Doubtful Sound with Real Journeys, NZ

March 8, 2014

Doubtful Sound, not really a sound at all but a fiord, is one of the most spectacular in Fiordland National Park. While not the most easily accessible, if you have the time it is worth the journey in all but the worst weather.

Doubtful Sound Tour - to the Tasman Sea

The tour with Real Journeys starting at Manapouri, a 15 minute drive from Te Anau and the closest access point to the sound, involves an hour boat ride across Manapouri Lake followed by a 45 minute bus ride to reach the larger boat for the 3 hour cruise. On the way back they stop at the underground power station for about 45 minutes before completing the return bus/boat journey back to Manapouri.

Doubtful Sound Tour - Lake Manapouri

Our morning started with heavy low clouds crossing Manapouri Lake and for the bus trip out.

view from bus

view from bus

As such we were completely unaware of the impressive valley views on either side of the bus.

Doubtful Sound Tour - to the Tasman Sea Doubtful Sound Tour - to the Tasman Sea Doubtful Sound Tour - to the Tasman Sea Doubtful Sound Tour - to the Tasman Sea Doubtful Sound Tour - to the Tasman Sea

While low clouds continued to hover about the mountain tops during the first part of the cruise, as we approach the Tasman Sea the sky opened to a brilliant blue. In any case, the interplay of clouds, sea and sun is a magical setting.

Doubtful Sound Tour - to the Tasman Sea

Doubtful Sound Tour - Tasman Sea Doubtful Sound Tour - Tasman Sea

As we near open waters, the captain decides that the sea is calm enough that we can go out past the rocks that mark the entrance to Doubtful Sound or rather “fiord”. He explains that a fiord is a valley formed by a glacier while a sound is formed by a river.

Doubtful Sound Tour - Tasman Sea Doubtful Sound Tour - Tasman Sea

Near the entrance to the sea seals sun themselves on the warm rocks.

On the way back up the sound the captain spots a pair of yellow crown penguins barely visible in the vast deep waters.

Doubtful Sound Tour - returning from Tasman Sea

Doubtful Sound Tour - returning from Tasman Sea

The dolphins, however, are much easier to spot. The native bottlenose is a large species with only about 60 remaining in the sound.

Doubtful Sound Tour - returning from Tasman Sea

Doubtful Sound Tour

On the bus trip back to the power station we stop at the viewpoint overlooking the sound, now visible albeit against a backdrop of clouds. On the way over this view was nothing but white.

Doubtful Sound Tour - power station

The bus then drives down a two kilometer tunnel to the underground power station which is an impressive operation that uses the water from Manapouri Lake, over 200 meters above the sound, to generate hydroelectric power.

1968 Mr. "Hanan fires the final shot in the tailrace tunnel. It is packed with a little more dynamite than necessary, and blows off everyone's safety helmets?

Photo from 1968 – Mr. “Hanan fires the final shot in the tailrace tunnel. It is packed with a little more dynamite than necessary, and blows off everyone’s safety helmets!”

Doubtful Sound Tour - Lake Manapouri

The boat trip back over Manapouri Lake is in nearly full sun, quite the contrast from the morning’s trip over and a delightful end to a long but extraordinary day.

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One Response to Doubtful Sound with Real Journeys, NZ

  1. Pingback: Milford Track, NZ – The Hike Out | Cooking in Tongues

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