Lush rainforest, glacier-made mountains and dolphin pods… staying overnight in the Fiordlands is the adventure of a lifetime!
There are few better ways to explore the remote wilderness of Doubtful Sound than in a kayak, camping kit stowed in the hull, with no phone signal, GPS or technology to help at all.
Admittedly, we do have Tobias, our Go Orange guide who seems to know the area like the back of his weather-beaten hand. (Captain James Cook, who sailed straight past the Fiord in 1770 as he was ‘doubtful’ of an escape route, would call me a navigational cheat for that one.)
Go Orange offer a fantastic range of trips for you to explore the Fiordlands, from day cruises to overnight trips in both Doubtful and Milford Sound. I join a two-day trip that includes a 4-5 hour kayak each day, with an overnight stay at a campsite hidden in the rainforest.
As we paddle into the heart of the Fiord, I can understand why it’s been shrouded in myth for centuries. There is nothing manmade in sight, the Sound is silent, save for the waves lapping at the gargantuan cliffs and the call of a distant Tui. It feels like we are the first adventurers to ever explore this wilderness.
With Go Orange, the groups are kept to a max of 8 people, so we quickly bond over terrible paddling techniques and suncream-sharing. Lunch is eaten on a rocky beach, and as everyone has brought their own food, it’s a fun display of the different nationalities on the trip.
We paddle down Crooked Arm, and Tobias points out the native plants, including a stunning display of ferns that tumble towards the water like colourful Ostrich feathers. We glide under sheer cliffs, striped with scrape marks left by ancient glaciers, and Tobias shows us great cracks in the rock where earthquakes have shuddered the mountains apart.
Camp is basic, with just one communal cooking tent and a drop toilet. I suddenly feel like I’ve wandered into the set of ‘I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here’, and setting up our tents in damp wetsuits with the clouds of sand flies is the first Bushtucker trial.
As we make dinner in the cooking tent, we play cards and swap stories of our favourite parts of the day (mine is watching a rare pod of bottlenose dolphins swim just metres from our kayaks). The next morning we rise to a transformed landscape. Clouds have filled the valley and a gentle drizzle falls. We’re back in our kayaks by 8am, and discover a moodier, more dramatic Fiord.
After two days of exploring an untouched wilderness, it’s clear the Go Orange two-day trip is something special. Few places on earth are so remote, so unspoilt and so stunning - for anyone visiting the South Island of New Zealand, it’s quite simply the adventure of a lifetime.