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Days 25 and 26 – Doubtful Sound

November 10, 2012

Well what a fantastic time we have had during the last 2 days. We left Queenstown at 8.20am on Friday and travelled by bus to Lake Manapouri which is one of the key entry points to Fiordland National Park. It was an interesting and relaxing journey that took us around 3hrs with a few surprises along the way. One such surprise was seeing the Kingston Flyer – an old steam train that has recently been renovated and introduced as a tourist attraction. It starts at Kingston which is at the head of Lake Wakatipu and travels a short distance giving it’s travellers an experience of steam travel.

We arrived at Lake Manapouri around lunch time to commence our journey to Doubtful Sound.  We firstly cruised by a ferry across the lake followed by a short coach trip over Wilmot Pass, an alpine pass to Deep Cove where we boarded our vessel for a cruise on Doubtful Sound. We would spend the night on board our small craft. What a fabulous experience with great views and an excellent crew.

Doubtful Sound is the second largest of the Fiordlands national parks which has 14 fiords (Dusky Sound is the largest) and Deep Cove where we started our journey is around 40km from the Tasman Sea. Though we didn’t get that far there is also a Thompson Sound!! Doubtful Sound reaches about 430m at it’s maximum depth, that’s about 1300ft. It is tidal but the range is fairly moderate generally between 25 and 3m. It was originally named Doubtful Harbour by Capt Cook in 1770 when he skirted past wondering if there was sufficient wind to manoeuvre his vessel in the narrow reaches, he thought it wasn’t worth risk and named it Doubtful Harbour.

It is home to to a variety of marine mammals namely dolphins and seals though we didn’t see any dolphins due to the adverse weather conditions. However we were very fortunate to see one of the worlds rarest penguins the Yellow Crested Penguin along with the little blue penguins. The blue penguins grow to maximum height of 40cm (about 16″) and we were able to see some of these towards the end of our journey.

Fiordland is one of the world’s wettest regions and can deliver very changeable conditions which we experienced during our time there. It is a vast rainforest area though of the temperate kind, being jungle-dense complete with vines. Because it rained most of the time we were  there we saw some spectacular waterfalls cascading down mountain sides 1000m up.

There was opportunity to get a bit closer to the land by going either in a motor launch or in a kayak. Brenda loves kayaking so off she went with a group of other passengers to explore the area. She had a great time even though it started to rain quite heavily and the conditions got rather squaly.

I opted to stay within the safe confines of the boat and helped the skipper keep things in order. Don’t you think I look the part??

There is so much more I could go on about. One of the crew has exceptional knowledge of the geology and nature of the area and throughout the journey was extremely informative keeping us all entranced in what we were experiencing and seeing.

Our night on board was incredibly peaceful only the sound of lapping water and song birds at dawn.

This trip is certainly one of the highlights of our adventure even though we got quite wet at times. We returned back to our camper-van on Saturday afternoon tired but very happy with what we had just experienced.

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