‘The ambience of a place created by scents, sounds and company are what our minds remember - alongside our photos’
Setting your senses to full exposure you run headlong into the natural phenomena that make New Zealand a film director’s utopia. We’ve taken a look at a few outstanding landscapes to see just how many angles you can approach them from. Changing your physical viewing position, varying height, proximity and speed all contribute to a new perspective and indeed a fresh experience.
To fly around, walk through, paddle along, sail on, diver under or hover over – or maybe several of the above!
Let’s start with the awesome Milford Sound, Doubtful Sound and Wilmot Pass in the glorious untamed wilderness that is Fiordland National Park. Even accessing it gives you choices; you can drive to Te Anau – pretty much the gateway to all the sounds in the park – Invercargill & Southern Scenic Route are under 3 hours with Dunedin over 4. This drive should be taken at leisure as you are already in spectacular scenery. You can book on a coach which will give you a higher vantage point and of course great for the driver!
.....just out of interest
These New Zealand sounds are in fact fiords, formed by glacial activity, not sounds, caused by flooded river valleys. Early sailors from the UK mistakenly called them sounds but what’s in a name?!
Once in the National Park – in Te Anau or Manapouri you can get into your hiking (tramping) gear and set off on a variety of trails. If you don’t have suitable clothing you can buy or rent from the outdoor shops there. Walks start from strolls of just 30 minutes to major walking tracks such as the Routeburn (32km), Kepler (60km), Hollyford (56km) and the relatively new Tuatapere Hump Ridge (55km) – all of these will take around 3 or 4 days and can be guided or independent.
Milford Track - walking
If you want to start and finish in Queenstown you can do the Milford Track as a guided walk of 5 days with a flight or coach back. It will taking you through the heart of the National Park, peaking with a cruise on the sound. You are likely to see robin, kea, weka, fantail, parakeet, bellbird and maybe a kiwi. Be prepared for the deepest lakes, the sheerest canyons and the most luxuriant of forests. Allow time to stand and hear the silence, such a shame this can’t be bottled! Overnight lodges can be as luxurious or economical as you like – there is lots of choice but do book early especially in high season.
Milford Sound – atop the water
A boat trip is essential no matter how you have arrived or plan to continue. To appreciate the majesty from within, to hear the silence, to see the sheer mountain rises and smell the forest and to enjoy the dolphins playfully escorting your boat. It is also possible to kayak either from the head of the sound or on certain cruises which will launch you whilst at sea. This self-propelled water adventure sees you float inches from the surface, exposes you to sea-sprays, humbles you beneath soaring peaks and gives you the anonymity to squeeze into craggy inlets like a pioneer.
.....just out of interest
Pray to your God for rain! The splendour of waters whooshing down these steep mountainsides into the ocean adds even more drama.
Milford Sound – what lies beneath – dry version
In Harrison Cove, 10m below the surface sits a fully air-conditioned underwater observatory - well to be more accurate you are the spectacle! The fishes outside are free to come and go as they please leaving you to simply observe the rare black coral and the variety of colourful fishes who have chosen to visit. This amazing floating discovery centre offers a fully interactive experience with dramatic videos, historical and geological displays. And all in totally natural HD!
Milford Sound – what lies beneath – wet version
The beauty and unique geological formations just got more numerous and intense. Beneath the waters of Milford Sound are sheer cliff faces and an ecosystem of black coral trees only usually found in deep water trenches. Scuba diving you may also see dolphins, seals, sharks, eels, octopus, stingray and more. Even as a first time diver you can have a memorable day here with companies offering PADI courses.
......just out of interest
Allow a day after your dive before travelling back to altitude on the Milford Highway so that you can reduce your nitrogen levels.
Doubtful Sound & Wilmot Pass – by Air
Viewing the Southern Lakes by air certainly gives you a sense of scale. Scenic helicopter flights leave from Te Anau helipad on a variety of missions from round trip 30-minute jaunts to 3-hour epics with three landings. They climb, dip and hover to give you unique vantage points of hidden valleys and although not cheap you should be able to find a lead-in trip for just over £100. Another airborne aspect is in a rare De Havilland Dominie with 30 minute ‘Love at first flight’s at less than £100 – a must if you appreciate the golden ages of aviation!
Whichever angles you choose we’re sure your memories will be acute!