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How to Milford Sound: Adventure Day in New Zealand

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New Zealand is a wilderness paradise, and Milford Sound is the best of the best.  We set out to do some water-based adventure on one of our days.  It went something like this.

Milford Sound

We started way early.  So early, in fact, that the only person who had breakfast was me.  The morning rendezvous at the water’s edge was set for 8:00am.   The boat that Descend runs is pulled out of the water to load and unload which is kind of interesting.

The sand flies were out in force in the early morning (and repellent, natural or otherwise, just failed to work).  Nevertheless, we tried on our 8 mil wet suits just by the boat on a tarp laid out over the dusty gravel and hopped on the boat while it was still in the parking lot.  Besides the 4 of us, there were two other divers, one of whom was completing a dry suit certification, and 3 crew members. This was Jack’s first dive!

The water in Milford Sound is cold, so three layers on the torso is mandatory.  We looked like a family of space people.

Underwater, Milford Sound is interesting and unique. Many of the species you can see above 22 meters are usually only found much deeper. Because of the ecology of the sound which includes lots of brackish fresh water from the glaciers, black coral has been thriving for centuries and is a sight to behold.

Here are some videos shot by Ben Szulak who was diving in a dry suit. Thanks for sharing Ben!

 

 

 

 

We completed a first dive near seal rock. I had real trouble with my bouyancy and was (as usual) the first diver up. 8 mil suits are floaty and sinky at the same time and the saw tooth was too much for me to control. Eli spent another 15 minutes below.

Amy and Gary underwater

Eli is the only diver with great form in our family

Next, Jack did an assisted dive.

Then we moved on to a second dive location. Eli dove with the dry suit crowd. I did an assisted dive with an instructor that was just incredible. Nothing like worrying about nothing to preserve air.

We passed by the Stirling waterfall on our way in.

Stirling Falls

Family dive

We just had time for a touristy lunch at the Milford Cafe and a walk by the water before it was time to Sea Kayak. We were a bit concerned about the wind, but in the end showed up to don more “gear belonging to other people.” Our guide Ben was a talkative, high energy guy.

Not our usual clothing

Rosco’s sea kayaks take you out on a power boat and you paddle back home. Our crew included two french canadians. We started just past the waterfall at the “usual spot,” and were soon back at the Stirling Falls with time to kayak under them.

Oh, and all of this happened on Thanksgiving day. Our “turkey” dinner was postponed until 10pm when we had lemon, butter, and garlic chicken at Knobs Flat.

Green Turtle Cay: Turtles, Sharks and Pristine Beaches

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Our previous visit to Green Turtle Cay in Abaco, Bahamas was 28 years ago as honeymoon phase 2. Arriving in Green Turtle Cay after spending two weeks in the Ecuadorian rain forest with the Cofan Indians was interesting to say the least.

The island looks and feels pretty much the same as it did in 1990 with the exception of more fancy houses (one of which we rented) and a paved main road. Before 2016, the main road was still a packed sand and concrete filled holes one laner. Now it is a wide, freshly-paved expanse.  Also, the New Plymouth Inn is no longer. Ah progress.

Our house was called Bannanaquit, which everyone on the island has a slightly different opinion about how to pronounce. The consensus seems to average out around “quit” versus “keet.” Great house with a beautiful pool situated smack dab in the middle of the two island nexuses.

Here are some pictures and videos from our trip.

Amy’s socks, specially designed for flying

Some unsolicited travel advice: avoid Silver Airways if you can. Their ops and maintenance needs serious work. We flew into Marsh Harbor and got an (expensive) cab up to the ferry. The ferry is super quick.

The ferry

Arrival means beach. Bita bay is great. Clear water, good snorkeling, and its own small coral barrier.

 

We built a bar. It was good.

The Bananquit home bar

When on Green Turtle, the best place for breakfast (bar none) is the liquor store. Really. We went twice.

Liquor store for breakfast?

Liquor store for breakfast

Go diving with Brendal. The diving off Green Turtle is pretty good, but the fish that Brendal has trained are remarkable. Ever seen a pet grouper? How about a school of fish waiting patiently for you to turn over rocks exposing worms. Brendal is a fun guy and an expert diver. (Thanks to Bebe Jacque for sharing bits from her gopro.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Charter a boat

We chartered a boat one day, did some fishing then had one of the best wildlife experiences in our lives swimming with the turtles, nurse sharks, and sting rays. About 15 years ago, an enterprising boat captain started conditioning the wildlife inhabiting one of the bays to like humans. The result makes a great experience.

Amy meets the turtle

 

 

Do some nothing.

Amy

Sunset up north

We’ll be back in another 28 years!

St Croix Underwater

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Thanks to Haley Hendrickson of N2 the Blue Dive Shop on St Croix for the instruction and the incredible pictures.

Eli and friend

Eli and friend

Newly certified

Newly certified

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Dad and son

Dad and son

The family expert

The family expert

Be the turtle one

Be the turtle one

Be the turtle two

Be the turtle two

The boys

The boys

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gem

gem

Amy

Amy

Going up

Going up

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OK with Eli

OK with Eli

Night crew

Night crew

Diving St Croix

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Thanks to N2 the Blue Dive Shop for some personal, friendly, and impeccable diving. Of our massive two shop sample of St Croix, N2 the Blue is superior in all ways. (Our experience with Cane Bay Dive Shop was much looser, chaotic, and more random with a small chance of accidental death.)

Eli emerging from the depths

Eli emerging from the depths

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The diving in St Croix is great (and relentless when you are with Eli). Our dives:
The Pier – excellent life and a great dive
Sprat Hole – turtle
Swirling Reef of Death – coral farm working on stag’s horn coral
Shallow Wrecks – three big boats
The Pier
The Jungle (north side) – a nice deep wall with Cane River
Pavilions (north side) – wall and coral garden with Cane River
The Pier at Night – wild in the dark
Armageddon – nice pile of debris with associated wildlife
Little Mill Point – shallow wall with much coral (turtle)

Haley Hendrickson

Haley Hendrickson

Captain K and Haley

Captain K and Haley

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We’ve seen all sorts of everything: turtles, sharks (eating lion fish we killed), eels of all kinds, two kinds of lobster, many angel fish, crabs, seahorses, an octopus and more.

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More about St Croix here.

The Cottages by Sea

The Cottages by Sea