Travellers' Tales: New Zealand
Neil and Sue Mattinson recently travelled to New Zealand with Audley. Read about their adventures when they boarded an overnight cruise on Doubtful Sound.
Doubtful Sound in New Zealand's Fiordland National Park
We stood and gazed, lost in our thoughts.Neil Mattinson
As part of our New Zealand trip we joined an overnight cruise on Doubtful Sound in Fiordland National Park, which is an unforgettable way to experience this haven of tranquillity and sense of wilderness. Upon boarding the Fiordland Navigator, the friendliness and camaraderie of the crew is immediately evident – nothing is too much trouble and information abounds on the wildlife, landscape and history as the boat cruises gently through the Sound.
In the afternoon, once the Navigator had moored in one of the ‘Arms’ that extend from the main fiord, passengers were able to join one of the two tender craft that are lowered into the Sound, or take a kayak. From these craft, the rainforest covering the slopes and its wildlife could be observed at close range. The more intrepid also braved the cold and jumped in for a swim!
We were fortunate as the waters were sufficiently calm to enable the Navigator to sail out into the Tasman Sea. Here we were rewarded with a very special experience. Carol, our sharp-eyed wildlife guide was busy scanning the seas, and suddenly, with her expert guidance, we were all spying whales. Some came very close to the boat, which was a joy to watch, but not only whales; we also saw an albatross and many fur seals basking on the rocks on the islands at the entrance to the Sound.
As we sailed back, the changing light and deepening shadows of the evening provided spectacular views of the mountains and water. After a splendid evening meal the day concluded with an informative talk from Carol that provided further insight into the biodiversity and conservation of Doubtful Sound and the wider Fiordland National Park.
After a comfortable night, the wildlife watching continued, but this time it was a family of bottlenose dolphins spied close to the shore and who later followed the boat, riding the bow waves. A final surprise was the sight of two Fiordland crested penguins on one of the smaller islands at the eastern side of the Sound.
The tranquillity of the Sound was particularly moving. On the return journey we moored in one of the remoter Arms and the engine and generator was turned off. Everyone was asked to keep still and quiet and as we stood and gazed, lost in our own thoughts, we were immersed in the sound of silence save for the birdsong that permeates the enclosed fiord.
The Fiordland Navigator Cruise was an unforgettable highlight of a wonderful trip to New Zealand.