Kayaking Milford Sound

10.29.10 | 9 Comments

It’s been a little over a week we’re in the South Island and we’ve seen SO many things. I won’t list them all, but some highlights were Kaikoura and swimming with dolphins. Despite the moody weather and the insanely cold water, the experience of swimming and playing with wild dolphins was mesmerizing. Glacier water fed lake Tekapo and lake Pukaki also were sights we felt lucky to have witnessed.

I previously mentioned that Justin and I have not made any research before arriving to NZ. It was true except for the fact that once, I looked at Google maps and noticed that there was a Fjordland National Park on the South Island and that you could kayak in the fjords. That is the only thing I said to myself: we *have* to do this… and so we did.

We arranged a 4 hour kayak tour in Milford Sound. I want to take a quick second to explain that Milford sound is actually not a sound, it’s a fjord. What’s the difference, you ask? A fjord was carved out by a glacier, making a giant U-shaped valley and then is flooded by the ocean. On the other hand, a sound is created by a river and forms a V-shaped valley which is then flooded by the ocean. Milford sound was mis-named and they never really corrected it. However they tried to bring back some accuracy by naming the National Park “Fjordland“.

The towering mountains of Milford sound.

The result of the glacier carving and the ocean flooding means that the mountains surrounding the water are very high and abrupt, and the water way is comparatively relatively narrow. Also, this area is notorious for its rainfall, which means loads of waterfalls everywhere!

In our awesomely fashionable kayaking gear. Stripy thermals!

Another particularity of the fjord is that salt water meets fresh water. You’d think they would both blend and create a vaguely less salty water, but no. The salt water being denser, it sinks and stays at the bottom of the fjord, while the fresh water, which is very dark (described as if it were a layer of coffee over the salt water layer), floats atop. Because of this phenomenon, the salt water layer has very little light and attracts some deep sea fish species that think it’s way deeper than it really is because it’s so dark. Scientists love that area since it’s a rare opportunity to observe otherwise very hard to see deep sea animals.

A view from our kayak.

The kayaking experience made us feel “in” the fjord rather than observing it from the deck of a tour boat. It was spectacular and probably my favorite activity so far. We had the time to absorb the scenery and feel the scale of the surrounding mountains. The power of nature is really quite impressive.

We had a blast!

Just for fun, here’s a little old timey effect on the beautiful site.