Tag Archives: last briefing

doubtful sound

It was one of those late summer days in early 1950 when Mr. and Mrs. Hutchins went out for a weekend hike into Doubtful Sound, it was a 4 day hike return and full of challenges; a boat from Te Anau must be organized to get to the West Arm; from there was a track going beside the river and through thick bush-land over the Wilmot Pass which is 980m above sea level.  From there it took one more day of hiking until Deep Cove where there was a single hut to stay overnight with no comfort. But Mr. and Mrs. were so overwhelmed with the area and the beauty of the location that they bought a boat to show tourists around the area.   It took 4 days to get the first visitors from Te Anau into Doubtful Sound and that was the start of Fiordland Travel which got re branded to Real Journeys as we know today. It was tough making a living at this time with not many customers and tourists around. Still the founder believed in his dream to show foreigners the most beautiful parts of Fiordland. After a few years running the new business a second boat was bought, which was not very reliable and broke down many times. It was sold off after a short time, and a more modern boat was bought in Te Anau, business was going up and down. It was early 1970and the couple were involved in the Save Manapouri campaign to stop the government from raising the lake levels to help generate cheap electricity. More than 260 000 signatures were collected. No dam was built, but the power station still went ahead, which brought workers to Te Anau and they needed to get transport over the lake. That was the first big change in the company’s history.

Nowadays Real Journeys organizes daily cruises into Doubtful Sound. The Patea is the boat which runs day cruises, and Navigator runs overnight cruises. Both are modern standard with all facilities.


The overnight cruise is different to the overnight cruise in Milford Sound on the Mariner but both cruises are special in their own right. Doubtful Sound is ten times larger than Milford Sound; the mountains are not as steep and greener. Usually after boarding all customers get a fresh baked muffin and hot drinks which are complementary for the whole cruise. A short time after the boat leaves Deep Cove you can experience a silence and peaceful atmosphere under which all stress seems to be forgotten and left behind. Very soon the excitement gets bigger about daily water activity, there are 2 options to choose from; one of them is to jump on a tender craft to explore the fiord along the remote shore line; the second option is a kayak paddle on the fiord. Both options leave memories behind which won’t be forgotten for many years after the trip. I forgot the 3rd option – sorry about that – it is jumping from the boat into the Fiord and doing a good healthy swim in the clearest and pristine waters.   Yes we do that activity in late summer and autumn too the only difference would be the water temperature in summer is around 16C and in Winter around 12C – all the time refreshing. Shortly after the last activity of the day the soup service starts, from then on you travel to a seal colony, which is located just before the Tasman Sea. Sometimes you can see whales hanging around that area, but that is a very rare occasion.

The boat stays around this location for a while to see the awesome view back into the fiord.  As soon the boat is back to the fiord the dinner service starts. Everyone is looked after with all food requirements, Vegan, gluten free, lactose or Jain are only a few to mention.

As soon dinner is served, there’s a presentation about the history of the area in the saloon, with is very informative to listen and look at.

Next morning a cooked breakfast served. On the way into the fiord is for many customers a once in a life time experience: we call it the bay of silence, the boat shut down everything, fans, engine, radio’s. Everyone can experience how quiet and how the isolation sounds like without any pollution of noise, surprisingly a camera can ruin the whole experience with its peep- it is that quiet.

Soon after that experience we are back to Deep Cove, the harbour we left the day before.


The buses are waiting already for all passengers to drive them back to the wharf at West Arm in a comfortable air-conditioned coach. From there it is a 45 to 50 minutes boat ride back to Manapouri.


It has changed a lot since the first visitors started travelling to Doubtful Sound and it took them more than 4 days hiking with little comfort in the early days.




Auckland Island

Auckland Island is the biggest subarctic island, which belong to New Zealand, and is 465 km southeast from Bluff peninsula. With a combined area of 625sq km, the Island is uninhabited by humans, there is a wide variation of wild life all over the island, yellow eyed penguins, albatross, elephant seals and the nearly extinguished snipe enjoy the idyllic isolation on the island.

On the Island are 2 hikes, both of them start close to the landing site by research station, from there on; for the first few meter you need to pass sea lion colony, usually the seal are very relaxed and sleep. One of the walk is a 3 hour return broad-walk very easy to do, which winds up to a higher altitude, you pass wetlands, small forest and rata trees. Yellow eyed penguin’s nest very close to the broad-walk, and are not shy by passing tourists as long they keep a safety distance of a few meter. All the way long the scenery change, to take a look back to the harbour is magnificent. At the far end is a small rest area, which invite you for a while to stay and have a snack. From that point the second longer walk turn off, and it takes around 5 to 6 hours back to the starting point.

The walk follow the cliff line, and pass many different fauna and landscapes. Albatross nests in December and early January, Elephant Seals are playing on higher altitude in the fields. As we took our lunch break one of the seals came very close to check out what is happening in his isolated area, it was a great experience to see the seal that close, not more than a back pack in between us, the seal was nearly the same high than me as he stood up on his flippers. But soon he lost his interest and he turned around and disappeared in the high grass. We continued our walk close to the cliff the view from there is overwhelming, the look down to the roaring sea open a variety of rugged rocks and dancing sea weed in the water, the swell was very thundering as soon it hit the cliff and the waves look like he explode in all directions with thundering noise. We took a rest in the sun in an open area it must be the location where the Derry Castel sunk in 1887, a monument remind to that tragedy that time. Soon we continued our walk through high flex and toi toi, on that part was no marker just we knew that we need to keep left and leave the forest on the right; it took some time to walk through that area. But we needed to turn back few times and look for a new track, all the tracks are made by seals and penguins, and going in all directions.

Penguin and seals are nesting in the overgrown area, if you get to close both animals make some noise, as a warning before you get to close.

After we walked through the flex we passed an open area from there we could see already where we need to go, we passed a beach, walked through an forest I never seen before.

Our last few meter back to the starting point where the most exiting for me, we need to pass an elephant seal colony.