Kayaking in Doubtful Sound – Enjoying the Sound of Silence

As I referred to in my earlier post “My top 5 reasons to go Down Under”, the kayaking trip in Doubtful Sound was an unforgettable experience. What made it so unique? Let’s see – it was cold and wet… The water entering the kayak (despite the “skirts” we had on) made by bottom scratch like hell (after some time in the rain)… With all the wind on the first day, there were quite some waves, which nearly made me sea sick… BUT – all of that is forgotten when you realise where you’re actually at, what you’re doing and when you soak in the peacefulness and tranquillity of this magical place…

Doubtful Sound is located in Fiordland National Park and is actually the less touristic Sound, compared to the other one: Milford Sound. That’s exactly why we chose this one.

Getting ready


We’re 31 January 2017 – it’s our fourth day in the Southern part of New Zealand. It was about 7am when arriving at the harbour in Manapouri, where we – together with 3 other adventurous couples and our super guide Lisa – took the boat to Wilmot Pass, where we arrived after a journey of about 30kms on the Lake Manapouri.

We were anxious about the weather. It was raining a bit when we left. Positive side? A wonderful rainbow welcomed us in. As we arrived with the boat, we took a bus from Wilmot Pass to Doubtful Sound.

Time for action


Afterwards, we got a full debriefing of all the different paddling gear we had to put on. It’s a lot – I can tell you that. And it confirmed what was already pretty clear by then: it would be pretty cold. Wet suit, sweaters (plural, that is), a hood, a cap, a vest and gloves. Standing there – ready for war as it seemed – our friendly guide Lisa gave the instructions on how to proceed. We had to put all of our stuff in some special water-proof bags, which go into the kayak. As you can imagine the available space is very limited. There are special smaller bags to put in your camera and snacks, which are reachable from where you’re sitting in the kayak as well. The purpose of the trip was an overnight kayak, so we had to put our drinks, meals and dry clothes for sleeping in there as well. Victory – we managed! Not sure of what to expect, we left the hangar with the stuff we didn’t need any more and went to the kayaks.

Return to sender


After putting the kayaks at their place and somehow making it into the kayak, without having fallen into the water – we set off into the sound. It was still raining and there was quite some wind. After about an hour, maybe 1,5 hours, Lisa advised us to turn back. We had been paddling as crazy, but with the opposing wind apparently hadn’t made it very far. It was going to be difficult to get where we needed to be and apparently it wasn’t too safe either, so there was no other way than to head back to where we were coming from. Taking advantage of the wind, we put on a sail, which helped the 5 different kayaks to make some pace back to the starting point.


Continuing by boat


We changed back into our dry clothes and took the next boat discovering the remainder of the sound. With all the rain that had fallen, the waterfalls were plenty. We could enjoy them from the dry and warm boat. Although it wasn’t what we signed up for, I can’t say I wasn’t happy at that time to enjoy a warm chocolate milk. My husband even spotted a penguin, but we weren’t able to catch in on camera…



After having taken the boat, we sat down together at the hostel. Most of us were telling stories about where we came from and what we do for a living, while making dinner. We had a great talk with a somewhat older couple living in the very southern point of New Zealand. We also got a visit from a kea bird, who was really curious about us – most probably to get some food.

Afterwards, we spent the night in bunk beds and had quite a good night sleep before waking up early again, hoping for the best for our second day.

That’s more like it


Eureka – the second day promised to be a whole lot better than the first one. No rain and almost no wind, when we put on our gear. When we paddled along, we indeed saw that the waterfalls were a lot smaller. But now we had the time to really enjoy the journey.

Lisa was again wonderful with getting pictures of us and joking around. After a while, we even spotted some rays of sunshine – god forbid! This was more what we were looking for. Knowing that it isn’t that obvious, we appreciated it even more. We enjoyed every minute of it.

And no one dared to disturb the sound of silence…

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