Sunday 19 May 2024

Doubtful Sound - have no doubt: it is amazing

As we drove from Te Anau to Manapouri, this mountain was towering above the clouds. I still don't know which one it is!


The trip over on the launch from Manapouri to the visitor centre near the power station was quite different from my memory of it from 2001 - I remembered it being a straightforward straight trip across the lake. But no! The lake has all sorts of bays and nooks and crannies. How did I manage to forget that?

Megan and Forbes - lovely people

Some other lovely people - don't know who they are...


As we travelled across the lake, David and I, Megan and Forbes speculated about which trips all of the people on the launch were going to be doing once we had reached Deep Cove.

On the map, Lake Manapouri looks narrow - it's not!
The power station - with reflections. Most of the power station is deep below the ground - about 4 storeys underground, I believe. Last time we came here, David went down with most of the other people in the bus. I didn't - I walked with a few others up a bit to meet the bus once they had risen from the depths. Apparently they stopped doing the public trips in 2007.


The bus trip over Wilmot Pass was pretty spectacular - amazing scenery, deep valleys, waterfalls, and forest. And Dave the coach driver was humorous and informative. A few stops for photographs and the 45 minute trip was soon over. It was winding and steep and I was pleased not to be able to see out of the front windscreen ...

From part the way down from Wilmot Pass looking down into Deep Cove


Dave stopped to show us this waterfall which was quite near the bottom of the road.

When we arrived in Deep Cove, I asked Dave what was happening, were we all going on the same boat? Yes, he said - that was good to know because there was only one boat moored up there - and it was pretty damn big! So all 57 people on the two coaches were going to be on the 2 night cruise. Now that WAS a surprise. For some reason, we had all (2MDF) thought that we were going to be on a small exclusive launch, don't you know ...

Instead we were all together. The Fiordland Navigator can take 70 passengers so it wasn't going to be full. It is 40 metres long, so a very small wee ship; too big for a launch, not strictly a yacht although it has 3 masts with sails. At 40 metres long it is just over twice the length of Waka Huia, but significantly wider... David checked online - apparently it is a ship.

And there's the ship, the Fiordland Navigator

Our cabin - complete with towels and David's yellow backpack. Not a big cabin, but small and perfectly formed. The ensuite was over to the right - door is out of shot.

We carted our luggage (hand baggage size only) down the steep steps and along the gang plank and onboard, then up the stairs into the saloon. We were then all introduced to the skipper and the rest of the staff. Table by table we were handed out our room keys, sent down/up to drop off our bags and then back into the saloon for a briefing on what was in store for us. Some cruising, then kayaking or a trip on the tenders and then, for the very brave or exceedingly foolish, a swim off the back of the ship - there is a water-level piece of deck that people could get into the tenders, clamber into kayaks, jump off into water that was about 10 or 12 degrees celsius. Nuts!

And we are off - the scenery was spectacular right from the beginning!

Some very high terrain down here. It's pretty much all mountains, ranges or water.

As the ship got underway, 2MDF decided we would all be candidates for the tender. Forbes was excused kayaking because he was heavier than the max weight... The other 3 of us weren't keen either.

The scenery was breathtaking, from onboard the ship and from the tender, although at times it was hard to see what Dave the young Irish crew member was pointing out because of the people who were standing when told to sit ...

In the tender. Megan standing on the right, Forbes sitting. Megan only stood when we were allowed to - and she should have anyway - she is so short that she makes me look very very tall...

The Fiordland Navigator, taken from the tender - front view

View of the starboard side. Our cabin was one of six on the top deck. The first and second windows from the stern were ours.

The snow hadn't really started down here - but it was going to ...

One of the tenders being hoisted out of the water

Sunset, day 1

I took lots of photos of it, and am only showing you two of them. Be grateful!

Forbes and Megan
She has her hand on his bum ...
There was a fishing launch tootling around - I think the crew were checking crayfish pots.


Really difficult to see but there are lots of seals sunning themselves on this small island.

Seals and seal poop...

The closer we got to the west coast and the winds off the Tasman Sea, the shorter and less deep green the vegetation was.

The island with the seals
No, we did not try to get through there! After that, it would be next stop Australia! But not in this ship - with a 5 metre draft and no keel, it would not cope in even moderate seas.

The food was plentiful and very tasty, the veg options were pretty yummy, and the crew were exceptionally hardworking - 14 hour days. They all assisted in every task, so if they weren't lowering the tenders from their cradles, crewing tenders or accompanying kayakers, keeping an eye on the swimmers, they were assisting with food prep and serving or doing dishes, raising or lowering the anchor, ...


