Natural Sounds

It seems there are few places left in the world that no real road leads to, where the only sights and sounds are native to the land, wildlife and water around you. Doubtful Sound is one of those places.

Situated within Fiordland National Park, a massive 3 million acre World Heritage Area, Doubtful Sound is a long ocean inlet with steep sides created by glacial erosion. The land was formed thousands of years ago when glaciers carved deep gorges moving to the sea. 


Classified as a temperate rainforest, the area gets as much as 10 inches of rain in a single day. The characteristic dark waters of Doubtful Sound are made up of a layer of fresh water floating on top of denser salt water from the Tasman Sea.


One of the best (and only) ways to experience this place is via an overnight cruise, and it’s well worth the money. Our boat held 60-70 people. We ate dinner with a nice older couple from Belfast who had traveled around the world. They made me laugh, saying that mostly you see “gapers” and “gaspers” when traveling. In other words, kids just out of college on their gap year, or retirees.

{video} More bunk beds! Opting for the cheapest accommodations in the bottom of the boat, we shared this room with a nice young couple – a girl from South Dakota and a guy from Germany. She was planning on working in NZ for a year and he was preparing to continue his travels in Indonesia.


They say the mood of the fiord is dictated by the weather – glorious and sparkling on a sunny day, tranquil and mysterious in the mist. We had plenty of sunshine on Day 1, which is rare in Fiordland.


We came across these cute fur seals basking on the rocks. They sleep and relax here during the day and feed at night.


At one point they anchored and offered the option to go on a lengthy sea kayak excursion.


We decided to relax inside with a bottle of local wine instead! We figured we’d have plenty more opportunities to kayak and we needed the downtime.


As the sun set, the staff prepared a delicious dinner and dessert buffet and then gave an interesting presentation on the history and ecology of Fiordland. As we went to bed, it started to rain.


The next morning we encountered a totally different landscape.

{video} Waterfalls!


It had been raining all night, so there were literally hundreds of waterfalls thundering into the sound. One of the staff members we talked to the night before had mentioned the rain would be really good for this reason, but we figured she was just trying to make us feel more positive about the rain.


Waterfalls big and small, tall and short, flowed spectacularly into the sound.


{video} We were given glasses and the captain steered the boat towards one of the waterfalls so we could get a fresh glass of water!


There is no soil on the hills, only moss. So the water is filtered through the moss. It tasted good!


The reflections in the water combined with the clouds and mist made for some great photos. It was nice just to stand outside and look around while we drifted through one of the “arms” of the sound.


Finally, the captain steered into a cove and turned the engine off. He asked that everyone refrain from talking and clicking their cameras for a few minutes so we could really take in all the sounds and natural environment. It was very peaceful and quiet except for the sound of the waterfalls. An amazing way to end the journey.


The cruise was operated by Real Journeys. They did a fantastic job and I’d highly recommend them if you ever visit the area.