Doubtful Sound 2 Day Kayak Adventure

I really wanted to do a kayak trip while in Fiordland, and had a choice between Milford and Doubtful Sounds. Milford Sound is more well known for it’s spectacular beauty and massive size. Doubtful on the other hand is harder to get to, has a lot less traffic, and offers more of a wilderness experience.  I opted for the Doubtful trip! Two days on the water with Fiordland Wilderness Kayak Adventures.

I was a little apprehensive that the weather would suck, and I would end up cold and wet for two days. Lucky again, the first day was a spectacular blue sky with relatively calm winds… good kayaking weather!

At 6:30am I jumped in the guide’s van, and saw Bruce’s sleepy face! Bruce was the guy I had met and hiked with on the Abel Tasman track. Neither of us had any idea the other was doing the trip or even in the area, so it was a pretty random surprise.

The day started early because we had to drive down to Lake Manapouri, then take a boat across the lake, jump in a 4WD and go over the mountain and Wilmot Pass, and down into Deep Cove where we could finally get into a kayak. The remoteness of Doubtful Sound is definitely one of the reasons it is so much quieter then Milford Sound.

doubtful sound

Looking down on Doubtful Sound from the Wilmot Pass

getting ready

Two guides and seven guests getting the boats packed up in Deep Cove

On the water by 10am, we had the whole day to explore the beginning of the main channel of Doubtful Sound and Hall’s Arm.

view day 1

Doubtful Sound here we come!

day one view

Hall's Arm

tree slip scares

The mountain sides are so steep that "tree slips" are very common. You can see the various stages of succession here


We spotted an avalanche high on the mountain side. Never thought I would see an avalanche like that! Very cool

The wind conditions in the afternoon were perfect for a little kayailing (aka kayak sailing)! I was so stoked about this because it is something that I have always wanted to try. I don’t have any pictures of it because I was the mast… requires two hands! Essentially we broke into two groups of two double kayaks. The folks in the back seats became masts by tying the top rope of the sail to the end of their paddle, and then propping the paddle up in their lap – lifting the sail high in the air. The folks in the front held onto the bottom rope of the sail, and pulled it in or let it out as needed. The hulls of the two kayaks worked much like a catameran. So much fun!

Camp was about half way down Hall’s Arm, and set up right by the river. They even had a mosquito net room set up to save us from the vicious sand flies. After dark we heard a Kiwi bird singing! They’re very rare, but have been making a come back because the DOC has been setting traps for the stouts (rat like creatures).

Next morning the fog rolled in.

foggy morning

View up Hall's Arm from the campsite's beach

bruce work

I made Bruce do all the hard work while I had fun taking pictures! ... Just kidding

snake cloud

Snake cloud

The water was like glass, with no wind at all! I’ve never seen water that flat. Just after we all got in our kayaks and pushed off the beach, we heard the sound of dolphins coming up for air. The swam right passed us – it was so majestic. They were a pod of bottle nose dolphins, and one of the southern most pods in the world.


Dolphin cruising past

em kayak 2

Kayaking away up the sound

reflective tree

The Navigator was one of four other boats we saw on the whole trip

kayak yoga em

Time for some kayak-yoga... kayoga?


Up close and personal with one of Doubtful Sound's many waterfalls

Brown falls

Brown Falls - NZ's largest waterfall at 880m

We saw another two pods of dolphins that morning! One pod was very curios, and came right up to the boats. The water is so clear that we could easily see them swimming under and around the boats – amazing! Bruce caught them on film:

We also saw the Fiordland Crested Penguin. We saw a few couples fishing, so it was hard to see them in detail, but looking them up later of google revelaed that they’re pretty darn cool! Only found in Fiordland and occaionally the Antarctic, and there are only 1500 breeding pairs left.

The Fiordland Crested Penguin


1 Comment

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One response to “Doubtful Sound 2 Day Kayak Adventure

  1. Great, I did not heard about this topic until now. Cheers!

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