Milford Sound New Zealand
Our second guided tour was also hosted through Real Journeys and started in Te Anau, but the but actually picked us up at our holiday park—a nice option, especially when you don’t want to park a vehicle downtown all day. We had the nicest Kiwi, Paul, as our bus driver and throughout our drive to the Milford sound boat area, about two hours away, he made it hilariously clear the friendly rivalry between the Aussies and the Kiwis. Along the drive to Milford , through Fiordlands National Park, Paul told us much about the history, culture, and the environment of the area; too much to include here, but all very interesting and thought provoking.
We stopped at several areas along the road to look at some exceptional features; one of which was a stream where we filled our water bottles from fresh glacier runoff. Paul let us know that the water and lakes, rivers, and streams in New Zealand is free from waterborne diseases, so it is safe to drink the water without boiling first. The Milford sound region receives between 7 and 9 feet a year, so on 300 days a year the area is drenched in showers, but the area is also inundated by waterfalls only present during the drenching rains. We were lucky enough to visit the sound on one of the 65 rain-free days, but didn’t see any of the 200+ rain waterfalls.
Viewing wildlife happens to be one of my favorite activities while on holiday and we were fortunate enough to see one of the two species of parrots that inhabit New Zealand. The Kea, a large, very smart dark green/brown parrot lives in the mountainous regions of the Milford Sound area and we happened to visit early enough in the morning when the parrots were out and about before it got too warm. Keas are known to rip weather stripping and windshield wipers off cars and cause general destruction to parked vehicles; they are like smart dogs—too smart for their own good if left to their own devices. The three young parrots we came across loved the attention they were receiving from those on our bus; the two young females were, first, gnawing on the metal road sign before hopping on the ground. They started playing with some small flower, seeming to know that they became even more photogenic with flowers in their beaks. The lone male stood alone in front of everyone taking photos of the threesome; he seemed to pose as he hopped closer and closer to us. As we quietly spoke to him he would cock his head to the side, just as our dog, Gus, does when we ask him if he wants to go to the park. When the male parrot began looking inside the bus and hopping closer to the door and probably thinking that he could easily jump inside, Paul quickly told us that it was time to move on to our next stop.
Soon, we embarked on our boat portion of the journey where we traveled through actual sound and to the wide open ocean. The journey was windy, but we were able to see waterfalls, sea lions, seals, and various sea birds. The top 10 feet of water in the sound is fresh water, but the 80+ feet below the fresh water is salt water, therefore it isn’t uncommon for whales to make their way into the sound. Fishermen catching crayfish during abundant times, hoping that the price/lb. increases, will stash pots of live crayfish in shallow waters for more favorable market conditions; buoys attached to crayfish pots were bobbing up and down in some of the blue-green waters in the mouth of Milford Sound. Once on the open ocean we saw royal albatross and other sea birds; we hoped to see some dolphins, but only saw some amazing scenery. Exhausted from the day’s events, our gang (except me) slept the entire journey back to camp.
I really enjoyed and appreciated the commentary from the tour guides, but also wished we had more time on our drive to and from the boat launch. If I were to do it all over again I would take the same tour and the spend the following day driving ourselves through Fiordland National Park and spend some extra time hiking and viewing wildlife.