Saturday, October 26, 2013

NZ - the boat ride on Milford Sound

When we arrived at Milford Sound we were pleased to see blue skies and a few puffy clouds.

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The boat ride on Milford Sound is so popular that the car park at the docks is not large enough. All cars have to park a few hundred yards away and you walk to the docks round this small bay at the end of the fjord. The tour buses can drop off passengers at the wharf terminal.

The famous and much photographed Mitre Peak. It's over a mile high.

Path to the wharf. I don't know why the first half of the walk has no cover and the second half is covered. If it's raining, there is no point being there anyhow.

The terminal which is quite large inside.

Massive catamarans lined up to take tourists out into the fjord. The green one belongs to Jucy who we used for our car rental and we had bought tickets to use their boat when we were in Queenstown. At this time of year with comparatively few tourists it was not economic for them to run this huge boat.

Instead they used their smaller boat which I was much happier with since I figured it would go slower and not be crowded.

Plane flying into the airstrip. If you have the money you can fly by plane or helicopter which would take you to other fjords as well.

This was not our boat. It would have been fun however.

Hundreds of Asian tourists getting on to one of the larger catamarans.

A cloud persisted to obscure the top of Mitre peak.

Spray from a waterfall a few hundred yards away from the wharf.

The boat headed out and soon we were looking at the waterfall that was making all the spray.

For a moment we could see Mitre peak with most of the top visible.

To the left of Mitre Peak is a U shaped valley. This shape indicates that there was a glacier there at one time. Milford Sound would also have this shape since it too was carved by a glacier.

Of course there are plenty of other mountains.

Kayaks. They did not go too far down the fjord so it wouldn't be my first choice for seeing the whole thing.

So much water flows into the fjord that the top six to ten feet of the water is fresh above the salt water from the ocean.

Looking back to where the boats leave from.

The mountain sides are close to vertical and it looked like some were actually overhanging the water.

Because of all the rain the night before there were waterfalls everywhere.

After about 45 minutes we reached the sea. Prudent captains of sailing boats back in the 18th century such as Captain Cook did not risk going into these narrow fjords in case the winds trapped their vessel inside.

The larger catamarans go out to sea before returning to the fjord. I was happy enough not to do that since the ocean swell make me feel queezy..

This view of the coast line heading north was enough for me.

Seals resting on the rocks.

On the journey out we had stayed close to the southern shore. On the way back we hugged the northern side.

Map of Milford Sound.

There are other less well known fjords further south. I suspect they are just as spectacular. I wonder if there is a tour operator that visits all of them.

The sun in New Zealand is very strong since NZ sits under a hole in the ozone layer. Sun burn and melanoma is a real problem here.

Now that is an odd shaped waterfall.

More seals. This spot was not too far from the opening to the sea.

The boat moved closer to the water fall. It was nothing like being on the Maid of the Mist under Niagra Falls but I was still glad to be inside.

Not where a beginner would practice rock climbing.

Suddenly a pod of five or six dolphins started to swim beside the boat. They used the wake of the boat to propel themselves along. 

The dolphins swam beside thee boat for about ten minutes. We were on the lower deck and the dolphins were only about ten to twelve feet away. They put on a little jumping display before they disappeared and I managed to get a video of one leaping out of the water.

It was just as magical as the whales in Hervey Bay.

If we had been on the larger catamaran following behind us we would have missed out on the dolphins. We were either just lucky or the dolphins wanted to get a look at me. Take your pick.

The boat ride lasted about 90 minutes. It was expensive but worth it. Sheer magic.

The weather in this area is quite variable and many days are rainy or misty. We made a mistake buying our tickets in advance. Knowing what I do now, I would just buy tickets at the wharf in case the weather was bad or there was too much cloud.

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