After spending the past few weeks sharing all of my adventures in Canada, I am back to talking about New Zealand, and what better place to return to than Milford Sound? Tagged as the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’, Milford Sound’s rainforest-covered peaks and dramatic waterfalls attract nearly one million visitors a year. While it is possible to catch a ride on one of many cruise ships sailing through the sound each day, early risers with a sense of adventure can have the whole of Milford Sound to themselves, with a sunrise kayak tour.
Rosco’s Milford Kayaks has been running sunrise tours for years around Milford Sound, and their ‘Morning Glory’ tour takes in the full length of the sound. We met our guide at the crack of don and got kitted out in the various waterproof gear, along with a brief reminder of kayaking techniques. While they recommend only people with previous kayak experience attend this trip, we found our ability level of a couple previous sessions enough to keep up with the others.
After navigating the small waterways near the shore, we were paddling away, with the imposing Mitre Peak towering over us. Whenever rains come, the whole sound comes to life, with waterfalls crashing down mountains and into the waters all around us. Bowen Falls surged and frothed with water, spraying our kayaks with a drizzly mist.
After an hour or so of kayaking, we noticed a dark shape following us in the water. Suddenly, a large head with glassy eyes poked its head out of the water: seals!
About halfway through Milford Sound is a collection of rocks which provide the perfect sunbathing spots for seals – if they can ever reach it of course:
Whether the seal did make it to the top of that rock I will never know, as increased traffic on Milford Sound meant we had to quicken the pace.
Rosco’s tours takes kayakers all the way to the mouth of Milford Sound, and then a water taxi ride back to the mainland. The waters become progressively choppier the closer kayakers get to the Tasmanian Sea, and after several hours of kayaking we all began to feel a little sore around the arms. Luckily our guide had the ideal rest point for us.
While others relaxed on the white sandy beaches, I wandered off to explore the area, and almost immediately came across this:
I like to think it was an antiquated hermit’s shelter, home of a grizzled pioneer that liked to live off the land and was happy in their own company. More likely however, it was probably an improvised shelter for camping kayakers or other sea explorers.
One thing people forget to tell you about Milford Sound, is the midges. In the summer, they appear from everywhere, even if you are kayaking far out on the water, or resting on a beach. Despite their best efforts, we ignored the midges and carried on to our final destination, a particularly white beach just at the mouth of Milford Sound, in Anita Bay.
With few cruise ships and other boats venturing this far out of the sound, it was easy to appreciate the rugged beauty and isolation of Milford Sound. A toot of a horn and yell from the captain of the water taxi brought me back into the modern day however. After hours of paddling, it was nice to have a rest. Of course, I couldn’t leave Milford Sound completely without saying goodbye to these critters: