Hundreds of guests on Southern Discoveries’ cruises in world-renowned Milford Sound this week have been treated to a magical moment to remember.
Passengers on Scenic, Nature and Encounter Nature Cruises have been getting up-close and personal with dozens of humpback whales in the past week – more than staff in Milford have ever seen before.
“We’ve been absolutely inundated with groups of up to six or seven whales which have been putting on a great show daily for most of the cruises we operate,” said duty manager Karla Rodgers.
“They pass us every year on their migration route south but never have we seen so many. Our passengers have loved the experience as its moments like these that make their New Zealand trip, giving them something to treasure and remember when they go home.”
New boat host Jeremy Compton was working on Southern Discoveries’ Pride of Milford vessel when he snapped a stunning shot of a humpback whale breaching the moody Milford Sound waters.
Southern Discoveries operates daily nature cruises where specialist nature guides share their local knowledge, delving into the history, geology and wildlife of the fiord. The cruises are renowned for getting up close with wildlife so guests can see seals, dolphins and penguins, depending on the time of year.
Whale sightings are an added bonus at this time of the year, and a breathtaking sight for visitors to New Zealand.
Department of Conservation marine and freshwater ranger Chloe Corne, based in nearby Te Anau, said she was thrilled to hear the news about whale numbers and sightings.
“Over the last few years we’ve had increasing numbers of reports about humpback whales along the Fiordland coast, and there’s been some evidence to suggest that at least some of the sightings may be from the population that breeds along the east coast of Australia,” she said.
“The Fiordland coast is a very productive marine environment, and humpbacks have been seen feeding on krill along the coast, off Milford, Dagg and Dusky Sounds in the past.
“They seem to be stopping off in Fiordland for a ‘quick snack’ during their southwards migration towards their summer feeding grounds around Antarctica.
“The numbers and sightings are good indicators that the humpback whale population is recovering, which is great news.”
- A humpback whale breaches the waters of Milford Sound in a stunning shot captured this week by Southern Discoveries. Photo credit: Jeremy Compton
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About Southern Discoveries
Southern Discoveries operates four vessels at Milford Sound ranging in capacity from 35 to 400 passengers, and offers the widest range of trips and experiences in the fiord.
The company operates Scenic Cruises, Encounter Nature Cruises, Nature Cruises, Cruise and Kayak Milford Sound and the Discover More Cruise which incorporates a visit to the Milford Discovery Centre and Underwater Observatory.
It owns and operates Discover Milford Sound Information Centre and Café in Milford, three information centres in Te Anau and Queenstown, and Te Anau-based coach service Go Milford Day Trip. Southern Discoveries also owns a shareholding in Milford Sound Lodge.
The company operates Queenstown Lake Cruise which provides day and charter cruises on Lake Wakatipu for up to 35 people and it owns 50% of KJet, Queenstown’s original Jet boat operator.
Southern Discoveries’ newest addition, Spirit of Queenstown, operates exclusive cruises to Mt Nicholas High Country Farm on the western shores of Lake Wakatipu. Visitors can choose from a range of excursions including a Scenic Cruise on Spirit of Queenstown, or an authentic Farm Experience at Mt Nicholas to meet to the working farm animals, get up close to merino sheep and get off the beaten track by 4WD into the landscape to spectacular vantage points. Newly introduced is the Station 2 Station Cycle Trail, a half day cycling trip between Mt Nicholas and Walter Peak. Carrying up to 130 passengers, Spirit of Queenstown is also available for private hire and charters.
Southern Discoveries’ ongoing commitment to conservation is through the Sinbad Sanctuary Project in conjunction with the Fiordland Conservation Trust and Department of Conservation. The company is also the recipient of the 2015 New Zealand Tourism Export Council Operator of the Year, Trip Advisor ‘Hall of Fame’ Certificate of Excellence for Milford Sound Cruises and is Qualmark endorsed.