Floored by Fiordland

19 December, 2018

Image (c) Heritage Expeditions

Even on an overcast day with a strong easterly whitecapping the water the majesty and scale of Fiordland still puts on a jaw-dropping dislay. Clouds scud the ragged peaks of steep glacier-cleaved granite mountains streaked with waterfalls and cloaked in forest down to sea level; it's a primordial landscape that leaves us reaching for superlatives - and our backyard for the next three days on our 'Beyond Fiordland: New Zealand's Wildest Islands' voyage.

After breakfast, Zodiacs skip over the brackish water of the Sound delivering our first expeditioners off Spirit of Enderby - a hard-core hiking group of eight out to conquer Secretary Island taking up the rare opportunity of traversing a Department of Conservation stoat trapping track to a mountain- top lake with on-board DOC guide Lindsay Wilson. Soaring to 700 vertical metres over 3 kilometres with 29 traps to check along the way, this day hike through lush virgin forest of Manuka, Rimu and Beech is not for the faint of heart.

Only used 4 times a year, the often boggy arduous ascent carpeted with mosses, ferns, lichen, alpine orchids and sticky, bright-red clusters of carniverous sundew plants rewards with postcard-perfection panoramas of super-sized alpine scenary. Rocky outcrops along the way overlook Doubtful Sound and up Bradshaw Arm, and make for excellent opportunities to reflect as our vessel, dwarfed below, keeps things in perspective. During lunch alongside the tannin-stained lake, with Kea calling as they pass overhead and an inquisitive Weka peers out from the bushes, the sun returns setting up an unforgettable evening. Our hikers return exhuasted, awed and happy to report that all 29 traps are empty reflecting the conservation project's success.

While day walkers explored above, our short walkers Zodiac cruised remote fiords, inlets and coastlines cloaked in tree daises. Navigating a sand bar, their expedition continued up a narrow river where they walked between beaches spotting Kaka and Brown Creeper to a soundtrack of Kiwi calls.

Back on-board and bouyed by the day's events, voyagers raised their glasses basking in the early evening sunshine and trading stories from the day. A brilliant pink sunset following dinner indicates we are in for another glorious day exploring Fiordland's west coast as we set off for the North End of the Dusky Sounds system and our overnight mooring behind Entry Island.


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