of such extraordinary beauty, it’s not hard to understand why!
Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound are the two fiords (NZ spelling) that are the easiest to access. But the road to MIlford Sound has been washed out from recent flooding so the choice of which fiord to visit was an easy choice.
Anyways, several travellers we have met have recommended Doubtful as it very beautiful and three times longer in length than Milford. The mountains aren’t quite as high in this area but the less sheer cliff faces mean we would have far more opportunities to spot native wildlife. It is definitely more off the beaten track than Milford so less people and boats are in the fiord which is what we like.
To get to Doubtful Sound you have to go as part of an organized tour. We chose Go Orange and it proved to be a good choice. The 7 hour tour started at the Manapouri wharf, which is 25 km south of where we are in Te Anau. We left at 6 a.m. in order to join the 44 others for a 7:15 a.m. start.
First, we boarded a fast boat from the wharf on Lake Manapouri and crossed to the West Arm, which takes an hour. This is where the Manapouri Hydroelectric Power Station is located, which discharges water through two 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) tailrace tunnels to Doubtful Sound and the sea.
From there, we boarded a bus and took a drive over the Wilmot Pass into the Doubtful Sound wharf area. Our tour guide, Tony, is a retired firefighter who obviously loves his new job. He has been doing it for 2 years now and loves every day that he can share this area with his groups. He has the gift!
At the wharf, a coastal sailing ship was waiting for our cruise into the fjord and out to the Tasman Sea. Within the first 10 minutes, we spotted several bottle-nosed dolphins. A good way to start our trip.
We were out for a good 2 hours, and then returned the same way back via the Wilmot Pass and the West Arm to Manapouri. Tony stopped the bus several times to give us little lessons about the plants, animals and geology of the area. He was funny and informative.
We started out in the dark but returned in the full sun - a glorious day to be in a beautiful and quiet fiord in New Zealand.
Post trip note - When we returned to Te Anau, we had time to take a walk around a small bird sanctuary at the edge of town. We saw some rare endemic birds, including the takahe, the world’s largest rail, of which there are only around 300 birds left. Also in aviaries there were forest parrots called a Kakas and several parakeets. Some of the captive birds were found wounded and will never be released, but others are kept for breeding purposes.Read more