In this episode Gus ventures into the extraordinary wilderness of Fiordland; a world heritage site, the biggest national park in New Zealand and one of the largest conservation estates in the world.
In this episode Gus explores the truly extraordinary pristine Fiordland–a place Maori call Ata Whenua–the Shadowland.
Fiordland National Park covers an incredible 5% of New Zealand’s total land area and is also one of the wettest locations in New Zealand with seven metres of rain annually–three times as much as the Amazon Basin.
Ancient glaciers carved up this massive landscape and in doing so, created hundreds of canyons…making the area a haven for canyoners. Gus’s first mission is a world first–abseiling the full 161 metre length of Bowen Falls.
Fiordland is also home to ancient creatures found nowhere else on earth living alongside the giant native centipede, the Peripatus and the distinct black coral found in the dark still waters of the fiords. This park is also home to the Sutherland Falls, which at 500 metres high, is one of the tallest in the world.
This National Park has its doors firmly open to people, with Fiordland’s Milford Track hosting more than 14,000 trampers every year. But those numbers are almost insignificant compared to the more than one million people entering Fiordland every year by road. No easy feat as the only access road winds through the floor of the Hollyford Valley, below 54 known avalanche paths. Gus meets the team managing this volatile slither of tarmac; throughout winter they drop explosives from helicopters to force avalanches, making the road safe.
Travelling further into the park, Gus meets with the DOC worker responsible for threatened fauna in Fiordland and visits one of the last places that Kakapo were found living unprotected in Fiordland.
Venturing deeper, Gus hits Dusky Sound–an hour by helicopter from Te Anau–with Greg Hay (Peregrine Vineyard) who is a part-owner of one of the few boats that have a DOC permit to offer charters in this most pristine of Sounds. Greg’s company has paid for the pest eradication and subsequent release of native saddlebacks on Resolution Island and visitors can now listen to a noisy dawn chorus.
Finally, Gus takes a jet boat ride down the Wairaurahiri river rapids, exploring a commerce/conservation venture that sees visitors sponsoring a local stoat trapping program in return for a thrilling jet boat trip.
But will Fiordland be able to continue its short history of conservation given talk of a tunnel from Glenorchy into the park. Gus wonders if these towering Fiords can repel the next wave of invaders–humans hungry to take advantage of one of the most unique National Parks in the world.