© Tony Brunt 1999 (updated April 2019)
More and more people are finding sea kayaking an exciting alternative to going on a cruise around the world famous Milford Sound. Travelling at sea level offers a unique perspective for viewing the wonders of the Sound. You can touch the water, taste how fresh it is, why isn’t it salty? Hear the rushing water from Sinbad stream, one of the last mainland habitats of the near extinct, ground dwelling Kakapo parrot, smell the sea air tinged with a whiff of damp forest, follow the mile high flanks of Mitre peak skywards and strain your neck under the overhang of the Lion and yes, sometimes even feel the rain against your face! Being in charge of your own craft is a licence to explore: paddle under huge drooping Ratas and admire their intricate root systems that maintain a tenuous grip on the sheer bedrock that they call home. Learn about tree avalanches and see their destructive influence on the flora. Say hello to young fur seals basking on the rocky shoreline or that swim past a metre or so from your boat. If you are truly fortunate you may even find yourself paddling amongst a school of dolphins: a truly unforgettable honour! Naturally most visitors prefer to visit in fine weather, where Milford is resplendent in all its towering, awe inspiring splendour. However, with it raining on roughly 250 days of the year, and an average rainfall of around 6 – 7 metres it’s odds on that some will be faced with either going in the rain, or not going at all. Don’t despair though if it looks like rain, for it’s in the rain that Milford reveals itself as a mysterious, moody place, giving visual aperitifs with tantalising glimpses of sheer cliffs rising out of the depths to disappear into the clouds, seemingly going on forever. Bowen and Stirling waterfalls are the only two permanent ones in the sound, although in heavy rain you could be forgiven for thinking this was not the case as water pours from every conceivable nook and cranny.
All you need to know is explained by the guide during the initial safety and skills briefing, so previous experience is not a pre-requisite: just a willing, adventurous spirit. As you take your first tentative strokes aboard your large, stable double kayak three things should become apparent. That the water is extremely cold, that sandflies aren’t afraid to fly over water (rats) and that the person you are with is the most unco !!!## person you have ever met. Spastic caterpillar is being kind! A little advice: bite your tongue, keep caustic, sarcastic comments of dubious parentage to yourself and work together. With a little perseverance and communication things will come together quickly. Before you know it you will be cruising down the Arthur River and out onto the Sound like experienced paddlers. Life-jackets, paddle jackets, spray skirts (to stop water getting into the cockpit) and paddles are supplied, along with plastic bags to put some spare clothing in. Take old shoes, sun-cream, Sandfly repellent and a sun-hat. With each trip lasting four hours and beach stops dependent on tides, it’s important to have some nibbles within easy reach to keep energy levels up as beach stops are not always possible. The sound is a great place for photographs, however a bad place for cameras! Some sort of waterproof case is essential, such as a small tupperware container, dry bag, or at worst a plastic bag. The camera can sit between your legs in the roomy cockpit quite comfortably and can be easily accessed. A towel under the spray skirt for drying hands before using the camera is a good idea.
Sea Kayak Operators
Real Journeys Sea Kayaking
Offer a range of trips including Doubtful Sound and Dusky Sound
Sandy Brown Road
Te Anau New Zealand
Free Phone 0800 200 434
Phone (64) (03) 249-7700.
Web site: Real Journeys
Rosco’s Milford Sound Sea Kayaks
Being based in Milford means earlier starts, and also evening trips, although it will necessitate a nights stay at the Milford Lodge.
FREEPHONE: 0800 476 726
Ph: (03) 249-8840
Rosoc’s Milford Sound Sea Kayaking
Generally trips run from October through to April – May; however it may be possible to arrange trips outside these times by contacting the operators.