… and this ten year old grown up didn’t just hunt the waters for crayfish but was also the last one standing when it came to processing them later on that day... we were honestly hoping for a stowaway!
The article below is well worth reading if you get the least bit exited by the thought of free diving with Grouper or Hapuka.
By Clarke Gayford. Images by Clarke Gayford and Nat Davey.
It really is hard to explain to non-diving types the incredible underwater variation we have in this country. Variation I thought I had a reasonable understanding of – and then I stuck my head under in Fiordland.
This trip felt different from the start, especially flying into Queenstown, normally a party/ski town, with all my spearfishing gear. But this was just to be our entry point as we loaded up our conveniently spacious Jucy rental and made the four-hour drive to Milford Sound.
Here we met up with Rochele Potter and Nat Davey aboard Nat’s 60-foot commercial boat Medea. A boat normally found fishing in Northland, but one he had brought down during some time off to explore an area none of us had visited before.
So here we were for a week of freediving with a side of deer hunting in one of the world’s great jewels – bliss.
The first thing that strikes you about the underwater topography in the Fiords is the continuation of the steep mountain scenery down into the depths. Snow-covered mountains that slip into the water and continue for hundreds of metres further, creating an eerie sight as the steep slopes disappear off into darkness below.
This effect was complemented by things you just don’t see elsewhere in New Zealand. Like the clusters of black coral in just five metres of water that surrounded Eleanor Island in Charles Sound, their bone white branches giving the appearance of a petrified forest. Or in fact, actual forest trees that have fallen into the water, getting waterlogged and now standing upright on their exposed root systems.
The place is like a nirvana for them – they must crawl into Fiordland and think, “I have arrived!” They seemed completely relaxed with their surrounds as well. This is thanks in part to a convenient dark-tinted surface, care of the tannin filled brackish layer overhead. So relaxed, that on nearly every dive we found them wandering about in the open, as if they thought it was 2am and they were off to some crayfish party. A fantastic sight to see.
The Sounds also come with a remarkable variation in water temperatures. Up to six or seven degrees difference in places, depending on location, with the fresh water runoff making the cold stuff sit up on top. Being late May it got as low as eight-and-a-half degrees. This coupled with freediving’s necessary technique of encouraging your body to slow its heart rate to improve breath hold, impeded the flow of blood around the ol’ body. Or in simple terms, the warm stuff didn’t get to where it was needed so a hot shower at the end of each dive was essential joy.
The scenery above and below the water really made it one of those New Zealand trips of a lifetime. Impossible to do proper justice in this short space. But my personal highlight arrived courtesy of one of the last dives of the trip.
We were at anchor when Anthony’s girlfriend Celia, who was line fishing, caught a hapuka in just 32 metres of water. Considering the visibility I figured even just seeing one of these underwater would be a cool and very rare thing to do, so I raced to get into my wetsuit. On my first warm-up dive to 20 metres I was met with a huge school of terakihi rising up from the depths. Scanning down through them, in the gloomy distance I spotted two light-in-colour shapes approaching. I kept staring, thinking, “Are they? Aren’t they?” It was hard to tell, but then both swam in a bit closer and I could see instantly from the outline that these were indeed hapuka, at these depths appearing almost completely white.
It’s like nothing I have ever experienced anywhere else, but that’s the beauty of the wonderful variation in this country.
The bluefin tuna arrived in Fiordland and have been boiling up around us in Dusky Sound over the past couple of weeks. So on our last trip we had a couple of lucky and of course incredibly skilled fisherman who won the fight for some beautifully fresh sashimi.
experience and explore pure wilderness..
We look forward to having you onboard with us.
Congratulations Bryce Pratt!
We drew our competition for a $1,000 voucher at the Auckland Boat Show with the help of LegaSEA. Thank you for everybody who has partaken and congratulations to Bryce Pratt, who was busy enjoying a hunting trip as we gave him the 'YOU-ARE-THE-LUCKY-WINNER-CALL' .
DOC and key partners are launching an art exhibition to raise awareness of the Tamatea/Dusky Sound restoration programme in Fiordland.
Art and conservation join forces
Come and see us at the Hutchwilco Boat Show
Stunning water clarity as winter approaches
While the waters are getting a little cooler it clears up and 20+ meter visibility dives are simply stunning. Thanks to Sam Wild, underwater videographer who joined us over the past weeks, our non diving clients could get a glimpse of the beauty beneath the surface.
He also 'buzzed' off this electric ray which is not something we come across every day.
The Red Stag Timber Hunters Club
We had a fantastic time in Auckland and thanks to everyone who took the time to stop by.. be it for a chat, a chocolate fish or just a break from the madness. We met some beautiful people and look forward to having some of you onboard.
We also drew the winner of our competition for a $2,000 voucher towards any booking with us..
Congratulations to Emma King !
This walkthrough video was taken onboard M.V. Flightless with the Red Stag Timber Hunters Club who were busy enjoying Breaksea and Dusky Sound to film an episode for their new season for SKY Sports... starting in July 2017.. every Monday.. The Fiordland episode will be playing on Monday the 21st of August 2017!
So have a look at this little clip to get an idea of the feel, external layout and space onboard to see if it's for you. Just keep in mind that we don't normally only have boys onboard. We'll be working on recreating the walkthrough with one of our mixed groups, families and of course the girls!
A beautiful Collaboration
Cuisine Magazine, Food legend Fleur Sullivan, Otago Polytechnic and Pure Salt NZ
Giving back to Fiordland
The TAMATEA project
Imagine if Fiordland could be restored to the richness in bird and wildlife the early Maori or Captain Cook got to experience.. Imagine Dusky Sound to be one of the most intact ecosystems on Earth, and New Zealand's largest ‘bio bank’ – a source of endangered native species that can be sent to pest free locations throughout the country.
We've started a collaboration with the Department of Conservation to take on rat control on Indian Island. We've committed to installing a trap per trip, ongoing maintenance as well as running conservation adventures with 100% of profit going towards the project.
The first trip was run in October.. 40 out of 200 GoodNature traps are on the ground, around 5km of tracks are cut, six tracking tunnel lines set and run.. In late December 15 volunteers will live aboard Flightless whilst working towards cutting the remaining tracks.
We're greatful for a beautiful article in the Christmas issue of life&Leisure Magazine