Geology, Flora and Fauna of Milford Sound
Wildlife found in Fiordland National Park
New Zealand is a land of birds – Kea, Tui, Kereru, Bellbirds, Pukeko and the Blue Ducks can be found in this remote wilderness.
You are likely to come across a Kea as you drive along the Milford Road. Known as New Zealand’s alpine parrot, these birds are intelligent yet cheeky characters and have been known to pinch your food or small belongings when you’re not looking! It is important to remember that their natural diet consists of local plants, roots and bugs and processed food can make them quite sick, so please do not feed the kea.
Dusky and Bottlenose dolphins regularly visit the fiord, while Humpback and Southern Right Whales have been spotted passing by on their migration south for the summer.
Another elusive creature that can occasionally be spotted in season is the rare Fiordland Crested Penguin – they are usually around from July to late November for nesting.
Milford Sound is rich in indigenous flora and fauna, although introduced animals such as rats, stoats and possums have had a detrimental effect on native species. Control programmes have been established to create safe havens for some of the vulnerable species including the South Island Saddleback and rare Fiordland Skinks.
Fiordland National Parks is one of the wettest regions in the world, receiving up to 7 metres of rain annually. For this very reason, it is also home to a plethora of incredible plant-life with over 700 species found only in Fiordland. To this day, there are still new species being discovered, another reason why it was awarded a World Heritage listing.
Thick Beech forests line the Milford Road and extend for miles across the valleys. Tree ferns, understory shrubs, ferns and mosses also thrive in the wet conditions.
As the rainfall drains from the forests above, it becomes stained with tea-coloured tannins which pour down the cliff faces into the fiord. This creates a unique underwater environment as the dark freshwater does not mix with the sea water in the fiord, which limits the amount of light that reaches into the depths. Due to this freshwater band, sponges, corals and sub-tropical fish call the fiord home, something that is rarely seen anywhere else in the world.
The fiord also supports the world’s biggest population of Black Coral rees – about seven million colonies with some of them up to 200 years old.
Geology of Milford Sound
Milford Sound is located at the northern-most end of Fiordland National Park on the South Island of New Zealand. The national icon can reach depths of up to 400 metres underwater, and despite its name, the valleys have been carved out over time by an ancient glacier – essentially making it a fiord and not a sound.
Named after its resemblance to a bishop’s mitre (head-dress), Mitre Peak is a prominent peak on the south shore of Milford Sound. Rising 1692 metres, seemingly sheer above the sound, the summit actually consists of five closely grouped individual peaks.