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Sea Kayaking on Doubtful Sound.

New Zealand has some of the most beautiful places on earth. Some of the most wild and is a mecca for people in search of untouched adventure. Doubtful Sound, found in Fiordland National Park is one of these beautiful, untouched places! Opting for a more adventurous experience than a cruise, kayaking Doubtful Sound on a 2 day adventure, sounded perfect.

Doubtful Sound is the second most accessible Fiord in Fiordland National Park, but it’s the biggest and quietest! Over two days we would kayak as much of the fiord as we could. Camping in a hidden campsite in the surrounding jungle. The only noises at night would be the hum of the sand-flies, the birds and the water. What we would see would be mountains and some creatures that lived in the depths below us.

A Bit About Doubtful Sound.

Doubtful Sound was originally named ‘Doubtful Harbor’ by Captain Cook in 1770. Due to the simple fact, that he was uncertain they would be able to sail, navigate or anchor the ship inside the Fiord. Over the years the fisherman, sailors and whalers renamed it as Doubtful Sound. Found in Fiordland National Park, South West New Zealand it’s the deepest Fiord in the South Island (421 meters). And is around 40 kilometers long. The weather can vary, but just like Milford Sound, it’s one of the wettest places in New Zealand. It gets up to 6,000 millimeters of rain per year! The amount of rain means that the surrounding mountains are covered in bush and jungle, home to many bird species. So if you’re a keen nature enthusiast, this is the place to be.

Accessible from Manapouri Lake, it takes a ferry and coach ride to get to the mainland entrance of Doubtful Sound. Once here, there isn’t much in the way of human habitat. Apart from a hostel lodge, ship harbor and kayak stores. But there are plenty of cheeky Kea’s to keep you entertained and pesky sand-flies to get you scratching. From the shore you’ll look out to the vast blue of Doubtful Sound and one, if not more, spectacular waterfalls that line the walls of the mountains during and after rainfall.

The size of Doubtful Sound is massive.
This large boat gives you a perspective of how big Doubtful Sound is!

Kayaking on Doubtful Sound.

Getting there was fun, but getting onto the water is the best part of the whole adventure. After getting our kit together, packing our overnight gear in the dry bags. Making sure essential snacks and cameras were secured to the outside of the boat, it was time to head out! Two people to a Kayak and our guide, Scotty, was in charge of our route and chief story teller.

It had been raining the last few days but thankfully once on the water it was a beautiful day. The paddle out to the main arm of Doubtful Sound was relaxed. We took in the views, listened to the history of the place and learnt a bit about Doubtful Sound itself. As we pushed into the main arm of the sound the whole place opened up and our eyes were wide in the search for Dolphins.

The coast of New Zealand has a rich marine life and below the surface there is so much going on. From massive sharks, boisterous dolphins to black coral and colorful coral. Until I had visited Milford Sound I hadn’t been lucky to spot Dolphins in New Zealand and the stories were that the ones in Doubtful, were bigger! They Dolphins however will choose when they want to be seen and when they don’t want to be. They have a huge playground to explore, so I wasn’t holding my breath, too much!

Exploring Doubtful Sound by kayak made us see the fiord from a different perspective than a large tour boat. We weren’t just watching the view, we could touch it and experience everything right in front of our noses. Paddling close to the shore to check out the cool shrubs, trees, birds. And get a natural shower from some of the waterfalls.

Kayaking Doubtful Sound and it's waterfalls
Exploring the waterfalls up close on Doubtful Sound.

It didn’t take long for the wettest place in New Zealand to show us just what kayaking in the rain was like. My opinion, almost better than kayaking in the sun! Doubtful Sound changes in the rain. In the sunshine the greens and the flat water are serene. In the rain, the mountains seem to cry with waterfalls. All of a sudden, as if there are lakes close to the brink up there, the walls are covered in waterfalls. Hundreds of them. Going from the serene to the dramatic in a matter of minutes and it honestly, made the whole trip.

Paddling in rain, playing in waterfalls and exploring as much of the Fiord as we could before it got a chilly. We headed to the secret campsite. Nestled in the shrub and jungle Go Orange have created themselves a little campsite here. There’s a communal area to cook, sip on a hot chocolate in & wrapped in a netting to give us a relief from the sand-flies. Once the kayaks are tied up and secured – to stop them floating away. We enjoyed a hot drink inside the netted tent while Scotty radio’s back to the base in Te Anau.

The rain was heavy and hadn’t given much break since it started. Due to the wet weather all week the whole week before the water levels next to shore were already high. We wanted to stay in camp that night, but we agreed that waking up in a water filled tent might not be fun, so we waited.
The call was made after an hour. We rinsed out our cups, pulled on our wet wet-suits and jumped back in the kayaks. There was no camping for us. It was time to paddle back to the base and get a cosy bed in the hostel lodge.

Paddling back the weather gave us a bit of a break. The waterfalls were still tumbling down, it was incredible. We were the only people on the water, the sun was going down and it was a truly magical place to be.

We may not have been camping in the wilds. But we were in one of the most isolated hostels in the country and that was pretty ok with me! The next morning we got back on the water and explored more of the fiord before we made our way back to catch the coach and ferry back to Manapouri.

Kayking in the rain in Doubtful Sound.
Even in the rain Doubtful Sound is beautiful!

The way I knew that kayaking Doubtful Sound was a real adventure, is because it didn’t go according to plan. Most adventures I go on don’t always go the way we would like. This can be because of the weather, broken gear or many other reasons. That’s what adventure is all about, adapting to situation, paying attention to your surroundings and having back up plans. This is one of my favorite sea kayaking adventures and I wouldn’t change one bit of it. Next time, I’ll hop on the 5 day adventure and hope to stay at one of the wild campsites!

Kayaking Doubtful Sound is an experience for those wanting to get away from the busy, overpopulated Milford Sound. Who want a kayaking trip like no other and to get in touch with the wild and wilderness of New Zealand. Go Orange were incredible, Scotty had such a passion for the place and infinite knowledge of his surroundings. There isn’t one thing I would change about our adventure, it is one of the most beautiful places on earth, I would go back in a heartbeat!

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