Five days in Doubtful Sound is an awesome paddling expedition no matter what the conditions. You can expect to experience calm, tranquil times, possibly some wild and challenging times, incredible scenery, hopefully some unforgettable marine mammal encounters along with Fiordland rain and sandflies!
Average to good fitness is needed, with preferably some paddling experience along with plenty of motivation, determination, an open mind and a sense of humour.
|27 Dec 2018||29 Jan 2019|
Please contact us directly for all booking requests for the Doubtful Sound 5-day Sea Kayak Expedition trip.
Doubtful Sound is the second largest of Fiordland National Park’s 14 fiords (Dusky Sound is the largest).
It is three times longer than Milford Sound and it has a sea surface area roughly 10 times larger than Milford Sound due to its greater length and its three arms - Hall, Crooked and First.
Camping/ After kayaking
Please wear your swimsuit or kayaking underwear layer beneath warm clothes/waterproof jacket on pick-up (makes changing into paddling gear easier and quicker). The best way to carry your other gear to the launch point is in a backpack.
On a kayaking trip, you will eat more than usual and there is plenty of storage space on the kayaks. Bring food that is simple but nourishing. Please remove excess packaging and carry food in bags (supermarket cloth bags are ideal).
Sea kayaking and wilderness camping have inherent risks and can be dangerous. In Fiordland, they are characterised by: remoteness, rapidly changing and sometimes extreme weather and water conditions, cold water, limited kayaking landing sites and camping under forest canopy.
Detailed risk management and strict safety procedures are observed, however, there still remains an element of risk. Go Orange cannot absolutely guarantee participants safety. Go Orange accepts its legal responsibilities but cannot be held responsible for personal injury or for loss, theft or damage of/to your equipment outside legal responsibilities. Participants will be required to sign a liability form to this effect before starting a tour.
Changing conditions can mean that tours have to be modified. No two tours are the same. It is very rare but weather could delay your scheduled return by up to 24 hours e.g. road closures or weather conditions preventing kayaking. Clients on guided tours must listen carefully to and follow guides' instructions and adhere to safety requirements. Our reputation depends on your safety – we give it top priority and take it seriously.
Doubtful Sound reaches about 430m at its maximum depth. Near the entrance there are sills where the water is relatively shallow (90m).
The water temperature in the fiord averages a bracing 11 degrees Celsius.
Fiordland, one of the world’s wettest regions. Most of the rain falls on the seaward side of the mountains.
Manapouri village receives 1,143mm a year but over in West Arm the rainfall rises to 3,786mm. Deep Cove receives 5,290mm per year.
The following tour description summarises one possible 5 day option. Weather conditions can place restrictions and cause programme modifications on all paddling tours in the fiords.
Arriving at Deep Cove at 9.30am approximately the Doubtful Sound experience begins with changing into paddling clothes, loading sea kayaks, safety briefing. From Deep Cove we paddle down Malaspina Reach, past Rolla and Elizabeth Islands and Olphert Cove. The main reach can become quite challenging from late morning in places as frequently a sea breeze will be blowing against us.
Small sheltered headlands give time for rests as we carry on down the fiord passing the tumbling Browne Falls on the western mountains, stopping at a small beach for a late lunch. Watch for seals and penguins as we paddle round the rocky edges. Our destination and campsite for the first night is a small sheltered cove opposite the entrance to Crooked Arm.
An early start on Day 2 sees us carrying on down Malaspina Reach, the fiord becoming steadily wider with glimpses of the open ocean. Secretary Island, yesterday a dim shape in the distance now looms before us as we leave the Reach and cross one of the most exposed areas of the fiord - Pendulo Reach at the bottom of Thompson Sound – a major junction of old glaciers. Large shingle beaches appear on our right and if conditions are good we stop for morning tea.
From here we paddle into Bradshaw Sound - characterised by steep inaccessible sides. Another favourite playground of the dolphins. Lunch is close to the junction with Gaer Arm, to McDonnell Island and Precipice Cove, one of the most beautiful areas of the fiord. After exploration we will camp here or continue into Gaer Arm and the mouth of the Camelot River for the night.
Hours can be spent in this graceful waterway, exploring one of a network of channels - images of the Amazon rainforest come to mind while paddling. Here or McDonnell Island will be our campsite for the night. Sometimes we continue on to the hut on Secretary Island.
A big day with an early start. The aim is to paddle out of Bradshaw Sound and around into Crooked Arm to the campsite near its entrance. All going well, after lunch there, we will spend the afternoon exploring the Arm, maybe seeing the dolphins. A comfortable campsite with a good fireplace, the evening is a time to reflect on the trip so far.
Stillness is normally the theme as we leave the campsite anticipating the challenge of the morning’s paddle down the southwest shoreline - a 3 hour paddle with no landing points. In marginal conditions we use the other shoreline with its shelter points. Lunch either in Olphert Cove or opposite Elizabeth Island and into Deep Cove to return to the civilisation that offers hot showers and comfortable beds!