From the deep black waters, eclipsed from the sun, to the whistling peaks smothered in cloud, the fjords are a mighty landscape. Carved by glaciers, they cover almost a third of New Zealand’s land, cracking the coastline like a broken ginger nut. A huge attraction for tourists and scientists alike, thousands of people flock here every year. The fjords are also an important cultural site, featuring heavily in Maori beliefs, as the carvings of the demi-god Tu Ta Rakiwhanoa. The fiords and sounds* are a must see and they did not disappoint.
Milford Sound is the most well known of the sounds and the one we visited. There are thousands of boat companies offering cruises, that can be booked from almost anywhere in New Zealand. We spruced things up a bit and booked ourselves on a kayaking tour. Kayaking is a brilliant way to get a scale of the sounds, and see the places boats can’t get to.
What shocked me the most was how dark the water was, and then finding out that Milford Sound is 420m deep. On top of that, Deep Water Basin, 10m from the shore, reaches a gut dropping 180m deep. The darkness is also due to tannin staining, so that water ten metres deep is as dark as the bottom of the ocean. In a rare blip of nature, deep sea creatures swim here in the shallows, transparent glowing blobs and all. All the activity and variety attracts fish and in turn the fish attracts dolphins. Up above, the sheer rocks support forests, which are home to Tui birds and the rare Kea bird. Along the edges of the sound, see waterfalls, tree avalanches and even the remains of one of the great glaciers.
Access to Milford Sound is from Te Anau, along a single long road. Leave extra time for the drive, so you don’t miss the amazing stops along the way. These include the unreal Eglington plains, The Mirror Lakes, The Chasm and Key Summit -as a 3hour return part of the great Routeburn track.
*The land was originally thought to be sounds, but is now known to be fjords because they are glacial made and not river made. The ‘sounds’ names just never got changed.*