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Discovering disappearing waterfalls, fur seals, black choral, alpine parrots, and mirror lakes, while hiking Milford Sound, New Zealand.

The day starts with a drizzle. Weather reports promise more of the same. Yet, tour guides assure us that these are ideal conditions to visit the Milford Sound. Many waterfalls along the Sound only flow during rain. In fact, there are only two permanent waterfalls. We see dozens.

Discovering disappearing waterfalls, fur seals, black choral, alpine parrots, and mirror lakes, while hiking Milford Sound, New Zealand.
Waterfall and source.

Discovering disappearing waterfalls, fur seals, black choral, alpine parrots, and mirror lakes, while hiking Milford Sound, New Zealand.
Living on the edge…of the rock

Te Anau – Milford Highway

Our first concern is the mountain pass. Snow is not forecast for the pass and the roads are supposed to be open. But the difference between the pass and that day’s snow line is only 100 meters. So, we take off early, hoping to avoid any surprises along the road. Despite, our plans, however, we are more than just surprised at the pass, we are delighted.

Kea

Kea are an alpine parrot native to New Zealands mountainous regions. While there are only around 5,000 known Kea, they are surprisingly easy to spot. These brilliant birds have recognized a sweet deal in the tourist trade, not unlike their human counterparts. They will loiter around the mountain pass parking lots in hopes of getting a handout from irresponsible tourists or snatching a snack from poorly guarded cars. Visitors are warned to remove their windshield wipers and hide bright objects in the car should you abandon the car for any significant amount of time as the parrots are known to peal away the rubber seals on windshield wipers as well as drop rocks on windows in an effort to access food inside the vehicle.

When we arrive, the Kea are easy targets for my camera and hard to leave when our travel companions urge us to get back in the car so that we could make our 12:30 boat tour on the Milford Sound.

Discovering disappearing waterfalls, fur seals, black choral, alpine parrots, and mirror lakes, while hiking Milford Sound, New Zealand.
Kea (Nestor notabilis)

Discovering disappearing waterfalls, fur seals, black choral, alpine parrots, and mirror lakes, while hiking Milford Sound, New Zealand.
Kea (Nestor notabilis)

Cruising the Milford Sound

The last drops of rain ceased as we board the ship for the sound. We even catch the occasional patches of sunlight as we gasp at the sheer cliff faces and hundreds of waterfalls. Why do I even attempt to describe it? Here are some pictures.

Discovering disappearing waterfalls, fur seals, black choral, alpine parrots, and mirror lakes, while hiking Milford Sound, New Zealand.
I haven’t identified this bird, yet. Anyone know?

Discovering disappearing waterfalls, fur seals, black choral, alpine parrots, and mirror lakes, while hiking Milford Sound, New Zealand.
Vista from the dock
Discovering disappearing waterfalls, fur seals, black choral, alpine parrots, and mirror lakes, while hiking Milford Sound, New Zealand.
South Island pied oystercatcher (Haematopus finschi)
Discovering disappearing waterfalls, fur seals, black choral, alpine parrots, and mirror lakes, while hiking Milford Sound, New Zealand.
Waterfall to nowhere
Discovering disappearing waterfalls, fur seals, black choral, alpine parrots, and mirror lakes, while hiking Milford Sound, New Zealand.
A wall of waterfalls

Discovering disappearing waterfalls, fur seals, black choral, alpine parrots, and mirror lakes, while hiking Milford Sound, New Zealand.
Falling in the shadow

Even More Wildlife

As our boat nears open ocean, dolphins join us to glide at the prow of the ship. While I never got a shot of the dolphins, I did manage to capture a group of seals sunning on a rock as we turned back into the sound. I suppose, with so many tour boats out on the sound, they could hardly be bothered to take notice as we passed.

Discovering disappearing waterfalls, fur seals, black choral, alpine parrots, and mirror lakes, while hiking Milford Sound, New Zealand.
Cuddling fur seals
Discovering disappearing waterfalls, fur seals, black choral, alpine parrots, and mirror lakes, while hiking Milford Sound, New Zealand.
Fur Seals sunning on a rock.
Discovering disappearing waterfalls, fur seals, black choral, alpine parrots, and mirror lakes, while hiking Milford Sound, New Zealand.
Relaxing fur seals.

Milford Sound Underwater Observatory

While the boat works its way to the end of our tour, we aren’t there quite yet. For $5 extra dollars on our tour package, we enjoy lunch and a viewing of the Milford Sound Underwater Observatory. The Sound hosts a rather unique habitat. The interaction of fresh and sea water results in very little light passing through. Sea creatures that are usually exclusive to much greater depths can be seen from the 10 meter floating observation platform. After descending a spiral stair case to the platform, we see fish, sea stars, anemone, and the rare black coral.

Black coral is most commonly found at depths of 100 to 200 meters but we see several samples of it from the observatory. Funnily enough, the coral usually appears to be white. It is the hardened skeleton that is black and was popular in jewelry until the species became protected.

Return to Te Anau

As we return from Milford Sound, so does the rain. The Te Anau – Milford Highway has many hikes and scenic attractions along it, but we only make a few quick stops to cross a draw bridge, see a waterfall, and take the very short boardwalk hike to see the mirror lakes.

Discovering disappearing waterfalls, fur seals, black choral, alpine parrots, and mirror lakes, while hiking Milford Sound, New Zealand.
View from the road

Discovering disappearing waterfalls, fur seals, black choral, alpine parrots, and mirror lakes, while hiking Milford Sound, New Zealand.
Mirror Lakes

Relaxing After A busy Day

That night, we make dinner at the rental house we are staying at and relax into the first movie in the New Zealand epic series, The Lord of the Rings. We play, spot the filming location.

Discovering disappearing waterfalls, fur seals, black choral, alpine parrots, and mirror lakes, while hiking Milford Sound, New Zealand.
The waterfalls were too large to fit in one shot!

Lexi lives in a truck camper down by the river.

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