Kayaking in Antarctica-Tips & Recommendations

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.

Kayaking & Zodiac Gear
The dry suit is in the middle. On the left side are only for kayakers: life jacket, bootie and kayak skirt. On the right is for the zodiac cruising and landing: rubber boots and blue life harness. Everyone has a locker in the mudroom to store the gear.

Tips for Kayakers

  1. Kayaking is expensive—it’s generally about $1,000 additional. It was worth it.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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

Rekawa Turtles


We walk into the courtyard. About 40 people are sitting around in folding chairs. We were greeted by Saman, a tall, gruff man who has spent 20+ years protecting the giant seas turtles of Rekawa. On the floors are crude paintings of different kinds of turtles that visit Rekawa to deposit their eggs. 
“Here are  the rules. Only red lights. The turtles can’t see that range very well. No flash photography. Stand 10 meters away from the turtles when they are digging the egg chamber. Don’t stand in front of a turtle. Only behind. Sit over there. I’ll tell you if the turtles arrive.”

It is 8:30 pm. 

At 9:15pm, “A turtle has come on the beach. Pay now,” says Saman. Everyone lines up to pay the 1,000 rupees (about $8). 

Saman then leads us on to the dark beach. There are a million stars above us but no moon. It’s balmy. We walk very quietly in darkness except for a few red flashlights and in anticipation of seeing one of these giant turtles lay eggs. 

When we arrive 15 minutes later, Saman announces, “She is still digging. Wait here. Stay 10 meters away. No lights.”

30 minutes pass. The waves crash against the shore. People clump in groups, talking quietly, reading their phones. Some get tired and sit on the sand. 

“She’s now digging the egg chamber-75 centemeters. It takes about 20 minutes.”

15 minutes pass. 

“The egg chamber has collapsed. She’ll probably go back to the sea. Make two lines so she can pass. Wait. Looks like she’s going to try again. Right there. Back up. Stay 10 meters away. No flash. No white light.”

It’s now 10:30pm. We’ve been on the beach for 2 hours and everyone is worried that we won’t get to see the turtle lay her eggs. The tide is also coming in, closer and closer to us. 

45 minutes pass. 

“She’s done with the egg chamber. She started to lay eggs. Line up 10 at a time. First ten follow me.”

Turtle eggs!

Relief and excitement ripple through the group. 

We stand behind the turtle peering into the hole. Can’t see anything. He points a red light and we move slightly to the right. Under the red light we see white eggs the size of ping pong balls. It’s amazing to see. This green turtle is about 40 years old, three feet long and is laying more than 100 eggs. 

After everyone has seen the turtle, we all go back up and stand behind to watch. 

She finishes laying eggs and now starts to cover the eggs with sand. She will now spend 1+ hours completely covering the hole she has dug.

We watch as she pushes sand with her front and back flippers. She throws sand 5-6 feet with her front flippers. Some of it lands on us. The eggs are covered and she continues to cover the entire hole. Flip, flip, flip, flip with the front flips. Moving dirt around with back flippers. Then rest for a moment. Inching forward as more of the hole is filled. It’s now 11:30pm and we begin to think about going back. Some people have already drifted off. 

We start walking.  200 meters away we come upon another Green turtle laying eggs. She has just started. Saman shows us an egg. We watch for a moment then keep walking the kilometer back. Quietly and excited about the evenings activites and ready for sleep. 

But we’re not done yet. 

We come upon a third green turtle. She’s magnificent. Almost 60 years old and 5 feet long. The largest and oldest turtle we’ve seen. She’s already finished laying eggs and is filling the hole. Flip, flip, flip. Pause. Flip, flip, flip. 

All three will likely be back in 2 weeks to deposit another batch of 100+ eggs. 

We continue our walk home and the 30 minute drive back to the hotel. Tired and excited about what we’ve seen.