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Lake Manapouri, Wilmot Pass, and Doubtful Sound

The pictures on this page were taken during a day trip (coach & cruise) from Te Anau via Lake Manapouri and the Wilmot Pass Road to Doubtful Sound -- for maps and some official photos see the Realjourneys website.

Lake Manapouri

A coach brings us from Queenstown and Te Anau to Lake Manapouri. During our short cruise to the Wilmot Pass Road at the West Arm of the lake, I see the first Fjordland waterfall (several more follow on this trip and many, many more on Milford Track and Milford Sound).


Wilmot Pass Road

The Wilmot Pass Road was originally built for heavy traffic during the construction of the Manapouri Power Station (1963-71) and is now travelled mainly by tour buses. It is one of the best roads in the world, as it contains plenty of granite that was excavated from Mt George to build the Power Station. It is also an amazing example of the regenerative strength of the native beech forest: the bare rock face along the road was sound covered with lichens, then mosses, then ferns and grasses and shrubs, and eventually new beech trees -- all within a few decades! One example along the road are the 'Moss Gardens', seen on the next two photos:

At the Wilmot Pass Lookout, we get our first glimpse of the Doubtful Sound:

On the way down from Wilmot Pass, we stop at a stream (forgot the name).

Zooming in on the upstream part:

The grey-and-white speck in the next photo is a kereru (native pigeon), that had been perching on a beech tree but flew away too soon. The photo does show the lush green of the tree tops (as seen from the bridge).

After the cruise of the Doubtful Sound (see below), I took a few more photos from the bus on the way back, showing the cloud-shrouded mountains

a last view from the Wilmot Pass Road to the Doubtful Sound (in the foreground mountain holly [I think] and beech trees)

and a view of the Eastern (Lake Manapouri) side of the pass


Cruise of the Doubtful Sound

After a steep descent on the Wilmot Pass Road, we reach the Doubtful Sound at Deep Cove, where we see more waterfalls.

We board our cruise ship and start down the fjord. We are told that the Doubtful Sound, like the Milford Sound etc., were formed by glaciers and are thus not really 'sounds', but fjords. The next picture shows a typical u-shaped 'hanging valley'.

Other telltale features of the glaciers' work are the dome-shaped islands:

Looking back after passing Elizabeth Island (with, I think, a view of Mt George):

As we get closer to the Tasman Sea, the few die-hards on the top deck huddle up in their warmest gear.

Sheltered behind an island, we get a close look at the Nee Islets fur seal colony (here photographed with zoom):

The Nee Islets are scattered in the centre of the entrance from the Tasman Sea to the Doubtful Sound. Out of sight to the right of this photo is another small island (which keeps the wind and swell down here) and then the sea.

We leave the windshadow of the small island to begin our return trip.

Finally some sunrays are breaking through and illuminate the magnificent scenery.

But soon the clouds close again and get ready for some light rain.

We pass mountain after mountain, often with traces of recent tree avalanches.

Looking back at Marcaciones Point and the Secretary Island with Grono Bay and the Marine Reserve:

Malaspina Reach (I think):

Somewhere in a side arm of the fjord, we see two dolphines, who lead us to a pod of about 35 (our captain's estimate) who are feeding. We approach slowly and then wait and watch. After a while, we pull away rather fast and the dolphins follow us (apparently interpreting the ship's behaviour as an invitation to play) and perform a beautiful show of playful jumps alongside the ship.

More deep scars (presumably from very recent tree avalanches):

The Lady Alice Falls as we return to Deep Cove:

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 < previous part of the journey: Lake Te Anau >    <  next part of the journey: Walking the Milford Track >

2003 Gisela Redeker