Whatever the weather, Milford Sound glistens as the crown jewel of New Zealand's tourism destinations. Nestled in the heart of Fiordland National Park in the deep south of the country, this body of water attracts thousands of visitors every year, all marvelling at the high granite cliffs as they plunge steeply down into the cold crisp water, grey granite clashing gently with cool blue in a cacophony of nature. Seals, dolphins, and penguins can all be seen basking in the glow of a southern hemisphere sun as it skims over the surrounding mountains.
It is a place in which I have found solace upon every visit to Aotearoa, as the native Maori call their homeland (meaning "Land of the Long White Cloud"). I have seen it in every season, and in every imaginable type of weather. It is the type of destination that transcends climatic conditions, a Mecca for travellers who venture south, lovers of nature seeking a slight hint of romance.
If you were to visit during the summer, you would no doubt be inspired by Mitre Peak, rising violently from its mirror-like bed, the most photographed mountain in the country. Visit during winter, and see the magnificent peak push its way upwards through a fresh blanket of snow, while glaciers cut their way violently through the rocks to the water's edge. Even rain will not dampen your trip. When the heavens open, the deluge will literally cause hundreds of temporary waterfalls to start tumbling down the steep sides above you.
There are several options for cruises to this amazing destination. Real Journeys offers 2 hour cruises out to the open ocean on liners which hold up to 400 people, as well as overnight trips which include a buffet dinner and breakfast. Some of the trips include Asian commentaries, but for other languages you will have to pick up a multi-lingual brochure. Red Boat Cruises offer 2 hour trips out to the Tasman Sea, also on large ships. Maybe the best option is Mitre Peak Cruises, which have a capacity of 60 passengers, and offer a friendly and personal commentary. It is also possible to share a story over a steaming cup of free coffee with the skipper.
But be forewarned; bring some warm clothing, even if it is a hot day. You never know when a southerly wind will whisk up from the sea or the mountains. The sandflies, little biting creatures, swarm like a solid mass, so also make sure to take plenty of insect repellent. Oh, and the skippers like to get close and personal to the waterfalls, so make sure you take a raincoat, and a plastic bag to protect your camera.
Written by Tim Saunders
Photography by Kathrin Schimmack