Fiordland National Park
Fiordland National Park occupies the southwest corner of the South Island of New Zealand. Established in 1952 it is over 1.2 million hectares (2,965,159.3 acres) in size and is now a major part of the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Site, created in 1990.
Fiordland’s west coast is deeply indented by 14 fiords spanning 215 km of coastline. They are the result of the abrasive action of ancient glaciers as they moved down the valleys of the Southern Alps. The most famous of the fiords is Milford Sound. Waterfalls spill hundreds of metres into the water, with the Sutherland Falls being amongst the world’s highest. Two islands, Secretary Island and Resolution Island, have been carved from the mainland by the ice. There are several large lakes and at the northern end of the park, several peaks rise over 2,000 metres (6,561.6 ft).
Westerly winds blow moist air from the Tasman Sea onto the mountains; the cooling of this air as it rises produces an exceptional amount of rainfall in the area, exceeding seven metres (23 ft) in parts, creating a spectacular rainforest environment. Of particular interest are the southern beeches, survivors from a much cooler past. A large variety of shrubs and ferns make up the understory.
Wildlife includes dolphins, seals and birds. Of particular note are the kakapo, the only flightless parrot in the world, and New Zealands’s iconic kiwi. Another bird indigenous to New Zealand is the takahe, thought for many years to be extinct but rediscovered in the mountains of Fiordland in 1948.