Doubtful Sound

While the weather forecast wasn’t promising I was unable to sleep with the anticipation of a special time.


Lake Manapouri

After a 20 minute drive to Manapouri we all met and boarded the ferry. There were two Kiwis from Auckland, a lovely Spanish couple on their honeymoon and me. We nearly had an extra Spanish couple who were most disgruntled with the weather, were sure they were on our boat and it wasn’t until our Spanish guy went and spoke with them that he was able to ascertain they were doing a day trip. We were relieved 🙂

The ferry across Lake Manapouri took about 50 minutes then we got in the van to be taken over the Wilmot Pass ( 671 meters, 2201 feet) to our boat.



On the way down from Wilmot Pass

There were many waterfalls due to the rain, lots of low cloud and thick, lush virgin bush


Our boat, the Seafinn 19.1 m (62 ft), sleeps 12 and is very spacious. Chris, the skipper and Travis, his son are so knowledgeable about the area and are passionate about it.

 We went up the sound (a fjord with 3 distinct arms), past impressive waterfalls made more impressive due to the rain, two of which are over 600 meters (2000 feet).


We went in close and got wet but it was still drizzling and we didn’t mind at all. We stopped for lunch, crayfish (lobster) and salad and I managed to eat 3. Our Spanish friends hadn’t eaten it before and were most impressed too. Travis and Estevan went kayaking on the beautiful, calm water, Silvia stayed behind with us. I have wanted to try kayaking but not in 100s of meters (of very cold, black water.)




The water is black

Doubtful Sound is unusual in that it contains two distinct layers of water that scarcely mix. Depending on rainfall the night before, the top 2–10 metres (5–35 ft) is fresh water, fed from the high inflows from the surrounding mountains, and stained brown with tannins from the forest. Below this and partially insulated by the fresh water above is a layer of warmer, heavy, saline water from the sea. The dark tannins in the fresh water layer make it difficult for light to penetrate. Thus, many deep-sea species grow in the comparatively shallow depths of the Sound. Such species include black coral (Antipatharia fiordensis), which is normally found at depths of 30–40 metres (100–130 ft) but can be found at just 10 metres (35 ft) in Doubtful Sound and is within the range of qualified recreational divers.


There is a wild deer on the top left, close to the waterfall.


There is a boat at the bottom. a little dot and it wasn’t small boat. The size of these fjords is amazing.

Over 40 k to the Tasman Ocean and on the way we stopped to look for penguins . . . . . it was difficult to photograph them as the boat was moving in the tidal surge. We saw lots and heard them, they were really loud and smelled fishy 🙂 The Fiordland crested penguin is one of the rarest of New Zealand’s mainland penguins. I felt privileged to see, hear and smell them so closely.



Little ‘Nemos’ on the fish finder at the top 🙂

I’m not really keen about fishing though I was happy to hold the rods and watch. Most of the many fish caught were blue cod with the smaller unattractive ones used as bait.


Paul, a keen fisher has his own boat.




This fish (which was used for bait) had already dined on shrimp and octopus.

We went out of Doubtful Sound into the Tasman Ocean (next stop Australia) and it was quite rough, the boat was rocking side to side, Silvia was feeling unwell so we grabbed the crayfish pots and went back in. It was getting quite late, it was starting to get dark and it gets dark late down that far south.


Almost out of the fjord, they are tough men, down here, fishermen with a sense of humour 🙂



Very brave, I nearly didn’t, they were alive!


This New Zealand fur seal male was a big boy. The females a are giving birth and they mate when the pups are just a few days old.


Showing where the black water of the fjord meet the blue of the ocean.



Overseeing the seafood preparation.

Dinner was scrumptious, veggies, roast potatoes,  crayfish, naturally, wild venison, fresh blue cod (we caught lots) and carrot cake. 

We watched a video of Doubtful Sound, chatted and went to bed. There was a storm warning 40 knot winds so we anchored in a sheltered place. Sleep was a long time coming, my bed was great, lots of thoughts about a wonderful day and too much coffee!!!!!


Our anchorage!


Reflective gulls

I was up at 6.15 (before the others) and on the hunt for bottlenose dolphins while having breakfast, you guessed it, including crayfish. The bottlenose dolphins found in Fiordland’s Doubtful, Bradshaw and Thompson Sounds form a small resident population living at one of the southernmost locations in the world for this species. There is little evidence of interaction between this group and the other populations found in Dusky Sound and the northern fiords of Fiordland.


It is so beautiful, a magic place unlike any I have been too.


I was too busy hanging over the rail watching them to take many photos.


It would have looked quite different in the sunshine. I suspect I will go back again to see.

I think it took several hours back to the dock.The weather was clearing, we went right under a beautiful waterfall (I videoed it but the video is sideways and I don’t know how to rotate it).


It was sad to leave the Seafinn, I would have been happy to go out again but Chris and Travis were having a day off. Darn!!

Back into the van and on the hunt for keas. Chris radioed several of his friends who gave suggestions. 

Sadly we went to a few locations and they proved, unusually, to be elusive.


Looking back at Doubtful Sound as the weather improved.

At the top of Wilmot Pass the rain had stopped and we could see the sound, just beautiful.


On the Manapouri boat, back to reality.


The Mananpouri power station is on the left, the pylons can be seen.

Back to Te Anau, a long nap, a walk around Te Anau. I love it there, unspoiled by all the tourists thus far. I suspect it’s the kiwis who ruin a location’s simplicity.

~~21/22 November~~


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