Cruising in Doubtful Sound

Monday, February 18th, 2013

Doubtful Sound from the top of Wilmot Pass

Listed in the AA’s  list of the top 10 things to do Cruising  Doubtful Sound is one of them. We were lucky enough to do the overnight cruise with Real Journeys in December. The weather was warm and sunny which is unusual for the area as it has the highest rainfall in New Zealand.

Jo and Paul supplied a vehicle from NZ Rent a Car Queenstown and we drove to Te Anau which took a bit under 2 hours driving to reach.  There is a secure carpark for your vehicle while you are out cruising and by hiring a vehicle you can explore more of the Southern Westland area.  The boat was due to leave at 12.30 from Pearl Harbour, Manapouri.  Trout are swimming around the wharf and the sign states no fishing within 100 metres of wharf.  I thought trout where quite hard to find, but not down there.

The first part of the journey is across Lake Manapouri to the Manapouri Power Station, the largest underground hydro power station in New Zealand.  Throughout the whole journey there is knowledgable commentary on the sites and history of the area.  It is surprising how long this area had been inhabited by early settlers and the progress that was  made in tourism in the 1800’s.  From here we board a bus to take us across Wilmot Pass to Doubful Sound where we board the Fiordland Navigator for the cruise through the sounds, and out to the Tasman Sea, anchoring overnight in a quiet arm and then back again the next morning.

The scenery is stunning, waterfalls abound, and the colours of the fauna truly unique. The crew on the boat where amazing, with our every need catered to. We anchored and kayaked along the shore line. The top 2 metres or so of the water in the sounds is fresh from the waterfalls, stained brown from the tannins in the forest, which insulates the water, making the temperature warmer, so a few of the brave passengers took a dip. We weighed anchor and headed for the coast, and as the sea was calm we got right out to some outer islands where the fur seals make their home for the summer to bring up their pups. Definitely felt like a bit of an explorer when we hit the swell from the ocean, with the wind blowing and sails up.  We turned back into the sound and headed up First Arm to drop anchor for the night. Dinner was served by the amazing crew who multi task at everything, from loading kayaks to cooking the evening meal.

Waking the following morning we were welcomed by rain, which is the norm for the sounds, shrouding the steep faces in cloud and a great contrast from the previous sunny day. A few penguins where spotted but we didn’t spot any of the bottle nose dolphins that inhabit the sound.

Shrouded in Cloud

The Doubtful Sound Overnight Cruise is a beautiful way to see the sounds, and learn about the history of the area. We met some great people travelling through New Zealand.  We have some of the most beautiful places to immerse ourselves in, so get out there and have a look.  The  next trip South I would really love to do is the Dusky Sound 5 or 7 day cruise, as well as the Catlins, Marlborough Sounds, Kaikoura and also have to book the winter ski trip…… the list goes on.

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