Kayaking in Antarctica is a very intimate experience with the Ocean and the sea life. You’ll be paddling in the ocean with the penguins, whales, seal and icebergs. You need to have had some kayaking experience and the pre-expedition instructions say that you must be able to do a wet exit. We had varying levels of experience in our group. On the Quark trip, the kayakers were the first off the ship and often the last to return. We generally paddled for 90 minutes and were on land for about 45-60 minutes. There were one and two-person kayaks. The two-person kayaks were very stable.
Most ships have a limited number of kayaking spots available. These slots sell out quickly. If kayaking is a must-do for you, you’ll want to book 10-12 months in advance to guarantee your spot. There are some trips called base camp trips where there are more opportunities to Kayak. The base camp trips spend more time in an area and offer many more adventure opportunities.
Tips for Kayakers
- Kayaking is expensive—it’s generally about $1,000 additional. It was worth it.
- Quark provided dry suits, booties, life jackets, a dry bag and a skirt for the Kayak. You need to add several layers underneath the dry suit to stay warm. I usually had on three layers. Some of my fellow paddlers wore as many as six layers. Since you need to be able to move, a good base layer followed by thin layers works best.
- Hands need to stay dry or you’ll not enjoy the paddle. I had neoprene gloves and the expedition leaders gave us dishwashing gloves to put on top. This combination worked very well.
- Your feet will stay dry in the wet suit. You’ll have booties over the wet suit and these will get very wet. Make sure not to make a hole in your dry suit when you put it on and your feet will stay nice and dry. The booties were not so great on land—you will feel the rocks under your feet.
- Many of my fellow paddler brought their DSL cameras on the kayak and there were no camera catastrophes. I brought a Lumix underwater camera because I did not want to worry about getting my camera wet. The downside was that I did not have my better camera for my pictures. Many people also brought GoPros.
- We had seven kayak excursions. The expedition leaders told us that they try to guarantee 3-4. It was wonderful to have that much time on the water. Being on land offers a different kind of experience with the penguins and especially the chicks. Don’t be afraid to opt out of a kayaking session if you want to have some concentrated time on land.
- For the first few paddles, it will take you a while to get on all of the gear. Make sure to leave enough time. If you are not ready on time, it will delay the off-boarding of the rest of the ship.
- Have fun.
For more on the experience of Kayaking, see the previous post: In the Water with Penguins, Whales and Seals—Kayaking in the Antarctic
The snow was coming down steadily. The thermometer read 0 degrees Celsius and the wild was blowing. The ship traveled slowly–only 5-7 knots. Visibility from the bow of the ship was about 100 meters—enough to see a series of icebergs spaced throughout the Lemaire Channel.
The Lemaire Channel—one of the most scenic channels in Antarctica—is a seven mile stretch of water that at its narrowest point is only half a mile wide. It was discovered in 1873, but not navigated until 1898 by Adrien de Gerlach, a Belgium explorer.
Inside, in the Bridge, Captain Denis Radja was in quiet conversation with his officers. The ship slowed down even more. Will we be able to make it through the channel? Not sure. Hope we do, but it doesn’t seem likely. The ship slowed down even further. It seemed like it’s moving to the right (starboard if you’re a sailor). Yes. We’re definitely turning around. We won’t be going through the Lemaire Channel.
I step into the Bridge and hear the announcement from expedition leader Laurie. We are turning around. There are too many icebergs in the Channel. We are now setting sail for Jougla Point where we will have an evening excursion.
So it goes on an Antarctic cruise. The weather and ocean conditions determine the activities. The good news is that wherever you go is spectacular.
Adelie Penguins in Antarctica
January 1, 2018
This video is from a very large Adelie penguin colony at Brown Bluff in Antarctica. More videos to come over the next week.
Returned from Antarctica–a beautiful, vast, rugged continent. Above is a Gentoo Penguin with 2 chicks. A truly unique experience, up close with Penguins, Whales, Seals, Albatross, Icebergs. A close look at the impact of global warming. Much more to say in the coming weeks.