Tuesday the 14th of July is expected to be busy for the Department of Conservation (DOC) Great Walks team in Te Anau as bookings open for the world famous Milford, Routeburn and Kepler Tracks.
Giant's Gate Falls
For the first time since the booking system was introduced, walkers will be able to book their walk in the peak season up to two years in advance.
The booking system was introduced to Fiordland’s three Great Walks to help manage visitor pressure on the tracks. Until now bookings had only been available for the upcoming season. The decision to facilitate bookings two years in advance will allow transport operators and tourism companies more forward planning opportunities and to allow kiwi families more time to plan how they will see their own back yard.
Anyone planning to walk the world famous Milford, Routeburn and Kepler tracks between October 2009 and May 2010 or October 2010 and May 2011 can make their booking from 9.00am on Tuesday 14 July . Bookings can be made on the Department of Conservation website www.doc.govt.nz
Sharon Anderson of the Te Anau Great Walks bookings office said the increase seen in the number of booked bed nights over the past season is expected to continue.
“Although visitor numbers in the area have been down for the past year, this trend is not evident on the Great Walks” Ms Anderson said. “We are actually seeing an increase in the number of kiwi family groups and visitors from all over the world walking these tracks”.
Three staff based in Te Anau will be managing the phones and email bookings when they open on Tuesday.
“Everyone who phones our office gets to speak to an experienced staff member to answer their questions and help plan their walk. Our iconic Great Walks provide an amazing experience so we want to help people get the most out of their trip”.
Bookings can also be made via the DOC website from 9.00am on Tuesday.
Before deciding to book the Milford, Routeburn or Kepler Great Walk Tracks it is important to consider your ability to do it. The tracks are generally well formed, although they may be steep, rough or muddy in places. They are suitable for people with moderate fitness and who have had some experience in remote areas.
For people interested in walking these tracks, but perhaps don’t feel ready to complete the multi-day trip Ms Anderson recommends booking an overnight option at one of the huts close to the road end.
“Due to high demand the Milford Track can only be booked as a four day/three night trip. However Howden Hut on the Routeburn track or Moturau Hut on the Kepler track are ideal overnight stays for a shorter walk,” she said.