If you ever want to know, feel and experience what it is to be in heaven, literally, then you have to make your way to Doubtful Sounds in the Fiordland National Park region of South Island, New Zealand. Having been to all parts of New Zealand so far, well almost all, I can with-hands-on-my-heart say that I’ve never seen or experienced anything as remote, serene and untouched part of the world as much as I did so at Doubtful Sounds. For starters, just getting here to the Sounds in itself is a big deal: One – It’s bloody expensive and Two – You can’t go by yourself; you have to go with an operator who has access & permits to the location. You first take the ferry from Manapouri to the West Arm part of the lake which is almost an hour’s ride in itself. And then their private bus takes you 24kms on gravel road to the entrance of Doubtful Sounds called Deep Cove, where the Manapouri Power Plant is based !! What a set up that power plant is. All the action happens underwater, without disrupting the natural surroundings, that you can’t see a thing from the top. It’s just unbelievable.
I was actually on a Kayaking tour in the sounds on the day and I had done little to no research of what to expect. I wanted to go there blind without reading or knowing too much so I could be in for a surprise when I actually reached. To my joy the surprises started straight away when I had to be at the pick up point in Lake Manapouri at 6am for the earliest start on the day. The sunrise by the lake made for a wonderful start to what was going to be a super exciting and adventurous day out in the Sounds. I met my fellow kayakers, 6 of them and our guide, Matt – a Kiwi bloke from Tokoroa who was full of energy at all times, despite doing this every other day. As is the case when you meet newbies the conversations were very limited for the first part. As our ferry made its way across the Lake the sun slowly made its ascent brightening up the lightly snow clad mountains all around us. It was a very pleasant 50min ride to get to West Arm. Throughout most part of the journey I spent my time on the open deck on top with a hot long black, making it a perfect blend of a hot and cold experience at the same time.
After reaching West Arm, Matt along with a couple of his buddies transferred all the gear into the coach bus that was ready to take us to the sounds. It was a good 45-50mins drive on gravel road traversing our way through the fresh morning dew clad fauna in the Fiordland forest. It already was getting secluded from the civilisation as we kept going further and further. The coach driver was another passionate kiwi who had quit from the NZ Fire Brigade and doing this job for a good few decades as he loved the region so much. He was full of information and passed running commentary as we were being driven to the Sounds. Half way through the drive we stopped by at a spot that gave us the bird’s eye view of the sounds. Sadly it was cloudy and foggy not giving us the best of the views but it still was worth the stop. Before we reach the final point, we were shown some of NZ’s highest waterfalls and such gorgeous ones too.. Can’t remember the names anymore but one was Helena Falls which drops about 230mts from the top and the other one was a good height too, with overnight rains both these falls were gushing down with tonnes and tonnes of water !! It was definitely a sight to behold !!
After reaching Deep Cove & before we started our kayak tour, Matt provided us with all the required gear right from thermals, to wet suit vest, to kayak skirt, shoes, floating vest etc. The only thing we needed to carry was our swim wear and camera. Everything else was provided which was super impressive. To our luck that day we were to be taken on brand new double kayaks as well. After all the safety instructions, couple of test paddles, all 8 of us slowly started to paddle away into the sounds and WOW !! WOW !! WOW !! WOW !! It felt like the scene straight out of the first Jurassic Park movie where the helicopter descends into valley..The giant mountains clad with thick green fauna with a hint of snow on top, a few waterfalls around us, and the pristine water all made it feel as if we were in that movie.. Only if that classic Jurassic Park theme (Like This – https://youtu.be/D8zlUUrFK-M?t=97) played in the background it would have been just perfect. As we made deeper n deeper into the sounds, the mountains made it look so much more freaking beautiful. The serenity, the tranquility, the peacefulness, the silence all of them made it so amazing that we could only hear the waves, the breeze, the paddles, the birds everything in their natural glory. It was so quiet and calm that we could hear the kayaks wading their way through the waters. It felt like I was in one of those Nat Geo documentaries shot in the Amazon and all I was missing was David Attenborough’s voice in the background to make the journey even more exciting. But frankly we had Matt, our guide who made the commentary equally exciting with some interesting stories and facts about the sounds. As we kayaked the 8 of us had some good conversations, learnt about each other and connected very well. At one point on our return, given there were three French doctors in the group we almost made the call to turn and kayak away to Australia; unfortunately it wasn’t meant to be hehe.
After nearly 3+ hours on the water, covering almost 15kms and knowing a lot more about each than when we had started on that morning, it was time for us to return back to the shores and get some well deserved rest to the shoulders & arms. We couldn’t wait to change our clothing, get into the bus and grab our food packs. We were so famished that we could eat anything, literally anything like a pack of hungry wolves waiting for any living being to pass by so they could tear them apart and devour !! We were just in the same state. By about 4pm we had completed our return bus and ferry journeys !! I was smiling all the while appreciated what I had experienced that day and appreciating the beauty of this slice of heaven called New Zealand. It’s a shame that people from all over the world come, see & experience our little country but a lot of people who live within or born/grown up here have seen very little of it. Just like a lot of things in life, the places we live in are so taken for granted thinkin we’ll explore it at some stage but that ‘some stage’ never comes eh !! We don’t give it the importance the country deserves. When I ask people about why they don’t go away and explore they come up with something or the other. And as I always say “If it’s important, you’ll find a way. If not you’ll find an excuse” ! So for now I just count myself one of those lucky ones to have seen all nook & cranny of New Zealand multiple times yet I can’t get enough of it !! If there’s one place on earth that gives you a diverse range of natural beauty with many parts still very untouched and pristine, it is New Zealand.. So if you ever get a chance to visit and/or live in this gorgeous country, make the most of what you get…Not everyone gets the opportunity..
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