Milford Sound

The Marlborough Sounds, Milford Sound, Kaikoura, Otago, Fiordland and Stewart Island.

Milford Sound

Postby DiveDiva » Sun Mar 04, 2007 10:12 am

Milford Sound is often cited as one of the places you really should dive in NZ. But it is a bit out of the way and is cool water diving, so the majority of the NZ diving population has probably not been there. Also, one side of the sound is marine reserve so the majority of the NZ diving population, who see diving as an extension of the hunter gatherer lifestyle, don't have free rein.

Milford sound has a few unusual features - the huge rainfall in the area means that the top layer of water in the sound is fresh with salt water below. This means that species that are often only found much deeper, colonise recreational dive limits - in particular black coral and spiny sea dragons (a sea horse relative).

I had a few days in the far south in mid February so decided to check it out. Tawaki dive run day trips to Milford from Te Anau so they were the obvious choice.

They require you to overnight in Te Anau (6am pickup) or Milford Soud (8am start) and have an hour of predive briefing the evening before in Te Anau (I am not sure how this is covered for those who join in Milford). I though an hour sounded a bit excessive and it verged on it. Milford is over a 1000m pass from Te Anau and as a result the dives are planned very conservatively. The assumption is that the dives are at 1000m and then an extra margin is added for the fact that the water is cool - it was 14C when we were there in mid Feb. The hour is taken up going through the waiver and explaining why the dives are limited to 18m and 30mins. And why, if you do a rapid ascent, or exceed the max depth, they may insist you don't do the second dive or even, worst case, leave you at sea level in Milford rather than taking you out over the pass. To be fair the final 15mins is looking at pictures of what you might see. Given the varied customer base they have - a lot of folk who have never dived in 7mm wet suits before, and the fact that the bottom is at 300m in places I can understand the caution. The tone is light rather than patronising but if you have not patience for that approach stay away. Also they have a no take policy so you can not even benefit from the side of the sound that is outside the reserve!

We had a fantastic sunny day for the drive in to Milford Sound. Milford has just been rated by New Zealanders as the no 1 must see destination in the country. While sunshine is fantastic it is perhaps even more impressive in rain when the hillsides just bucket water.

But what of the diving? The boat "sea dragon" is an aliminium pontoon style which was very satisfactory for the 5 of us diving (max 6 customers).The fist site was Purple Haze where the main attractions were black coral (which is white and tree like) and brachiopods which really excited one of the divers. He was a geologist who had used the fossils of such things through his career for dating purposes but had never before seen a live one - to this diver it looked a bit like an undersized shellfish but never mind! I enjoyed the white kina (sea urchin).

Greenstone point beyond the terminal moraine of the glacier that originally formed Milford, was more impressive for me. Fantastic black coral, red coral, gardens of golden zooantias finger sponges and an 11 armed starfish. There are places on the walls that rival the Poor Knights for the density and variety of life. But alas on neither dive was there a spiny sea dragon. A reason to return. Unfortunately there are no photos as my wee canon camera died before the first dive. The visibility on both dives was good - 8 -10m on the first and upto 15m on the second.

Conclusion - know what you are going to get - a guided pretty strictly controlled dive, but if you do it, enjoy it. I have been out on the Sound before, but the crew were excellent in finding stuff and knew stories I had not heard before. Milford is a NZ icon and the chance to spend a day on the water with 5 others rather than the couple of hundred on the big boats is worth it and that is even without getting wet.

Alison

This report has been published on SDNZ with the expressed permission of the author, Alison Taylor
.


Alison - alijtaylor - has just joined SDNZ today - welcome Alison!

DD
DiveDiva
Forum Administrator
User avatar
DiveDiva
Forum Administrator
 
Posts: 3062
Joined: Sat Nov 11, 2006 4:23 pm
Location: Pommieland

Postby Ristari » Sun Mar 04, 2007 7:41 pm

great report Alison - Milford is high on my "to do" list and I definitely want to see from both below and above the water! Good to know there are day trips, I thought the only way to see the Sounds was via livaboard (which is a tad out of my budget right now!). Also good to know about the conservative nature of the operators - it may be a but OTT for some but after reading the account from the diver who got severe DCI while in the Caribbean... better to be on the safe side! I'd love to see a piccy of a spiny sea dragon - are they at all related to the leafy sea dragon or weedy sea dragon I'm familiar with from southern Australia?
User avatar
Ristari
Member
 
Posts: 99
Joined: Sun Feb 11, 2007 4:09 pm
Location: Wellington, New Zealand

Postby alijtaylor » Sun Mar 04, 2007 8:03 pm

Hi
There is a partial photo of one on the Tawiki dive site, not sure what they are related to other than sea horses as I haven't seen the weedy or leafy sort either.

http://www.nzsouth.co.nz/tawakidive/wildlife.html

Alison
User avatar
alijtaylor
Member
 
Posts: 435
Joined: Sun Mar 04, 2007 2:03 pm
Location: Honiara (Solomon Islands)

Postby powley » Sun Mar 04, 2007 10:59 pm

have seen 3 or 4 seadragons diving round Kawau and Flat Rock, but they are yellow up this way
death can be fatal
User avatar
powley
Member
 
Posts: 452
Joined: Wed Jan 10, 2007 8:49 am
Location: auckland

Postby Azza » Mon Mar 05, 2007 6:39 am

I have seen a few around Flat Rock and Kawau also. They are neat.
Azza
Member
 
Posts: 1911
Joined: Mon Dec 18, 2006 3:39 pm
Location: Auckland

Postby Ristari » Mon Mar 05, 2007 11:59 am

I have only seen 2 LSDs, on the same dive at Rapid Bay jetty (SA), they are protected (I think) and quite rare, but if you know where to dive and are a patient diver with a good eye, you've got a good chance of seeing one!

this is a leafy sea dragon (LSD):
http://www.dragonsearch.asn.au/photolib/hutch4/hutch4.html

weedy sea dragons are related to LSDs and (I think) not quite as rare, but I have yet to see one in "real life". :(

this is a weedy sea dragon:
http://www.dragonsearch.asn.au/photolib/cvdp3/cvdp3.html
User avatar
Ristari
Member
 
Posts: 99
Joined: Sun Feb 11, 2007 4:09 pm
Location: Wellington, New Zealand

Postby kamyk » Mon Mar 05, 2007 2:23 pm

I didn't know NZ has Seadragons nice :D

I was sure they only live in Australia and part of USA
User avatar
kamyk
Member
 
Posts: 64
Joined: Fri Mar 02, 2007 12:13 pm
Location: Auckland


Return to South Island

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest

cron