We were heading to Doubtful Sound for the last leg of the trip; which involved more of an adventure than we bargained on. First up was a short flight on a small plane from Alexandra Airport to Manapouri Airport. Mm, the weather wasn’t shaping up well, although we were all keen to get going. There was a huddle of ‘powers that be’ at Alexandra airport as we looked out at downcast skies, and a decision was made. We would take off, and IF things got a little turbulent we would land at Queenstown, disembark and board a shuttle to Lake Manapouri. Let’s just say that short flight was a little curly, and with a very sharp dip and audible intakes of breath, we landed at Queenstown, relieved to set foot on terra firma and to travel by bus.
We were in the midst of Fiordland, an area I didn’t know well, as it consists of so many sounds and inlets. I had long wanted to travel to Doubtful sound, however, and was very excited to be going there. We arrived at Manapouri marina for a change in transport: a boat transfer across Lake Manapouri to West Arm. 40 minutes approximately. On arrival we had yet another transfer, onto a coach which would take us over Wilmot Pass to Deep Cove – and onto the Fiordland Jewel, the catamaran we would be on for three days in Doubtful Sound.
The Cove was almost too beautiful to describe, so I’ll let my images speak for me.
Each day we explored many of the arms and islands that make up Doubtful Sound; some choosing to kayak, or to go on the guided boat/tender. That first afternoon we were in for a thrill, when dolphins appeared at the prow.
I squealed in delight, as several came in and out of view, rolling over and looking up at us. That was special. The food and accomodation were amazing, but the young staff made our experience all the more enjoyable. They were friendly, engaging, and knowledgeable, about everything to do with the area and the boat.
Kerry loves to kayak, so I happily saw him off the following day as he went exploring with a few other keen people. Being one of those who doesn’t care for sitting quite so close to deep water, I chose the tender ride. We had our own fun, as I quite liked the boat sweeping in close to the side. It was a great way to see the flora up close. Another view here of the sound, just in case you didn’t think the first pic was spectacular enough.
We headed nearer the Tasman ocean one morning, especially to see some more wildlife. Those jolly dolphins came along for a ride too, which was fun, but we were on the lookout for fur seals and penguins – and hopefully albatross. Oh, the baby seals were rather gorgeous, but were they safe, clinging on steep rocks all alone? There were plenty of adults above them, so they must have had more than our eyes on them, I guess. It became quite bumpy as we neared the ocean, but I didn’t care, I spotted an albatross before anyone one else, and that made me happy.
And, as if the crew weren’t busy enough ferrying us about, cooking our food, servicing our rooms, etc., two of them also dived for crayfish so we could enjoy a great meal. Late afternoon we lazed around, chatting to the skipper, or doing whatever took our fancy. Mostly, that was enjoying a nice wine before our dinner.
On the third day we returned to Deep Cove, but it was nothing like the day we came in. That night it had rained, and the water was rough, but it was beautiful, all the same. The waterfalls which were mere trickles going in, were now cascading down the slopes heading out. Atmospheric describes the scene pretty well.
The weather had cleared by the time we boarded the Manapouri boat transfer, and we were met by a shuttle for the short drive to our hotel in Te Anau Village. A wander up the road and a meal at The Fat Duck gastro pub, followed by a very necessary sleep. This was the last night of our South Island trip and what a trip it had been. After packing next day, we had time for a wander by the lake, before boarding yet another shuttle; not to the local airport for a small plane experience as was the initial plan, but back to the domestic terminal at Queenstown for our Auckland-bound flight. Bye Otago and Fiordland. We were all sorry to leave you.
And to Lisa, Owen, Carolyn, Kevin, Jeanette, Peter, Chris, Pete, and Gerard; thank you guys, it was a pleasure to be in your company.