Located on the west coast to the south of the South Island, the Fiordland is a gigantic national park of 12,120 km2 making it one of the largest in the world. The park is made up of steep mountains, deep lakes and many fjords, the most famous being the Milford Sound and the Doubtful Sound.
Doubtful Sound located east of Manapouri, about twenty kilometers from Te Anau is one of the largest fjords in the region. Relatively difficult to access, it is therefore less visited and still has a mysterious, calm and wild atmosphere.
If you are looking to combine the discovery of Fiordland and a sporting adventure, I recommend you to go kayaking in the Doubtful Sound. The sound was discovered by James Cook in 1770. Not being sure of its practicability, the explorer named the place Doubtful Harbor.
If the experience tempts you, the company Go Orange offers relatively decent prices compared to others and especially offers discounts on bookme.nz, which should not be missed!
To get to the fjord from Te Anau, a bus picks you up at your accommodation to take you to Manapouri at about forty minutes. This is the opportunity to see the sunrise on the road. At the pontoon boat of the tiny village, all visitors embark on the same boat, being kayakeurs for 1 day, 2 days, 5 days or people who chose the day cruising in the sound. A good boat ride through Lake Manapouri where the best seat remains the upper exterior pontoon, which allows you to embrace the grandeur and beauty of the lake. The ship docks at West Arm at the end of the lake where you get on a bus that takes you on a small gravel road through the mountains to Wilmot Pass and finally reach Deep Cove, the beginning of the fjord. Almost three hours to reach Doubtful Sound.
Apart from a small hostel and the hangars of the tourism companies, there is no habitation in the fjord. Once you arrive, your guide will give you all the equipment and information you need to practice fjord kayaking as well as how the expedition will go. Around the company’s hangar, Weka (flightless New Zealand birds) attracted by food come rummaging through the bags! Beware. Groups do not exceed eight people and the atmosphere is friendly. Sailing on two-seater kayaks, we organize in groups of two and each team equips with a boat. The material is stored in the traps at the front, back and middle of the kayak and let’s go for the adventure!
Paddling in the fjord is an extraordinary experience. At the level of the water one feels very small, dominated by the size of the mountains around and the mysterious power that emanates from the place. Not requiring special physical fitness or experience in kayaking, going for a few hours to several days in the Doubtful Sound is an adventure not to be missed.
_ I recommend
Go Orange offers daily, 2, 3 and 5 day expedition. I had the opportunity to do the 2 days expedition and I highly recommend it! Two days in the fjord means camping on the edge of the fjord. During the preparation of our kayaks we therefore stored in our respective hatches, tents and camping equipment as well as spare and food for two days. Go Orange asks you to bring your own cooking equipment (saucepan, cutlery, cup…) but this is not necessary as your guide already has everything we need.
Once equipped, Matthew our very friendly young guide half Maori, half German, explained the safety instructions and we left for a day of kayaking. We spent three hours in the main arm before turning on Hole Arm for lunch on a small beach. The corner was superb but as usual in the Fiordland, infested with sandflies. Bring the anti-sandflies product otherwise you will be covered with pimples in a few minutes. Four hours of kayaking to reach the end of the arm and back on our feet to find the campite located in the middle of the arm, just at the edge of the water. A small permanent shelter with mosquito net is waiting for us. We take the kayaks out of the water (hard work when they are loaded) and then mount the tents. It is a race to escape the sandflies. Quiet evening under the permanent shelter then good night of sleep.
The next day we witness the sunrise, splendid, and go back in the other direction. We return to the main arm, visit the area a little and then go back in the opposite direction. Arrived around 12am tired at Deep Cove but happy with of the adventure (minus the sandflies). Departure by bus around 1pm to arrive at Te Anau around 4.30pm.
I had never done kayak before and I had no problems during the trip. I must say that I had a splendid weather almost constantly with very calm water. This is very rare situation in Doubtful Sound where it rains most of the time. Physically, I just had a little pain in my arm and back but not much. To have a good overview of the ford and its magnificence the 2 or 3 days expeditions are probably the best choice!
Mandatory stops regroups the things that have marked me, the places that I particularly liked, the most interesting activities I have done, the best restaurants where I ate, in short the list, in my opinion, of things not to be missed during a visit to the country.
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You are interested in other Mandatory stops in the area or around the world, it’s here!