Day 40 Doubtful Sounds
One of the untouched and most scenic places in New Zealand is the destination for today. A day trip over to Doubtful sounds. I packed up camp early and headed into Te Anau, this is where my pick up is, for my trip over to Doubtful sounds. From here I’ll be taken 20mins down the road to the waiting Ferry at Manapouri. Manapouri is the most western settlement in New Zealand, situated on the edge of the Lake Manapouri, with only a couple of shops And a handful of local residents.
Apart from flying or sailing in from the Tasman Sea, Manapouri is the only other way of getting to Doubtful and Dusky Sounds. With no roads over to these sounds, we take the Real Journeys Ferry with our guide for the day Dan, across the lake and into the Fiordland National Park. Taking around an hour in cold and wet conditions. After heading around Pomona Island and past the South and Northern Arms we get to West arm wharf and information centre.
The West end arm of the lake is home to New Zealand’s largest Hydroelectric power stations. The underground power station uses water from Lake Matapouri to spin its turbines as it flows down into Deep cove in Doubtful sound, 10km away. We all have a look around the information centre while we wait for Dan to get the bus ready. Accompanied by the annoying locals, giant sand flies, we get on the bus and head over the hill to Doubtful.
The trip over is steep with plenty of twists and turns, as we head up Wilmot pass road. Dan stops off at a few places to give us a chance to take a couple of photos of the view, or today clouds, and a few waterfalls. We reach the summit and the downhill section to the wharf is much the same, slowly zigzagged or way down the steep slope, which gave us a couple of great views down to Doubtful below.
We reach our next tour boat in Wanganella Cove, this is our starting point for the 3 hour trip around the Fiord. Doubtful Sound is not a Sound at all, it’s a Fiord. We were told the difference is a Sound was carved out by water like rivers and streams and a Fiord has been carved out by Glaciers. When Captain Cook arrived to the area he named it Doubtful Harbour as he thought it looked too small to be able to sail his ship in and turn around to get back out. Later explorers later changed the name to Doubtful Sounds.
We jump on board the vessel and head out. This place is amazing, even though there is plenty of cloud around, it just the share scale of the place, the peaceful and untouched surroundings. At the deepest, it reaches 421m and is the deepest of the fiords and some peaks over 1200m above sea level. The Fiords coast line and mountains are covered in native bush Its three times longer and roughly 10 times bigger than the more famous Milford Sound.
We head past a few kayakers enjoying the calm waters around Elizabeth Island. The water is a slight brown colour, this is because it rains on average 280 days of the year and so there is a layer of fresh water that sits on top of the saltwater, normally around a meter deep but can get up to more than 10m after bad weather. If you don’t get the fine weather when you go you will most certainly get to see plenty of waterfalls.
Carrying on down past the Crooked Arm, the Captain drives right up to one of the many waterfalls in the Fiords before heading down past Thompsons Sound and then Bauza Island, out to the Tasman Sea. The Sea was rough, massive waves crashing over the rocky islands and surrounding coastline. The Skipper decides to take the boat back into calmer waters of the Fiord. Heading down the other side of Bauza island we get to see some of the local wild life, a few dolphins chasing their lunch and then spotting some NZ fur seals on the shore, sunbathing as the clouds start to disappear. We pass a Cruise ship taking a bit of a detour before heading back out to sea.
Time to head back down the rest of the Fiord to the wharf and jump back into the bus for our hour-long trip back over the hill to Lake Matapouri. Everyone seems a bit tired on the bus trip with a few falling asleep. With no stops the trip feels a lot shorter and we arrive to awaiting ferry. Dan puts the Bus to bed for the night and we all pile on to the ferry and head back to Matapouri. By now its late afternoon and we get a bus ride back to Te Anau. I was starting to feel the effects of the long day so headed straight back to the campground and stayed there the evening. Tomorrows plan is to head south, close to the southernmost point.