We headed out to a seal colony at Nee Islets and on our way there we saw a small pod of dolphins in the distance and a fur seal came to swim by the boat for a short while. It was beautiful to see its sleek body, as black as the water itself. There are a lot of tannins in the water and these give the water its black colour. As the rainwater journeys to the fjord by way of rivers, streams and waterfalls it becomes the colour of weak tea, stained by the tannin and other organic matter from the forest floor. The tannin-stained water is less dense than sea water and forms a layer on the surface that floats and mixes only partially with the salt water of the fjord.
We got back into the fjord and dropped anchor at Crooked Arm. It was then that they started to serve dinner. The spread before us was fit for a king. We’d had our first course of soup after we got back in from being on the tender boats, which was perfect timing. For dinner there was fresh salad with various sauces, steamed vegetables, roast potatoes, a vegetarian dish and plenty of beef, lamb and gravy. The beef and lamb were juicy and tender and melted in your mouth. It was to die for.
Just in case that wasn’t enough, there was a mouthwatering selection of desserts afterwards: chocolate mousse, passion fruit cheesecake, pavlova, chocolate mud pie, fruit salad and cheese and biscuits to top it off. After dinner and dessert I just couldn’t budge. It was absolutely delicious. There was a presentation given by Josh, the nature guide, straight after dinner about Fjordland: its history during the time of Maori habitation, European settlers, the sealers and whalers, the landscape, the weather, the wildlife etc. It was a very informative and funny presentation and I found it very interesting.
The next morning we could hear the anchor being hauled up at 6am. Breakfast was served at 7 o’clock and it was as good a spread as the dinner the night before. We were already sailing again by this stage and we were heading into the narrowest arm of the fjord, the Hall Arm. About 15 minutes into this section of the fjord we came to a sort of cul-de-sac and the skipper turned off the engines. No one said a word, no one flashed their cameras. It was dead silent for ten minutes. We all just stood there and absorbed the sound of silence and lost ourselves in nature. We could hear the rush of waterfalls and the call of bellbirds in the distance. But God it was so nice just to stop for this short amount of time, soak up the magical atmosphere and be thankful for having that experience.
On our way back to Deep Cove we stopped at a tiny waterfall. Josh said that the water had been filtered through six hundred metres of mosses and lichens. He said that their chef always asks that they stop and fill a big pot of this water to help make their soup. Because it’s been filtered it’s apparently good for clearing out toxins in your body and is very drinkable.
So the skipper got the front of the boat right under this waterfall so Josh could fill the pot with water. We all got glasses so that we could fill them with this water too. I stuck my right arm under the waterfall and filled my glass. The water was sort of orangey in colour and had a very mineral taste to it. I did have a raincoat and my hat on and only had a trickle of water run down my arm. It was fun doing that. I enjoyed that whole experience too.
We made our way back to Deep Cove and all the crew lined up by our bus so we could say goodbye to them. We did have one more interesting experience on our bus journey back to Queenstown. About twenty minutes out of Queenstown we came across this herd of about two hundred sheep. It seemed like there were hundreds of them. It was a windy road and as more cars met the herd, the sheep spread out further and further ahead of us, so at one point as the road wound around the bend, the whole road was full with sheep and nothing else. They were cutting back and forth across the road in front of the bus and even though the two sheep dogs were doing well at the start keeping the sheep under control, they just lost the run of things the more cars there were and the further ahead the sheep got. It was funny to watch. I felt like I was back home, even though I’ve never actually come across a herd of sheep on the road in Ireland. I loved it.
We got back to the Real Journeys office in Queenstown just after 3pm. I had one more night in Queenstown and headed back to Tekapo on the 9th May. I really, really enjoyed the trip. It lived up to my expectations in comparison to the fjord trip I had in Norway. It’s definitely worth the money. The whole experience was great, the people I met were really nice, the staff – especially onboard the Fjordland Navigator – were so helpful and very informative and overall it’s a trip I would highly recommend.