Sounds of Silence – Doubtful Sound - New Zealand
08 June 2007

Photographers are always looking for that magical place on Earth that deeply moves and touches them in a way like no other. One such place that overwhelmed me is Doubtful Sound, which is located in a World Heritage Area in the Fiordland National Park, deep in the south west of New Zealand’s South Island.I was touched by the overwhelming power of its remoteness; its beauty and peace and its rugged wilderness, which is practically untouched by man.

In the month of May, I took an all day guided tour, which started not long after day break at the small lakeside town of Manapouri. My trip coincided with beautifully fine weather in an area (which averages more than 200 days of rain a year). The fine conditions made for spectacular photography with a bright blue sky and wispy clouds but I will make another trip at a future date on a rainy day to experience the contrasts of this unique landscape, when its mood changes from the mysterious to that of raging waterfalls that cascade from the rugged peaks.


The magic of the journey started during the early morning boat trip down the crystal clear waters of Lake Manapouri, where the surrounding mountains were shrouded in mist veiling the deep green rain forest.


The next highlight was the bus trip which ventured down a 1 in 10 slope, 220 metres deep (equivalent to 70 story building) into the mountain to the powerhouse of Lake Manapouri power station, to marvel at one of NZ’s top engineering feats, where water is piped through turbines using the height difference between the lake and the sea at Deep Cove at the inland tip of Doubtful Sound.



Next it was the bus trip through the lush dense rainforest over Wilmot Pass to get the first spectacular view of Deep Cove on Doubtful Sound, glistening far below. 



The coup de grace was the 3 hour boat trip from Deep Cove, down the 40 km ancient glacier carved fiord (Doubtful Sound), right out to the open sea (Tasman Sea), surrounded by rugged peaks; cascading waterfalls; intensely green lush rain forest complete with its earthquake fault lines. Some of the southern beech trees are estimated to be over 800 years old.



Near the seaward end of the fiord, a pod of nearby bottlenose dolphins frolicked and entertained us for almost 30 minutes and then paced our moving boat on the return trip to Deep Cove.





But one of the most memorable parts of the trip was when the boat was stopped and the engine swtched off. There was complete silence, only broken by the occasional birdsong or the murmurs of a distant waterfall. 


The return trip was made in beautiful dramatic late afternoon light, then ending with dusk descending just as the boat berthed back at Manapouri jetty.





This day can only be described as one of the most memorable in my lifetime. A trip to Doubtful Sound is highly recommended for the serious landscape photographer who is visting New Zealand, or for someone who wants a powerful atmosphere of serenity and solitude amongst natural and unspoilt beauty.