The most unforgettable highlight of our December voyage Down Under is cruising the Fiordland National Park, the largest national park of New Zealand. One of the most majestic natural wonders of New Zealand, the Fiordland occupying the southwest corner of the South Island is dominated by the snow-capped mountains (the Southern Alps), deep lakes and ocean-filled steep valleys, crenellated coasts, and cascading waterfalls. The area is also rich in wildlife including dolphins, seals and birds.
Fiordland features a number of fiords often named “sounds” of which Milford Sound is the most famous and most visited.
In the early morning of 29 December the cruise ship Diamond Princess entered the Milford Sound from the narrow entrance so concealed when viewed from the Tasman Sea (the large body of water between Australia and New Zealand named after the Dutch explorer Abel Janszoon Tasman). Although British explorer Capt. James Cook missed entirely the entrance during his first voyage of exploration some 200 years ago he and his crew were the first Europeans to visit extensively the fiordland.
Mystic Milford Sound (Piopiotahi in Maori), carved from hard granite mountains by glaciers million years ago, has been judged as world’s top travel destination by 2008 Travelers’ Choice Destination Award. Rudyard Kipling, the English short story writer, poet and novelist, considered Milford Sound as the 8th wonder of the world.
Towering over Milford Sound is the Mitre Peaks soaring up 1,692 meters from the water so named because its peak resembles the mitre headwear of Christian bishop.
After spending two hours in Milford Sound the Princess entered Thompson Sound, which runs 15 kms. inland and connects to the Doubtful Sound with a roughly triangular shape, Secretary Sound, lying in between.
Rich in fauna and flora, Doubtful Sound, sometimes called the “sound of silence” because of its cloistered serenity, named by Capt. Cook as Doubtful Sound because he was not sure whether it was navigable under sail, is the deepest of the fiords.
Situated within the fiordland are Browne Falls and Sutherland Falls which rank among the tallest waterfalls in the world and three deepest lakes of New Zealand – Lake Hauroko, Manapouri and Te Anau. This part of New Zealand has a very wet climate, receiving 6,300 mm of rainfall every year.
Finally the Princess entered Dusky Sound, one of the most complex of the many fiords. After exiting Dusky Sound the boat sailed to the south easterly course into the Tasman Sea again along the southwest coast of New Zealand enroute to Port Chalmers.
Note: Fiord (or fjord) is a long, narrow deep inlet from the sea between steep slopes of a mountainous coast. Fjords usually occur where ocean flows into valleys formed near the coast by glaciers.