|Thankfully I hadn't drunk anything the previous night as I had to be up at 6am to get the bus to Milford Sound and Fiordland National Park. The drive is very long, but beautiful, we had a stop in Te Anau for people to eat and get coffee and then we headed onwards.
We had a short stop at Mirror Lakes, but compared to Lake Matheson, they're not very impressive! Also had a short stop at Hollyford valley, which was very scenic. The clouds were very low lying and were giving all the mountains around us a very mysterious and moody atmosphere. After this we drove through an avalanche prone region towards the Homer Tunnel, a very long and dark tunnel made directly through the mountains. Coming out of the other side you have a road known as the postmans descent from back when the tunnel was being built and the post had to be delivered to the workers. We stopped for another photo opportunity and saw several Kea, an alpine parrot native to New Zealand, who aren't very wary of humans at all. Just before getting to Milford Sound itself we stopped at 'The Chasm' another waterfall with some very interesting rock formations as well.
We got onto our boat, the 'Encounter' at 12.25 and had a 3 hour cruise around Milford Sound, which isn't actually a Sound, but a Fiord and was created by several glaciers in the last ice age. The result is an amazing collection of mountains and cascading waterfalls. Some of the waterfalls are only temporary, but all except one were falling when we were there. Our crew even managed to collect some of the water from 'Fairy Falls', so named due to the rainbows you can quite often see in the water, so we got to taste some pure waterfall water, which was very nice.
The Sound is also home to the Underwater Observatory, where you get sea animals and plants existing at 10m below sea level which you would normally only see at depths of greater than 40m! This is due to there being a freshwater layer above the sea water, so not so much light can penetrate through. This means we got see black coral, some of the world's rarest coral, sea cucumbers, tube anemones, starfish and several different species of fish as well as a snake star that lives in the black coral. Unfortunately we were too late to see the stingray and dolphin that had been past earlier that morning. Back on the boat we saw a Southern New Zealand Fur Seal, although it's actually a sea lion. Gotta love the Kiwi's...
And then it was time to head back to Queenstown. We had been very lucky with the weather, as it only rained a little bit and not heavily, and Fiordland is known as the wettest place in New Zealand and rains most days of the year there.