Anne here …
We haven’t had decent internet access for three days and there is so much to tell you about.
From Te Anau we travelled onto Milford Sound. There are plenty of Welsh place names here in case we are feeling homesick – Cleddau river no. 1, Cleddau river no. 2, Dale point . . . As the tour guide on the boat pointed out, it’s a fiord (not a fjord) in Fiordland and not a “Sound” either. But we had two magical and stunning days there. I expected dramatic mountains, a deep loch, waterfalls and sandflies, all of which we got, but hadn’t anticipated tropical rainforest, steamy rain, ferns and bees (or as I called them – round little torpedoes which made a beeline for anything that interested them i.e. us).
The road to Milford was really, really amazing. Dramatic vistas at every turn. We stopped by the Chasm and admired dramatic waterfalls. The bridges across the rivers looked very amateurish although that didn’t seem to slow the tourist coaches down particularly. And at a couple of viewing points, the bees came to check us out! The bees loved us, it wasn’t reciprocated, especially not by me. We loved the ferns and the tropical vegetation.
At Milford, having watched the day cruises come and go, it was our turn to board the stunning Milford Mariner for our overnight cruise. Although motor driven, the boat also had three big sails, giving a very traditional feel. It could hold 60 visitors and our berth was really comfy and ensuite. Once again the visitors and crew were really friendly. We chatted to a young honeymooning couple from New York. She is a female Eco-engineer and he is an investment banker.
The Fiord is stunningly dramatic but not that long BUT by far the most memorable bit was having four bottle nosed dolphins swim along side us for about 15 minutes. It’s hard to explain properly how moving and special it was. Then as a bonus we stopped to watch the fiord’s resident seals playing on some rocks and sailed so close to a waterfall that we all got wet. A real highlight of our NZ trip that has already been completely wonderful. The food was good. We embarked at 4.30pm and disembarked at 9.30am.
Having said that Paul and I had opted to stop at the underwater observatory just before the end of the voyage so we disembarked 15 minutes early. The observatory is on a floating platform with a 20 metre metal tube below it. As it is in a National park and UNESCO world heritage site, the planning permissions are rightly ferocious. It was fascinating (sorry I am using that word a lot). After an introductory talk we went down about 60 steps to view the fiord’s inhabitants from underwater windows. There was no great dramas like seals but we loved it. Lots and lots of fish of all sizes, corals and starfish. So interesting and something that we have never done before.
So a real highlight of the trip so far. It look us about four hours to drive back to Queenstown where we spend the night before moving on.