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The Mavora Lakes are a stunning seldom visited gem 69 km from Te Anau. They don’t offer the spectacle of Milford Sound, but they have a subtle beauty that invites exploration and rewards with peace.
Scenes from the Lord of the Rings Trilogy were shot at the Mararoa swingbridge at the outlet of Manawapopore/South Mavora Lake and near the gravel road end a short way past the outlet of Hikuraki/North Mavora Lake.
Other than magnificent scenery, they offer quiet forest tramping along the lakeshore and excellent bird watching. There is inexpensive DOC camping avaliable with water piped in to most sites over the summer and adequate long drop toilet facilities. Over Christmas and new year it is a very popular family holiday spot. Motorised boating is allowed on Hikuraki, the North Lake. The trout fishing is excellent if you have a fishing licence.
Arguably the best hike in the area is the 13 km circumnavigational hike of Manawapopore, the South Lake. The usual start is from the swing bridge at the outlet of the South Lake, meandering North along the water’s edge and through forest until the North Lake swing bridge is reached, the return follows the road on the eastern side of the lake.
Forest birds are plentiful, the Robins and Fantails should provide plenty of entertainment and you may see Riflemen, Bellbirds, Black Swan and other water birds. If you camp you may hear Ruru/Morepork, the New Zealand Owl, calling across the valley in the night.
Photo opportunities are plentiful and the best light and calm air is early in the morning or late in the evening. The forest is probably best in full sun provided you are able to control the contrast adequately with your camera. I recommend underexposing enough to maintain detail in the highlights and opening the shadows later if necessary. It does get dark in there once the sun goes. Mavora lakes is equally good in clear and cloudy or stormy weather. In the winter, it is very cold but at its very best for photography with calm weather, sun at a low angle all day and snow on the mountains.
Quietlight, based in Te Anau, offers small custom photo tours to the Mavora Lakes.
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