" New Zealand Holiday ... 10 . . . Doubtful Sound "
Date & Time: Friday 11th - Saturday 12th November 2011.
Locations : Doubtful Sound, South Island, New Zealand.
Places visited : Te Anau, Manapouri, Wilmot Pass, Deep Cove, Doubtful Sound.
Accommodation : On board Deep Cove Charter's boat the Sea Finn.
With : Ann and myself plus eight other passengers and three crew.
Weather : Pouring with rain then clearing. Beautiful and calm next morning.
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Normally this holiday we've booked in at bed and breakfast accommodation at farm or home-stays with local New Zealanders
or folk that have chosen to make their homes in New Zealand.
Tonight is different . . . our home is afloat on the fiord of Doubtful Sound.
We were met by Diane, " the lady in red " who had dealt with our email bookings and she directed us aboard our first boat.
Not the Real Journeys one on the left but the Deep Cove Charter connection on the right.
A fast launch across Lake Manapouri, heading into the high fiord country.
Even at this speed, the journey took the best part of an hour.
Looking back, the sun lit the hills of the interior beautifully.
Looking forward . . . not so good . . . it looks like rain !
By the time we alighted at West Arm it was raining hard.
While we waited for our on-going connection we stepped into the information centre to try and stay dry.
Here we found out all about the area and about the hydro-electric power station that you can see just the other side of the jetty.
After a public outcry about building a dam and raising the level of the main lake, the architects devised a scheme that enabled the large power station to be built taking advantage of the natural rise and fall of the lake water at times of flood and drought.
A world first for a power generation . . . major electrical generation capacity without significant environmental change.
Click here or on the photo above left for a larger Manapouri notice board picture (to read and understand the detail more easily)
We were met by the Chris, Diane's husband and owner/Skipper of the boat Sea Finn that would be our home overnight.
We climbed aboard his minibus and headed up over the Wilmot Pass, to make the crossing over the hills to Doubtful Sound itself.
Mmmm . . . not the best weather shall we say !
Now which one is our boat ?
Here it comes . . . a live-aboard boat with six passenger cabins and a maximum of twelve guests.
We have chosen the smaller, more personal option.
The three-masted boat in the background is the Real Journeys boat which holds over seventy guests, a whole different experience.
We very quickly realised that the heavy rain was no bad thing.
Safely aboard our boat, warm coffee or tea in hand, we had a first class view of the power of the elements
as the rain-lashed hills gave up their moisture. The rocky hills had no where to store it and the whole valley was alive with waterfalls.
As we motored gently down the fiord, Chris pointed out the first of our wildlife sightings . . .
These were the rare Fiord Crested Penguins making light of the conditions.
No problem for them . . . it was like " water of a penguin's back " !
We headed down the fiord between hill cliffs
the swirling clouds just adding to the atmosphere of the place.
Perhaps I should tell you a little about the boat.
The Sea Finn is a modern boat fully equipped for fiord and sea going journeys.
It has six passenger cabins below deck and a large main cabin with wonderful viewing windows all round.
Our Skipper Chris watches as his "first mate" Dave helmed the boat.
The main cabin . . . plenty of room for all.
As the afternoon progressed we travelled down Doubtful Sound and took a right turn into Hall Arm.
Here we enjoyed the waterfall spectacle as the rain gradually stopped and the day began to brighten.
Ann and I are captured on film by a fellow guest.
As the weather cleared we viewed several fine rainbows as we motor on
into the side valley known as Crooked Arm.
Chris and his son Travis, who was chief cook for the trip, offered fishing rods for those that wanted to try their hand and catch some supper.
The blue finned gurnard common around the coasts of Australia and New Zealand.
They landed several of these and some rather nice blue cod.
While some folk fished, several of us decided to take up the offer of a paddle in a kayak.
Bertrand takes to the water.
He, Travis and myself head out along the fiord.
On a technical note I took my normal camera, carefully packaged in a waterproof bag, and the water was so calm
that with care we could take photos and then replace it in the exped bag before moving on.
Travis spots two white objects tucked up at the head of the stoney beach.
In the kayaks we were able to get in close without causing undue disturbance.
