Day 121 on the Road
Kayaking on Lake Mapourika
Today we are joining Glacier Country Kayaks for a tour of Lake Mapourika in Franz Josef! If you like this video and want to see more 365 Days: 365 Activities then consider joining our backpacker squad on YouTube!
Today is our last day in Franz Josef and we are going out with a bang. Today we are kayaking on New Zealand’s most reflective glacial lake.
Today we are heading to Lake Mapourika which is where we are going to be doing a kayak tour with Glacier Country Kayaks. We are getting a courtesy shuttle to the lake from Franz Josef township and meeting our awesome guides for today which is Dale who has lived here for most of his working life for about 6 years so he’s super passionate about the place. As well as Izzy who is a German working holidaymaker with probably the coolest job ever.
Before we head to the placid waters of Lake Mapourika Izzy is giving us a quick rundown on how to kayak. We have done a couple of tours so far kayaking so we feel quite confident and in no time we are on the water and ready to go. Lake Mapourika is world famous for being one of those amazingly reflective lakes. It’s another one of those black glacial lake and Dale goes over the whole story and why it is a black lake and why it is so reflective, It all has to do with the tannins from the forest nearby falling into the lake and making it really really dark this gives it this really reflective nature and makes it for amazing pictures. Speaking of pictures, all along the tour Dale and Izzy are taking awesome shots of us they have DSLR cameras and are giving us the pictures for free at the end of the tour. That’s really cool.
Lake Mapourika is surrounded by one of the largest kiwi sanctuaries on the West Coast region. This tour is taking us across Lake Mapourika towards the ancient rainforest towards the back of the lake which has been left untouched for hundreds of years and along the way Dale is giving us lots of information on the Maori legends surrounding the lake as well as telling us the story of how the kiwi bird lost its wing. And he tells it with such skill. New Zealanders really have a knack for telling stories.
the slow glide along the lake Mapourika is probably the easiest kayaking trip you could dream of. There is not a single wave there is not a peep of wind. It is absolutely gorgeous and super easy to kayak. If you’ve never tried kayaking before this is probably the best place for you to give it a shot. And because it’s so easy it gives us plenty of time to chat with our fellow tour-goers we have a lovely Canadian couple which is here for only 2 weeks in New Zealand and chose that as one of their water activities in the country and there is also a Swiss couple which is here on a working holiday visa spending 12 months in the country working and travelling.
And that’s after a good half an hour of paddling that we are finally making it to the other side of the lake where the beech forest is starting and where the scenery change dramatically.
As we reach the other side of Lake Mapourika, Dale is taking the time to tell us more about how the lake has been formed. It has been created by the Franz Josef Glacier’s retreat about 14,000 years ago. Along with Lake Mapourika’s formation it has also created this diverse ecosystem with forests filled with kiwi birds surrounding the lake and in the waters long-finned eels which we actually spot a few while we are kayaking around.
Local Maori tribes call long-finned eels tuna which is a very essential part of their diet as that was probably one of the only way they could get proteins before the settlers came in with all their cattle. We keep on making our way along the shore of the lake and one of the awesome things about being around this lake in a kayak is that it’s super maneuverable so we get to make our way through super close to some of the most remote places of the lake. And Dale and Izzy are looking forward to taking us into a really remote inlet where they have some really awesome stories to tell us.
And now we are heading into the heart of the Okarito Kiwi Sanctuary which is one of the places with the rarest kiwi species in New Zealand called the rowi and Dale is telling us all about this as we relaxing in this hidden inlet of Lake Mapourika. We also take the time to taste a few of the plants around here such as horopito which has this bitter and spicy taste to it.
And it’s after being in such an amazingly protected place that we are starting to make our way back toward the bay and along the way Dale and Izzy are still sharing heaps of stories and knowledge with us such as the fact that the whole forest around is full of kahikatea trees which are over 900 years old. It is such a place of history it really feels that this lake hasn’t changed since the Jurassic.
From our little kayak in the middle of this gigantic lake, we get to hear even more stories and also get to understand our surroundings. From there we can actually see two of New Zealand’s biggest and tallest mountains, Mt Cook and Mt Tasman but they are slowly getting covered with clouds. Because the weather is so ever changing above the lake.
Along the way Dale is setting us a few fun challenges to do like standing up in our kayaks and trying to race each other back towards the shores of Lake Mapourika because now we’ve got quite a lot of confidence to get some speed.
Once we arrive back onto the shore we are helping the team to load the kayak back up onto the truck and also take the time to take a couple of cheesy tourist pictures because why the hell not.
And it’s with kayaked filled heads that we are making our way toward the next destination of our journey. We are leaving Franz Josef glacier for another glacier called the Fox Glacier and we are going to be checking in at the Ivory Towers backpackers and tomorrow we start our exploration.
And a bit of a behind the scene. I’m not doing no shit on my kayak. Izzy is doing everything for me and I’m just filming. and erm, I think she’s going to be pretty sweaty by the end of this tour.