Friday 12th October: Doubtful Sound
Today we visited Doubtful Sound – a place we have been looking forward to going for ages but it didn’t quite live up to our expectations. Let me go back to the start to explain.
Shortly after arrival at our rental property yesterday we were visited by one of the owners – we called by to tell us that we weren’t able to go on the Doubtful Sound tour we had booked on (Doubtful Sound Cruises) due to a problem with the boat and instead we were going with Real Journeys. This was quite a disappointment to us as we had deliberately chosen Doubtful Sound Cruises as they were a smaller boat and we were hoping for a quieter more intimate trip. We had no other choice at this time so knew we had go with this option. We were woken on the morning of Friday 12th by incredibly heavy rain which wasn’t the best noise knowing we had our trip ahead! Later this morning a nice lady that works for Doubtful Sounds Cruises stopped by to pick us up and explained that it wasn’t a problem with the boat but that we were the only 2 people booked with them so it wasn’t able to operate for just 2 people. This made more sense but we were still very disappointed. The visibility was also really poor and we knew that it was going to be difficult to see the scenery on the tour – which we had been really looking forward to. The people that worked for Real Journeys did their best to tell people it was the best weather to visit in because of the waterfalls – which was nice enough – but it was a shame to only be able to see a few metres ahead at a time and we couldn’t really see the views ahead! Still, we had a good day and enjoyed what scenery and waterfalls we could see. Here is a brief outline of the day for anyone interested in taking this trip.
Boat departed from Manapouri at 9.45
Boat trip across Lake Manapouri – took about 50 minutes.
Arrival at West Arm Visitor Centre
Coach trip along Wilmot Pass Road – one of NZ’s remotest and most expensive roads to build (to help construction of the power station in the 1960s) – 40 minutes
Boat trip out on Doubtful Sound – there were only about 40 people on the boat which held 120 but I can imagine if it had been full it would have felt very crowded! – about 2 hours 45 mins. Unfortunately for us there visibility was very poor by this time of the day, but me and John still made the most of the it sitting outside for a lot of time enjoying what we could see in the wind and rain! We were also the only people to brave going up to the top uncovered deck for further views in the strong wind and rain! Actually quite a few of the people didn’t go out on deck at all and stayed inside either eating or sleeping (some people!). We enjoyed our time out on deck and treated ourselves to a nice hot choc and choc bar on the lower quieter deck in the warm when we couldn’t feel our hands anymore – with gloves on!
Coach trip back along Wilmot Pass Road – 40 mins
Coach trip down into Manapouri hydro-electric power station – 45 mins. The coach travelled down a 2km spiral access road underground which was exciting! And we then took a short walk further down to the lookout point over the machine hall – it was nice and warm here and dried us off a bit!
Return boat trip back over Lake Manapouri – about 50 minutes.
We returned back to Manapouri at about 5.30pm.
We were wet and windswept but had had a good day. Despite our initial disappointment at a switch to our booking operator we made the absolute best of it and the day. We do realise that we didn’t see Doubtful Sound at all at its best (which is why I might sound a little low key about it) – but that is part of having to go on the day you have booked on. Doubtful Sound is supposed to be one of South Island’s highlights and I am sure that on the right day it absolutely is but it just so happened that on our day we didn’t see it at its best. Still, the weather is meant to be worse tomorrow with snow expected so some would say we were lucky!