Tag - new zealand

Cruising New Zealand’s Doubtful Sound, a Strangely Jurassic Experience



Doubtful Sound

Doubtful Sound – its name evokes an uncertainty that belies the definitive presence of the fiord itself. With granite cliffs plunging into the depths of the black water, and soaring upwards into the clouds, Doubtful Sound is majestic and mystical, a massive, unpeopled space saturated with the spirit of prehistory.

Broad waterways flow ponderously between sky-scraping rainforest-blanketed mountains which rise precipitously from the cold water, the tannin-stained deeps of which have formed a unique aquatic habitat for unusual and ancient creatures; sponges, black coral and brachiopods.

There are a few places left in the world which make you feel like you’ve truly left humankind behind, and New Zealand’s fiords, deep and remote, cloaked in rain-soaked primordial forests, are some of them.

The Gateway to the Sounds
reflections Doubtful Sound,Photo Credit: Floyd Wilde

reflections Doubtful Sound,Photo Credit: Floyd Wilde

About 7 hours drive south of Christchurch is the town of Te Anau, gateway to the fiords. On the shores of tranquil Lake Te Anau, the area has a rich history of its own, one of settlement and conflict, Maori explorers and European whalers; the land here down in the Roaring Forties has been hard on settlers, and only the toughest survived. As such, a certain respect is due this small town, which could easily be mistaken for a mere tourist destination and stop off on the way to the Sounds.

Portal to Prehistory

And while Milford Sound, with the draw card of spectacular Mitre Peak, is probably the most popular of the sounds, Doubtful Sound, so named by the explorer Captain Cook, who was uncertain as to the navigability by his craft of the inlet he bypassed, is the road less travelled – with its wide, moody tributaries, entering Doubtful Sound is like slipping back intosome remote past;the silence of this huge,uninhabited place envelops you gradually, as you leave Te Anau behind and cross Lake Manapouri and Wilmot Pass. The sense of leaving civilisation behind is strong; so much so, you have the feeling you might see plesiosaurs break the surface of the water, or pterodactyls wing down from the low sky, and in fact, the area has been used as a backdrop for the BBC’s Walking with Dinosaurs, so authentically primeval it is.

Wildlife in the Sounds

Instead, bottlenose dolphins, New Zealand fur seals, Fiordland crested penguins and little blue penguins are often spotted around cruising boats. Indeed, seals are hard to miss, populating, as they do, the rocks near the sea entrance to Doubtful Sound, the playful sleekness of their activities delighting visitors as much as if they were paid for their time.

Broodings and Benefactions
reflections Doubtful Sound,Photo Credit: Floyd Wilde

reflections Doubtful Sound,Photo Credit: Floyd Wilde

Fiordland receives an average of 7200 mm of rain a year, making it one of the wettest places on earth, but the low, brooding clouds and the mists draped across the shoulders of the peaks only augment the sense of other-worldliness.

Water is everywhere in the Sounds; below you, above you, and cascading beside you, down the almost perpendicular sides of the mountains; not so much waterfalls as runoff from the constant flow of water from the heavens.

A favoured device of cruise captains is to bring vessels hard up alongside the towering granite cliffs, in order to shower passengers with the cold spray from these cascades. No one minds, in fact, it feels like some sort of benefaction from ancient gods; a baptismal blessing to take with you back to real life.

Tips and Options

Visitors have a range of tour and cruise options available, from day and evening trips to overnight cruises and kayak adventures, according to inclination and budget. Any choice would guarantee satisfaction; the only disappointment is having to leave at all. Ideally, at least a couple of days would be required to fully experience and absorb the atmosphere of the Fiordlands, though if short on time, visitors can squeeze in memories for a lifetime in a day trip.

Tours to Doubtful Sound depart from Te Anau, which can be reached by car, plane or bus from the nearest centres of Christchurch, Queenstown or Dunedin. As the temperature in the Fiordlands remains low most of the year, a few layers of clothing as well as wet weather gear are recommended. It’s worthwhile visiting the area any time of the year, with winter in fact having a lower average rainfall and more sunshine hours, as well as the advantage of being quieter than the busy summer months.

Whatever time of year or tour option you choose, you will hoard up memories you will savour for the rest of your life in New Zealand’s remote Fiordland.

Handy links:

Accommodation and activities: About Fiordland: Doubtful Sound

Cruises: Cruise Doubtful Sound

Fiordland information, including how to get there: Getting to Fiordland

Goat Island Marine Reserve: A Haven for Underwater Life

View of Goat Island, Cr-Goat Island Marine Reserve

View of Goat Island, Credit-Goat Island Marine Reserve

Marine reserves provide a place where the intrinsic balance of the habitats and its occupants can be observed for educational and recreational purposes alike. New Zealand’s first marine reserve is located near Warkworth, approximately 90 minutes north of Auckland. Its official name is Cape Rodney to Okakari Point Marine Reserve but is often referred to as either Goat Islandor Leigh Marine Reserve. The reserve extends five kilometres along the shoreline and extends out to encompass around 500 hectares.

