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Also known as the ‘Sound of silence,’ there is an air of mystery about Doubtful Sound, an aura of magnificence and serenity. Look out for bottlenose dolphins and penguins at the mouth of the sound.

Travelling by road from Manapouri across scenic Wilmot Pass, you reach Doubtful Sound, which, at 40 kilometres long, is New Zealand’s second longest fjord in the World Heritage Area of Fiordland National Park. Around the entrance to the sound one of the southernmost populations of bottlenose dolphin can be seen, and whales – including southern right, minke, and humpback – might be spotted too.

The water here has two distinct layers: freshwater, from the land run-off for the top few metres, and saltwater, from the ocean below. The difference in refractive index between the two layers prevents light from entering the water, which in turn allows many species usually found only in the deeper seas, such as black coral, to grow at relatively shallow depths.

Doubtful Sound’s long and winding length has three distinct ‘arms’ and several impressive waterfalls to be seen, especially during the wetter seasons, and these include Brown Falls, which tumbles at a height of 619 metres, and Helena Falls which spills over 220 metres.

There are a number of ways to experience Doubtful Sound, by kayak or on a day or overnight cruise. 

View suggested itinerary

Key info

  • Ideal for viewing: New Zealand fur seal, Fiordland crested penguin, bottlenose dolphin, southern right whale, minke whale
  • Where: South Island, New Zealand

Wildlife trips

This wildlife location is featured in the following itinerary:

Kiwis & Whales Galore: South Island Self-drive

This self-drive of New Zealand’s South Island showcases dramatic scenery, from sandy beaches to picturesque snow-capped mountains. Highlights include cetacean-rich Kaikoura, the Otago Peninsula - home to the endangered yellow-eyed penguin - and Stewart Island for southern brown kiwis.

  • When to go: Sep-May
  • Duration inc. flights: 23 days
  • Price inc. flights: From £6,395 pp
  • Trip type: Tailor-made trip idea