Rudyard Kipling once hailed Milford Sound as the ‘eighth wonder of the world’ and I had to witness it for myself. Steep towering snow capped mountains jut out of the ocean, lining the fjords like the hallways of heaven. Pure glacial waterfalls plummet into the sea around every bend. I imagine that this is what the nordic Vikings might have described Valhalla to be like.
A bit of a backstory - I journeyed solo to New Zealands South Island and it was my mission to drive as far South as Milford Sound. It turned out to be one of the most amazing roads I’ve ever taken, surrounded by mountains, rivers and waterfalls, more than you can count. It is said that it rains 90% of the year with an annual rainfall of about 8 meters. I checked the forecast, did the math and realised that I’d managed to book my trip to Milford on 2 of it’s 35 rare clear days.
I arrived at night with no moon, wind or clouds in sight and the conditions for astro photography were perfect. I made my way down to the bay on a dark path and bumped into a well renowned NZ astro photographer called ‘Les Ladbook.’ He had driven all the way from Invercargill because of the clear conditions just to take photos. He had multiple time-lapse cameras setup all around the edge of the bay. He was an astro wizard and gave me some pointers on how to capture the best night shots. Hours flew by and I proudly walked away with a shot that still couldn't quite capture the spectacular show Mother nature had put on.
I awoke for my early morning boat cruise that would take me out onto the Sound itself. I had chosen the smallest boat to avoid the overload of tourists, but mainly because this particular cruise also offered kayaking. I wanted to get out and in it. As luck would have it the astro wizard ‘Les’ had also booked himself on the same boat! The cruise was incredible as we witnessed rare penguins and seals among other protected marine life. The boat even went beneath the largest of the waterfalls and we filled our glasses with it’s divine H20.
The boat dropped us off for the final kayak experience which took the adventure to a whole new level. Eight of us paddled around the Bay on a sparkling turquoise fjord. The fresh glacial water was like a blue liquified layer of jewels, delicately sitting on top of the salty Tasman sea. I reached in and I let it glide between my fingers before scooping it up into my mouth. I felt it’s coolness heal and refresh me. The long day out on the Sound came to a close as I took a photo of two travellers taking in the breathtaking view as we headed back to port. Thank you Southland for the unforgettable experience.
Words & Imagery by Jake Taylor