Today there are over 30 marine reserves in New Zealand which help to provide a barrier between humans as predators and their natural habitats, preventing further decline in populations and encouraging renewal.

History of Goat Island

Goat Island is a cultural site for Ngati Manuhiri, and is known to them as Hawere-a-Maki. Hawere is situated approximately 140 metres from the shoreline and is just over 9 hectares. The island is covered in pohutukawa (Metrosideros excelsa) trees which is a sight to behold during the summer period when the beautiful red flowers are in full bloom.

This small island offers a refuge for nesting birds, and while it is safe to walk around the intertidal rocks it is not recommended that you enter the bush. The life here is fragile and can easily be destroyed by even the most careful visitor.

The name Goat Island was applied to any island that had no freshwater as goats were considered to be the only animal that could survive on such an island. There is no record of goats being left on this island as a possible food source for survivors from sunken ships, but surprisingly there was a record of pigs being abandoned here. These pigs are said to have escaped the island by swimming to the beach.

Activities at Goat Island

More than 100,000 visitors take advantage of this marine reserve as there are so many options available to visitors of all ages and all fitness levels. Given its location the weather remains calm for most of the year. But if you want to get the most out of your trip the best time to visit is late summer to early autumn. It is then that underwater visibility can stretch more than 15 metres and the water reaches comfortable temperatures of up to 22oC.

Unlike an aquarium, a marine reserve encourages you to dive straight in to the water to see the underwater environment in its natural state. Come face to face with a live snapper over 10kg or a school of vibrant blue maomao with a spattering of jack mackerel swimming as one. And when it is time to relax why not climb onto the Glass Bottom boat and take a tour. It is an excellent way to stay connected and you can just sit back and enjoy the view, both under and on top of the water. Whether you are Scuba diving, snorkelling, kayaking or enjoying a trip out on the Glass Bottom Boat there is plenty to see.

What Can You Expect to See Under the Water?

Goat Island provides a snippet into a world that can rarely be viewed in such an intimate manner. Take an identification guide with you and give name to the plethora of seaweeds, invertebrates, shellfish, anemones, fish, dolphins, eels, rays, sea cucumbers, octopuses, squids, star fish, and nudibranchs, that you can witness for yourself.

There are many different environments below the surface; from rocky shores to seaweed forests, from sandy bottoms to deep reefs. Each habitat has its own unique sea creatures just waiting to be discovered.

And for the more experienced divers don’t just limit yourself to day time fun; grab your gear, throw in a torch and see the underwater world in a whole new light. Literally. There is a range of accommodation options open to you to make this happen.

Whether you come for education or recreation, Goat Island Marine Reserve has something to offer for every one of all ages and sizes. It offers a rare insight into a world that needs to be seen to be appreciated. And thanks to its protected status it will be there for generations to come.

“Whatungarongaro he tangata Toitu te Whanau.”

Man passes on, but the land remains.

Maori Proverb


Enderby, J., Enderby, T., 1998, Goat Island Marine Reserve, Leigh, New Zealand, Jenny and Tony Enderby

Doc.govt.nz, CapeRodneyto Okakari Point Marine Reserve (Goat Island)

Doc.govt.nz, Marine Reserves and Other Protected Areas

Leighbythesea.co. nz, Leigh By The Sea


Why Backpacker Hostels in New Zealand are So Good

Back[packers hostelsCr-new-zealand-hotel.org

Backpackers hostels Credit -new-zealand-hotel.org

The words “backpacking” and “hostel” carry a certain connotation for many travellers, including backpackers, who imagine stain-covered bed linen, rotting carpet and sharing a toilet with 50 others including a cockroach.

This is why travelling in New Zealand may come as a pleasant surprise. With tourism our biggest export and the internet making word of mouth spread like wildfire, high standards in customer service and experience are essential to any NZ tourism business in order to stay inline with their competitors. Accommodation is one of the prime examples of this.

