Cruising in an untouched
wildnerness is a truly therapeutic experience. Whilst travelling
through Fjordland, we spent a couple of days on a charter
boat on Doubtful Sound, a fjord with ten times the surface
area of it's more famous sibling Milford Sound, yet with
many fewer visitors. It markets itself to travellers wanting
'their wilderness pristine and their wildlife unique'
and delivers on both. By day, reflections of sheer rock-face
shimmer on the surface of the water, broken only by the
activity of fish, dolphins, seals and penguins, all regularly
spotted hereabouts. By dusk, the precipices and deep drops
carve their shadows into the hills beyond.
The unspoilt beauty of Doubtful Sound (on a rare good day)
"Quick, quick. Matthew,
Cameron, come and see the dolphins" we squealed like excited
children when we spotted dolphins making their way over
to our boat. Doubtful Sound hosts a resident pod of sixty
bottlenose dolphins and it looked like they were all on
their way over to play. There was a disinterested silence
from the two boys down in the cabin. Kirstie dashed below
to shuffle them on deck to see live, close-up dolphin action,
but they just weren't interested. "It's OK mum, we don't
need to see them" explained Matthew, "we've already seen
them on Finding Nemo."
It took a firm hand to bring them
to the deck to see the show. Splashes of white in the distant
waters, then coming closer, fins and flashes of silver.
"Watch beneath the bow" shouted Chris, the Captain, urging
us to dangle our legs and look over the side at the front
of the boat. Then, suddenly, up close in the clear waters
beneath, the sleek shimmering shapes of dolphins under the
boat, catching our eyes with theirs as they twisted and
turned playfully in the pressure waves around the bow. We
were all children for a moment as the glorious creatures
leapt up and out of the water right in front of us, while
we all squealed with childish delight.
Spot the dolphin? (we were too
busy watching to take photos!)
The Maori believed that after one
reached a high level in this life, one became a dolphin.
Watching them play and interact with us gave us a real sense
of connection with something magical. Even Matthew had to
acknowledge it was better than Finding Nemo. "Mum, he splashed
me, he jumped up and splashed me, " he shouted, now totally
engrossed. While he said it, we all felt it. None of us
had seen dolphins before, other than on TV or Finding Nemo.
Sharing this with our children seemed as magical for us
as it was for them. In that moment, age differences and
roles disappeared. It was good to feel like a kid again,
to experience the same delight as the boys, with the added
joy of seeing the wonder on their faces.
Big grins all round after the dolphin fest. Even Puppy was