Danny from Malaysia, is enjoying the paddle.
His father Chew, tries out kayaking for possibly the first time.
Chloe, Bertrand's wife from France, paddles with confidence.
Close in , the colour of the rocks suggest unusual shapes and sea creatures.
Can anyone see a turtle here ?
The boat has motored a short way ahead and it is time to paddle across before she moves further away . . .
otherwise we'll be paddling all afternoon.
Time to see more of the area . . . we head back up Crooked Arm and head left, out towards the open sea.
Bauza Island stands sentinel at the entrance to the Sound.
We ventured out towards the entrance but no further.
Lovely cloud effects and the rays of the sun occasionally breaking through.
One of those highlighted a small island.
Chris came in close to spot the wildlife.
This is a black oystercatcher . . . couldn't see his / her partner.
White fronted cormorants on the shoreline . . .
. . . sunning themselves on the rocks.
Just a short distance further on were a pair of delightful Fiordland Crested Penguins.
They stood on the rock and watched us pass. [ hold your cursor over the picture to animate the action.]
If you enjoyed watching them turn, circle the boat (and the cursor) round again !
The Doubtful Sound Hotel.
The local fishermen built a cabin as an overnight shelter and trading post.
They weren't allowed to build it in the National Park . . . so it was built on stilts below high water mark in order to avoid the regulations !
Having turned and started back up the fiord, Danny was offered a few minutes at the helm.
Don't panic, Chris and Dave weren't far away !
Despite a general ban on fishing in the Sound, they have a licence to work a limited number of pots for their immediate needs.
Fortunately this includes feeding guests on their boat . . . and it was local cray fish that we enjoyed for our lunch earlier today.
As it happened, tonight was Ann's birthday so I smuggled a cake and candles through customs all the way from UK !
Seriously though . . . I brought the birthday card . . . the cake and candles arrived by a touch of Travis magic.
Ann was totally surprised . . . must be a first.
Everyone on board signed the card,
and we ended the evening in good company, our tongues kept moist by a wee dram of something Scottish.
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After a warm night in our cabin, Ann was first up and took the camera on deck.
First light at our moorings next day.
The Real Journeys boat was up and away before us.
They had spent the night in deeper water in the middle of Precipice Sound.
Yesterday's low cloud and rain was gone . . . to be replaced by glorious morning sunshine.
I stand on the foredeck looking down-channel at the three-masted boat, now quite some way down the Sound.
A slight cloud inversion and sunshine above . . . but what is that in the foreground . . .
They played around the boat for several minutes . . . and then as quick as they came, they were gone.
A magical experience on a magical morning on Doubtful Sound.
The view of the Sound looking out to sea.
Time to be heading back up to Deep Cove again.
Chris and Dave haul some more overnight pots and bring a new catch of crayfish on board.
They would make an excellent lunch later in the day.
Inland it was fine as well as we make our way up the Sound.
The morning cloud still hanging in the valley shows the fiord in a whole new light.
A close up reveals the trees clinging to the almost vertical sides of the fiord.
Nearly back . . . and we have had the best of the weather on our overnight cruise.
Heavy rain yesterday to create the waterfall sensations, cloud to add that moody quality,
light winds to keep the seas calm and beautiful sunshine to finish.
We couldn't have planned it better if we tried.
Time for a last chat as we reach the head of Deep Cove.
Time for a final group photo before we disembark . . . all guests and crew present on this amazing trip.
Dave, Travis, Captain Chris, Chew, Chin and Danny, Choun Wah, Ann, Bertrand, Alyson and Russell, Chloe and myself.
Back into the minibus and we repeat that road trip back over Wilmot Pass.
Chris stops at the top so we can catch a view of what we didn't see on the way over.
Just the final boat trip back across Lake Manapouri.
This wasn't our boat, these were the folk from the other company.
If you're planning a trip make sure you book with that lady in red, Diane at Deep Cove Charters
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Technical note: Pictures taken with either Ann's Fuji Finepix T300, my Canon G10 or 1100D digital cameras.
Resized in Photoshop, and built up on a Dreamweaver web builder.
This site best viewed with . . . . a crayfish lunch, fresh out of the pot.