If you are native to the lands of the Northern Hemisphere, then Dusky, Doubtful and Milford Sounds may mean very little to you; Nancy, Charles, and George Sound will mean even less. But if you visit New Zealand, down in the Southern Hemisphere, you’ll find all these places; they are part of the Fiordland National Park, on the southwesterly corner of New Zealand’s south island.
But if you have ever visited North America’s northwest coastline, in particular, the coasts of Oregon, British Columbia, and Alaska, then the topography of these wild and richly forested terrains may seem familiar.
Perhaps the most satisfying way to visit these New Zealand Sounds is by land but local tour companies offer exploration nor only by foot, shuttle van, and tour bus, but via watercraft, and by air. Air seems to be the most efficient way to take in the 1.2 million hectares of wilderness that make up the Fiordland, but a guided walk might be considered more effective. That’s if you have the time. Try these sites: Hike South and Ultimate Hikes.
But failing that, take a cruise up into the sounds. Besides the huge cruise lines that visit the Sounds, there is also a large assortment of smaller cruise vessels. Expect rainy weather and heavy mists; this is a temperate rain forest. The rains give rise to pretty multiple waterfalls coursing down through lush green forested mountains. You might even catch a glorious rainbow as it cuts its way through the grey mist.
Our ship, the Celebrity Mercury, had three Sounds on its itinerary: Dusky, Doubtful and Milford Sounds. We reached Dusky Sound early in the morning, amidst gray skies, churning waters, and heavy mist. The short trip into Dusky was interesting, but the light was such that no outstanding photographs could be taken.
Doubtful Sound was just that, doubtful. And in fact, high winds and rough waters meant that our ship, including a fellow cruise ship, the Statendam, had to pass by. But the picturesque Milford Sound still lay ahead.
Milford Sound (it was agreed by other passengers who were experienced in the Sounds) was the more majestic and more beautiful, with its dozens of waterfalls and pretty coastline. Many compared it to Alaska or the northern coastline of British Columbia with its misty timber forests, and moody gray waters.
Wildlife is supposed to be abundant in these largely uninhabited sounds although we didn’t see any of the fur-bearing seals, penguins, or dolphins said to make these sounds their home.
For more information on the New Zealand Fiordlands, read this stunning National Geographic account by author, Kennedy Warne.
Photography Tip: When taking photos in the Fiordland sounds, push your digital camera’s “exposure compensation” setting to a “negative” number to ensure a clearer, less misty picture. You can always brighten your shots later in your computer’s photo manipulation program.