On the morning of our first full day in Te Anau, we took an easy 20 minute drive to Manapouri, the starting point for the Doubtful Sound tour. The tour starts by bus over a gravel road through some very beautiful temperate rain forest with a couple of stops along the way for pictures. At the end of the tour, the bus drives into the mountain for a tour of the underground Manapouri Power Station.

RECOMMENDATION: We read a lot of opinions on the internet about whether to take the Doubtful Sound tour or the Milford Sound tour. Apparently a lot of people only take one. That might be because they start the tours from Queenstown which is so far away. Genelle & I highly recommend taking BOTH tours from Te Anau. Doubtful Sound and Milford Sound are SO different from each other that it's very worth taking each tour and comparing them for yourself.
These pictures are from along the gravel road between Manapouri and the Doubtful Sound harbor. It's very lush. It reminds me of "Fern Canyon" in Redwood National Park of Northern California.

The picture on the left overlooks the beginning of Doubtful Sound. The bus stops at this location for everyone to get out and take a picture, so it's probably the most seen picture of Doubtful Sound on the internet. Our weather was high overcast and a very comfortable 23C (73F). Unfortunately, that makes the pictures look rather flat. Speaking of flat, the water was like glass.

The Fiordland National Park, and most of New Zealand, had a a pretty dry summer, so there are very few waterfalls on our trip. Those that do exist are pretty weak.

We are now at the mouth of Doubtful Sound where it meets the Tazman Sea, which is very calm today. Seals like this location. They are quite the climbers, right up the sides of some of the steeper rocks. Do you think those two seals in the second picture are married?

The tour of the Manapouri Power Station starts from the bottom. The tailrace tunnels exit from the base of the mountain at Doubtful Sound. Originally, there was just one tailrace tunnel, seen in the left picture. As you can see, it's full to the top. That was a problem. The power station was designed with (7) generators, but their full capacity was not able to be used because the original tailrace tunnel could not move that much water. In 1997, a tunnel boring machine (TBM) was used to create a second tailrace tunnel, seen in the second picture below. That took five years! But now the power station can achieve full output of all the generators.

The entire power station is built nearly 200 meters (660 feet) underground in solid rock. To get there, the bus drives through a 2 kilometer (1.2 mile) tunnel that curves down from the level of Lake Manapouri to the station. The yellow curving tube in the model below show how the tunnel makes a full circle as it drops to the level of the power station. The bus barely fits. The intake structure at the surface of the lake drops water down seven penstocks (the blue vertical pipes on the model) to turn the seven generators. This underground generator room and the tunnel to it remind me very much of the underground power station at the Lake Oroville Dam in Northern California.
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