Doubtful Sound Travel Guide

Bob’s wish is granted as the day dawns bright and clear. “It will be wonderful,” Joan promises us as we leave Prospect Lodge.

We drive to Pearl Harbour at Lake Manapouri where we board a boat and travel up the scenic West Arm of the lake. Our skipper, Terry, points out mountains en route and says that like Loch Ness in Scotland, Manapouri has a monster, “except ours is bigger and much better looking!” she jokes.

We disembark at the Real Journeys Visitor Centre which provides detailed information on Lake Manapouri and Doubtful Sound as well as clean facilities. From the Centre, we board a bus with Alex Mackay, our guide for the day, at the wheel and follow a private road through native bush to a lookout point at the top of the Wilmot Pass.

The view of Doubtful Sound from the lookout is staggering. Alex tells us that according to Maori legend the fiords of this region were not created by glaciers, but by Tu Te Raki Whanoa, a god-like figure who cut them with a magical adze. When it came to Doubtful Sound he sought assistance from four young sea gods who carved out its sheltered arms.

Down on the dock we have another surprise in store: the catamaran is in for a service so our small group gets the chance to cruise aboard the luxurious overnight vessel, the magnificent Fiordland Navigator.

“I’m feeling pretty special,” says Bob, as we explore this huge ship and find ourselves a perfect possie on its huge upper forward deck. Here we enjoy a yummy pre-ordered lunch surrounded by ever changing 360-degree views. There are waterfalls aplenty, dropping from rocky ledges and splashing through dense native bush to where seals bask on rocks in the sun. We travel up to the entrance of Doubtful Sound – which we discover is not actually a sound at all, but a fiord with a case of mistaken identity – and peek into Crooked Arm and Hall Arm where the mountains are perfectly reflected upon the still waters.

Bob and I are transfixed for the whole three hours of the scenic tour, not wanting to move in case we should miss something. Then suddenly, in the late afternoon as our boat makes its way back to the wharf, the perfect ending to a brilliant day comes when we’re joined by a pod of bottlenose dolphins riding the bow waves. It’s a magical experience and Bob is as thrilled as I am. “I could stay here forever,” he says, breathing in deeply and throwing his hands into the air for emphasis. “Look!” he exclaims, “it’s absolutely magnificent!”