Nature & Wildlife New Zealand The Big Trip

Regression Therapy: Wild Dolphin Encounter

Doubtful Sound, Fjordland
Written by Stuart Wickes
Doubtful Sound, Fjordland

Doubtful Sound, Fjordland


From:       Stuart
Subject:   Regression Therapy: Wild Dolphin Encounter
Place:       Arrowtown, Otago, New Zealand


Stuart Profile SmallCruising in an untouched wilderness 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 its 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.

Doubtful Sound, Fjordland

The unspoilt beauty of Doubtful Sound (on a rare good day)

Wild dolphins by the dozen

“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.”

Dolphin fin in Doubtful Sound

Spot the dolphin? (we were too busy watching to take photos!)

All children for a moment

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.

Fishing in Doubtful Sound

Fishing in Doubtful Sound

A higher form of life

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.

Puppy the Wuppy and Matthew in Doubtful Sound South Island New Z

Big grins all round after the dolphin fest. Even Puppy was smiling.

About the author

Stuart Wickes

Stuart's the adventure addict half of the team, always trying to persuade the family to get out, do more, go further. As co-founder and co-director he handles the business, creative, design, technical and publishing aspects of the project. He is our chief photographer and videographer. With training as a professional learning and development consultant. an engineer and musician, his contribution is eclectic and unpredictable!

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