Dolphins & Doubtful Sound

Published: July 12th 2009
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Doubtful Sound

Weather and a traffic accident would mean that we didn’t get to make it to Milford Sound. When we were having breakfast we heard sirens going of twice. We thought that maybe it signalled an avalanche or rock slide so while I was emptying the dirty water out of Ted, Michelle went to the office as to what the sirens meant. When she returned she said she had bad news. The sirens are a calling system for the fire brigade and emergency rescue personnel. A bus had crashed on the Milford road and it would be closed off until 12pm at the earliest. It was 8:55am and we felt pretty deflated as we were really looking forward to seeing Milford Sound. Then an idea entered my head that we could go and see the Doubtful Sound. The problem with that though was, that it was now 9am and the tour left from another town 20km’s away at 9:15am. I ran up to the campsite office and asked the girl to ring the company and see have they space and will they wait for us. Our luck was in. The company said they would wait for us

We made our way down to the next town, Michelle in the back getting food and clothes ready for us for the day. We were lucky to get on the tour as everyone in the area had switched their attention to the Doubtful Sound because Milford Sound was closed. We had booked with a small company which meant, small boat and small group. This is exactly what we wanted as the catamaran for the other company was quite big. There is no direct access to Doubtful Sound so we had to take a boat across a lake first for 50mins and then a bus to the Sounds for and hour. The lake was completely covered in fog and visibility was non-existent. Our captain though was able to follow light makers on small islands throughout the lake. When we got to the other side of the lake we visited a Hydro-Electric power plant, deep underneath the ground. Even though we only saw a small portion of the plant it was still very impressive.

Soon we were on the bus and leaving the fog behind us. The skies were clear blue with out a cloud in sight. It was freezing though and luckily we took time to put on our thermals before leaving for the tour. Straight we could see that the Doubtful Sound was going to be spectacular. For starters it is ten times the size of Milford Sound. Secondly, its not really a Sound. It’s actually a Fiord. When the first explorers arrived there was no word for Fiord in the English language so they called it a Sound. Captain Cook wouldn’t sail into the Fiord as he was doubtful the wind would carry him back out and that is where it got the name Doubtful Sound!

We were all on board soon and we were going to be the only people in the Fiord as the large company had so many people they had to delay their departure time. The water in the Fiord is extremely calm and the reflection of the surrounding mountains was spectacular. The photos I have taken do not do the scenery any justice. The sheer size of mountains, jutting up out of the water provide an amazing setting.

We saw lots of seals along the journey but as we have seen more than a life times worth already we were looking for something different. We were told we might see dolphins but we were not allowed approach them and they had to come to us. We spotted them way of in the distance and watched as they swam towards the boat. Unfortunately they swam some distance passed the boat and had no interest in us. We were disappointed but happy we got some glimpse of them. On our way back I spotted something in the water along way away. Everyone thought I was mad and couldn’t see anything. The captain drove towards where I was saying and soon we could see more dolphins in the distance. As we could not approach them we had to stop the boat a distance from them. It wasn’t long though before they noticed us and came over. There were easily 40 dolphins and it was amazing to see them swim around the boat. As our boat was so small you could look in to the eyes of the dolphin. They look very playful and I wondered did they have their own guide to ‘Go see the Humans’! they were that interested in us. When they approach the boat the captain starts it up again and moves on. What happens then is if they dolphins are interested they will follow and jump out of the water, I suppose showing off. Luckily they were interested and followed us for ages. It was incredible to see how fast they can swim. As the boat is a catamaran, they swim under it, up to the front, and then jump out of the water. We were literally only a metre away from them at the most. When our boat got too fast for them we all moved to the back. Here the dolphins were jumping out of the water even higher than before and were clearly looking for attention and showing off. When we get back to the north island we are going to swim with them. The water will be a little bit warmer up there than down here in freezing Southland. We also saw Fiordland Blue Crested Penguins. These penguins are extremely shy and hard to see. It was funny to see them pop their heads up out of the water and stare at us and then disappear again before appearing again to watch us. We only got a glimpse and they disappeared quickly.

All in all, the trip to Doubtful Sound was incredible. We saw one of the remotest parts of New Zealand with some of the most amazing scenery in the world. The weather was excellent and to top it off we got very close to Dolphins in the wild. We were fours hours on the water and it was only as we returned that we saw the other big boat. I can only imagine that they were jealous at how close we were to the dolphins as they arrived while they were swimming around us. Also the captain stopped the boat for 10 minutes and turned off the engine. The peace and tranquillity of the area was wonderful. The captain said there is nothing like coming out early on the Fiord, dropping an anchor, catching a fish and having it for breakfast. I can only imagine.

In a bit. DH

Song of the blog: The Jam - A town called Malice

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