Lake Manapouri and Leaning Peak

25-29 November 2017. The forecast was for “hot” weather. Temperatures in the high 20s, no rain, light winds and clear skies. That’s “hot” for Fiordland – particularly when the sun rises before 6am and doesn’t set until 9:30pm. So we decided to go kayaking on Lake Manapouri.

The lake has four major arms, many islands and lots of nooks and crannies to explore. This is the channel into West Mere.

The lakeshore alternates between white sandy beaches and cliffs. Flowering daisy bushes were hanging from many cliff faces.

We camped our first night on Pomona Island. The island is managed as a predator-free bird sanctuary. Three times in the past we’ve been to the island clearing stoat traps. On this visit the southern rata was in flower.

Possums are rather fond of southern rata, and their browsing can lead to local extinction. Fortunately there are no possums on Pomona. There are, however, kiwi, kaka, kea, robins and lots of other native birds – thanks in no small part to the trapping programme run by a small group of dedicated volunteers.

The next day we stopped for lunch at Fairy Beach. It looks almost tropical!

And went for a short bush bash up to Lake Lois.

Which is a wonderful spot. And we could relax as there were very few sandflies!

One of the many species of Dracophyllum was in flower.

Our second night’s campsite was on a beach in West Arm.

The next day we moved camp to the head of West Arm, and made a late start on Leaning Peak. This peak dominates the skyline when driving towards Manapouri, so we thought it would have great views. It proved to be a tough climb through thick forest with regular cliff bands, but once we got higher the views opened up. This is the Spey Valley, which we visited (but didn’t see much of) on our recent Dusky Track walk.

Climbing higher, we encountered alpine wildflowers for the first time this summer. This is the flower of the alpine sundew Drosera archeri.

The Mt Cook buttercup Ranunculus lyallii covered whole slopes.



Most alpine flowers are white. But a few are yellow.

The views from the top were even better than we expected. To the east is Lake Manapouri.

To the northwest was Brae Burn and Mica Burn, overlooked by Mt George.

And the mountains just stretch to the horizon.

We spotted this lettle Geum on the way down.

Next day back in the kayaks. We paddled into North Arm, visiting the lower parts of Awe Burn and Freeman Burn. These are spectacular glacier-carved valleys.


Freeman Burn proved to be our worst spot for sandlies. After settling into the hut, we moved into our tent to escape them. They hung around outside in their thousands… just waiting for us to exit.

Back on the water the next day we eventually out-paddled our personal sandfly clouds and further explored the lake. Many of the rocks on the lakeshore appear to be made of two different rocktypes, one of which has eroded away to leave strange structures that look like petrified tree roots.

We island-hopped across the lake back to our start point. The black backed-gulls have taken over several of these islands.


Posted 3 December 2017.