  • the scenery - mountains, waterfalls, steep sided hills that plunged straight down into the sounds and arms
  • the multiple arms that make up Doubtful Sound most of which we explored
  • the islands 
  • the dolphin pod, some of whom accompanied the ship - I got to be right near the bow and able to look over the side and see them frolicking and putting on their display
  • the clear water
  • the information that Div provided about the flora and fauna, the geology, the tree avalanches
  • the stunning weather - we had the three finest days of the whole year so far. It was cold but fine and with almost no wind.
  • standing up on the bridge asking questions and chatting with Blake and being there when we were out on the Tasman Sea
  • being moored up at anchor overnight in perfectly quiet coves - the only noise was the generator (the only one left on overnight), hence the earplugs provided in each cabin 😜
  • lovely comfortable en-suite cabins, small but perfectly formed with a very comfortable bed and an excellent shower
  • waking in the morning to no traffic
  • no internet or phone service for 48 hours
  • kayaking on the second day - just to prove I still could
    • being pursued (on board ship only) by the ACP paparazzi - evidence below...
  • and last but not least, meeting and becoming fast friends with Megan and Forbes and playing lots of 5 Crowns - and watching Megan's delight when she beat Forbes...
Ready for kayaking on Day 2. Shoes and socks off, jeans rolled up, insect repellent on - but not enough for the giant sized sandflies that live down here! I put more on when out in the kayak. Those sandflies are at least twice the size of the Tongaporutu ones and significantly bigger than the Hokitika ones too. I'm not sure what they live on when people aren't around.


I am somewhere in that bunch of kayakers. David was official photographer for my kayaking adventure.

I think that might be me at 10 o'clock from the crew member who is in the orange kayak. At about that time, I was getting too hot with my sweatshirt on, so I laid my paddle across the gunnels, carefully unzipped and took off my lifejacket, and then took off my sweatshirt and put my lifejacket back on. The young crew member had come up beside me and told me I was making her nervous, so she paddled away - avoidance behaviour is always a good safety technique, eh? But getting cooler also meant that I could stuff my sweatshirt behind me, allowing me to sit more upright - much more comfortable for paddling.

I realised I was going to be very tired with numb feet if I kept going so I asked another crew member if I could go back - the ship was about 300 metres away and I was happy to paddle back. I told her I could manage another 15 minutes if necessary, but when she radioed to find out how long we'd be out, the skipper said they'd come and get me now. Excellent!

There is a video that David took of me getting out of the kayak - it's a very funny piece of footage, but in spite of my following Irene's advice to set it to load up and leaving it for 20 minutes, it hasn't done its thing. (Note that I have unloaded the dryer, put another load of washing on, put another load in the washing machine, hung out my jeans, hung two bras and a merino long sleeved undertop in the airing cupboard, folded and put away the washing I had got out of the dryer, suggested that David can store the open and empty mh toilet cassette around by the bikes to dry out, and added about 18 more photos to the post - I am sure that is more than 20 minutes of waiting, so NO video here, OK?) If you want to see it, let me know and I can send it to you.


After I was back and inside, the others returned


The three masts each with a furled sail. They don't use them often, and they add about 3 knots to the engine speed.

I think we must have been speeding along at this point

The steepness of the hillside just continues underwater in some places, hence we could get really close.

Quite disconcerting, but wonderful

Still waters and reflections

It was very chilly ...

Apparently that fissure goes over the other side of that hill too - I reckon it's where NZ is slowly moving closer to Australia post an earthquake in the last few years ... Maybe not, but it's an interesting story!

Waterfall from the saloon

On the coach back, Megan suggested we sit in the front seats - aaarrrggghhh!!!

The 48 hours, noon on Friday to noon on Sunday, sped by and also were blissfully slow. We would recommend this trip to anyone wanting some peaceful time in beautiful surroundings.

And the motorhome was still where we had parked it 50 hours previously - bonus!


Jenny said...

What an amazing time you both had.

Marilyn, nb Waka Huia said...

Jenny, it really was amazing.
If you and Robin want a lovely experience in a beautiful place, get yourselves down there to do this. RealNZ are the company.


Megs said...

You do make me laugh! and Forbes has such a lovely bum! but I must point out there is no gold medal for managing to be taller than me - most people are!

Marilyn, nb Waka Huia said...

I knew I didn't get a gold medal for being taller than you. However I did need to make mention of it, because there are very few people, apart from young children, who are shorter than me, darling. It's part of why I love you!