In fact, kiwi hostels have been known to be compared to the 3 star accommodation of other countries. If you choose a private room with ensuite, you can expect a clean, spacious area with comfortable bed, shower and toilet, and often for under $100 NZD. It can be therefore asked, is there a point of paying $50 extra for a motel room when the standard is relatively… indifferent? Let’s give an example. “Haka Lodge” (photo) is a newly-renovated 10 bedroom house in the south-east suburbs of Christchurch. What was a warm family home has become a “boutique backpacker lodge”. An oxymoron? We think not. The lodge is modern, clean and furnished stylishly. The grounds contain many native NZ plants, trees and even a fully-maintained vegetable garden. There is free wireless internet, a computer station and TV lounge for all. There is more than enough water pressure so that you don’t feel dribbled on in the shower.

Even the dorm room in Haka Lodge isn’t really a “dorm”. The 7 beds are separated into three sections by dividing walls, which gives you the sense of unity whilst allowing some privacy – so you do not necessarily have to stare at the person snoring beside you. The room covers the whole top floor so you cannot argue there’s no space. And best of all? There is not a bunk in sight.

Keeping to high standards and surpassing customer expectation is essential to New Zealand accommodation venues like Haka Lodge. There will probably always be a place for those dirty, cheap as chips hostels where the inhabitants are mostly under 25 and getting very little sleep. But the global recession has enforced a whole new breed of price-conscious travellers looking for value.

And many of them are utilizing social media. You only have to browse Trip Advisor to find out whether a place is recommended or to be avoided like the plague.

Good accommodation ultimately means a good overall experience in New Zealand – and that’s what we hope to achieve. Because low cost doesn’t have to mean cheap.

Taken from original blog post : http://www.hakalodge.com/blog/backpacker-hostels-in-new-zealand.

Choosing New Zealand as a Ski or Snowboard Holiday Destination

Snowboarding on the Southern Alps of NZcr-powderhounds.com

Snowboarding on the Southern Alps of NZcr-powderhounds.com

When naming the world’s top ski resorts, New Zealand is often overlooked, with the masses heading for Europe, Japan and Canada. However, there are many reasons why NZ might surprise you.

First of all, the country is situated in the Southern Hemisphere, allowing winter to be a totally different time of year. Real ski enthusiasts can indulge in a double-dose of snow in the one year. The snow season runs from end of June to early October, but for peak conditions aim for August, with consistent conditions and falling after the school holidays.

Because of the seasonal difference, New Zealand is often ahead of the Northern Hemisphere ski scene, and you can find next year’s gear and fashion trends already on the slopes. You’ll find the ratio of skiers to snowboarders relatively even.

More significantly, one of my favourite things about skiing or snowboarding in New Zealand is how quiet the fields are compared to anywhere else in the world. With a country of only 4 million people, we escape the mad rush of the crowds. Less time queuing, more time skiing.

As well as fewer people, there are fewer trees. In fact, practically no trees are found on New Zealand ski fields. This is good for two reasons: it is easy to choose your lines, and it also allows for an uninterrupted view – and you don’t have to go far in New Zealand for a beautiful panaroma. The photographs speak for themselves.

Of course when you are not distracted by the view below, the terrain here is world class – steep chutes, natural valley half pipes, big wide powder fields, rock drops… as well as perfectly groomed runs.

Ski resorts in New Zealand don’t exist in the same sense as in other parts of the world. The fields are instead situated close to towns like Wanaka and Queenstown – which provide all the accommodation and après-ski options you would ever need. This is great as you are not restricted to the same field every day.

If you are going to come to New Zealand to ski or snowboard, head for the South Island. Queenstown is by far the busiest ski hub, with two fields within 20 km – Coronet Peak and The Remarkables – and many more within 100 km. The picture-perfect town apparently has more bars per square metre than any other similarly sized town in the world. But perhaps the biggest attraction of Queenstown is its adventure-focus – it doesn’t get the term “adventure capital of the world” for no reason. Therefore you can include any number of adventure activities in your ski holiday, from bungy jumping to white-water rafting and everything in between.

You could focus your entire ski holiday on Queenstown, but you would be cutting off your toe to spite your face. There are many other ski fields in the South Island that are more than worth the extra travel. This is why Haka Tours has tailored their famous South Island Snow Tour to include the likes of Mt Hutt (Christchurch’s biggest ski field), Ohau (a laidback kiwi club field), Treble Cone (any mountain rider’s dream) and Cardrona (a manicured park lover’s paradise with Olympic-sized half pipes and big booters everywhere). The biggest drive time between any of these is three hours.

Another consideration is that Queenstown is also a relatively expensive airport to fly into. (Haka’s NZ Snow Tour begins in Christchurch so you can save money on the airfare.)

And talking of saving money, you will probably find that the price of everything over here is cheaper than other parts of the globe. Finally, there are some wicked Heliski and Heliboard options available in New Zealand, which take you into NZ’s back country’s virgin snow and limitless terrain. A day’s heliskiing with 8 runs is $1,049 NZD.