Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Day 4 in New Zealand: Kayaking with Dolphins in Milford Sound

This is the fourth installment of Steven and my adventures in New Zealand in April 2013. You can find the first post, second, and third on these links. Enjoy!

When I first pressured Steven to sign up for this tour, the Rosco's Morning Glory Sea Kayak, I really had no idea what we were in for.

All I knew was that I wanted to try my hand at 5+ hours of kayaking because I'm a sucker for punishment, endurance challenges and early mornings.

Yeah, I don't know how Steven puts up with me either.

ANYWAY, we stayed in the nearest town, Te Anau, the night before our kayak. This is because accommodation in Milford Sound is limited to basically the Milford Lodge which either charges dirt cheap prices for backpacker accommodation, or Millionaire prices for luxury suites.

As Steven and I are no longer backpackers (hello late 20s, creaky joints, early morning Ashtanga), and not yet millionaires (Plan B: marry rich), we decided to stay in an average-ly priced motel and drive the 2 hours to Milford Sound in the morning.

The kayak tour met at 7 AM. This meant we had to be on the road by 5, which meant a 3:30 AM check out to HAUL SOME SERIOUS ASS to Milford.

It was pitch black, a partly cloudy night, and an absolutely once-in-a-lifetime drive. Think snow-capped mountains and a blanket of stars. Steven probably had a 1 and 1/2 hour panic attack trying not to drive off the road, but I had a very pleasant journey nap.

At Milford Sound Lodge, we met the group and went to Deepwater Basin to get our gear on.

This company really fits you out with everything you possibly need: fleece pants, top, sweater, rain/wind jacket, and a floppy kayak skirt that basically keeps the water out of your seat. You really only need to wear some underwear, and you're all set!

We were off without delay. The sky was getting brighter and brighter, but because of the height of the mountains it would still be hours before we got direct light.

We started in the quiet, idyllic Deepwater Basin, and started paddling out to the Sound, which is actually a Fjord, but you can't change the name now that everyone's calling it a Sound, right?

It had rained the day before, so the waterfalls were plentiful and in force!

Then, we had our first wildlife spotting.




There was a pod swimming into the fjord to start a day of fishing, playing, and showing off in front of the cruise ships.

They sped past us, as we were moving out of the fjord towards the Tasman Sea.

We turned the corner and saw these:

Seals, just chillin', sunning themselves on the rocks. Y'know how it goes, the life of a seal.

By now, as you can see, we had direct sunlight on us.

Neither Steven nor I had any idea what time it was.

All we knew was that we were having a BLAST. Paddling, paddling, and paddling.

We each took turns paddling under and through Rainbow Falls.

Then, our friendly dolphins caught up to us. They were returning to sea by now.

It's too bad I couldn't get any pictures of them jumping and frolicking. There was even a little baby dolphin.

We paddled HARD to keep up with the pod. Those little buggers can swim.

It was hard to believe that for 15-20 minutes, we were just paddling among the dolphin pod, going out to sea.

Finally, we made it to Tasman Sea. The dolphins stuck close to the shore line as we ventured straight out. The waves were bigger and the water was clear (being away from trees meant the tannins or oils in the trees couldn't stain the water here).

We met up with a little jet boat (to the very left of the above picture) that would speed us back to our start point. It basically did the work of our 5+ hour kayak in about 10 minutes.

This trip was hands-down the highlight of our time in New Zealand. Coming so close to the wildlife, chatting with our tour guide, and making friends with our kayak-trip-mates was incredible.

Before we knew it, we were back on the road.

We needed to put 4+ hours between us and Milford Sound, so we wasted no time.

Back to Queenstown!

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