02-12 until 05-12
Milford Sound, New Zealand’s most famous tourist destination. It’s supposedly the most beautiful fjord in the country, and with a population of about 170 people (who are pretty much all working in the tourist trade) and up to a million visitors a year I don’t think there are many places in the world with a higher native to tourist ratio.
Anyway, I too wanted to go here to see how beautiful it actually is. And yes, it’s pretty impressive to see the mountains rising from the sea level. On the one hand I was really lucky with the weather, having had two days of hot sunshine after a couple of days that were mostly cloudy. To be honest though, I’d hoped for rain. Not because I like walking around in the rain so much, but because a good rainstorm in Milford Sound creates thousands of temporary waterfalls.
Ok, to be honest, there was a rainstorm for a couple of hours on my second evening there, but I wasn’t on the water at that time so couldn’t really see all that much and when I went kayaking the next morning everything had dried up again.
So, what is there to say about Milford Sound? First of all, if you have the chance go visit it. The fjord itself is pretty beautiful, but the road from Te Anau to Milford (the only way you can drive there) has some really beautiful sights. I would also recommend to take your own car if you do so. While it’s nice to have the extra information a bus driver will give you like “On this farm they were filming parts of The Hobbit last week” (aka you missed it) the chance to stop wherever you want is too nice not to do it. Places like the Mirror Lakes and The Chasm you’ll stop at even when you’re going by bus, but a lot of other nice places are simply passed by because there is a schedule that has to be kept.
After the driver was kind enough to stop at the Milford Sound Lodge so I and a couple of others could get off, I started with just some walking around the town. Well, it really was small, and there wasn’t much walking to be done directly around it. But that was ok, I could still relax and do all the planning for cruises and kayaking.
Also, on that first day, one thing you’ll immediately learn is that while there are a lot of tourists, that amount is nothing compared to the number of sandflies. It’s in fact so bad, that the Mauri had a legend about it. Apparently after Milford Sound was created by Maui, the goddes Hinenui-te-Po released the sandflies there in order to prevent it from becoming a paradise where humanity would linger for too long.
Well, trust me on this. Even covered in insect repellent you don’t want to stay in one place for very long while you’re there.
Anyway, my second day, or first full day actually, I went on a cruise. As the wind was really picking up around that time it was a lot of fun. Standing on top of the boat there were places where it was difficult to remain upright, but that only added to the fun. It was beautiful to see all of this. A lot of it was just like Doubtful Sound, with the mountains rising from the water and the various seals and penguins. Unfortunately here I didn’t get to see any dolphins either, although cruises on the next day did get to see some.
Anyway, this was all fun, and part of the cruise was also to go to the Discovery Center, a floating underwater observatory. Because of the unique ecology of Milford Sound, where fresh (but very dark) water lies on top of the heavier salt water, there are many sea creatures that live at a far higher depth than usually. Say, at 10 to 15 meters instead of 100 meters. Among these is black corral. Of course, despite the name it’s white while still alive, in case the picture to the right confuses you.
So, a fun cruise, and even more fun to come as the next day I went kayaking. It started at 7:15 in the morning, so I had to get up pretty early. Once pretty much awake, I got to dress up in a lovely outfit (as can be seen in the Hawaiian shirt photo of 4-12-2011) and we got into our two-person kayaks.
I was in a kayak with a guy from Belgium, so that worked out fine. Anyway, the weather had cleared up incredibly by now, and we enjoyed a very sunny day where we got to see everything up close including some more of the wildlife. Of course, not everybody was lucky as one couple dropped one of their cameras (a go pro that takes pictures every so often) into the water. As it was the second one they lost in 3 days, I’m guessing they’re going to give up on those. So, the kayaking lasted until about 12:30 orso, and the rest of my time in Milford consisted mostly of relaxing so there isn’t really anything more to say about it. In short, I really enjoyed my time in Milford Sound.