Kayaking in Antarctica
If what you are looking for is an experience that brings you as close as possible to the immensity and pristineness of Antarctica, kayaking is for you!
This adventure activity is usually offered as part of an entire package and is limited to only a small number of participants on each trip (no more than 20). With this small group, you’ll be offered kayaking excursions as much as conditions allow, up to twice a day, and you can choose to take part in as many as you like.
While the rest of the passengers take the zodiacs for their regular excursions, you will head off with the kayak guides in a separate zodiac to begin your kayaking outing. This activity gives you a chance to explore Antarctica from a unique perspective. You’ll typically start the excursion a little earlier and paddle for around 2 hours, weather permitting. Sometimes you can paddle out to the landing site, meaning you’ll arrive a little later and can explore with fewer people around, but will have less time on land. Sometimes you will miss a landing excursion to paddle. For many, that’s more than compensated for by the experience of paddling around natural ice castles to get there!
There are a few ship operators that offer a “one-time kayaking” experience and of course, like its name says, it will be done only one time during the entire voyage. This is a great way to experience this unique activity and not “miss” any landings. It’s also good if you are not a fanatic kayaker.
You don’t need to be an experienced kayaker in order to do this activity, but you do need some previous experience in a kayak and to feel comfortable in the small boat. You will be paddling very close from the shore and the waters there are normally calm & safe and you will always be accompanied by a guide and safety boat, but this is still Antarctica, and weather and ice conditions can change suddenly, so being flexible is key.
Kayaking programs vary in price, from $800 – $1,000 USD for the full program, and around $300 USD for the one-time experience.
Last February, I got the chance to travel to Antarctica aboard the new, luxury SH Minerva vessel and participated in one-time kayaking. Here is how my personal experience went:
We set off from the ship in our safety zodiac around half an hour before the rest of the passengers (8.30 am), already dressed in the provided dry suits. Several meters away from the ship, and with extreme care, one by one we started to transfer from the boat to the kayaks. Although it wasn’t hard, you need to be quite fit to get into the kayak itself, as you have to lower yourself from the zodiac down into the kayak and then grab the paddle to move away from the zodiac.
Once we were all in our double kayaks, we started paddling around the ice while listening to Santiago (our kayaker tour guide) explaining about the different types of ice and answering all our questions.
At one point we even did a race! Then we did a 5 minutes “meditation” to listen to our surroundings without any noise of engines and other people. It was interrupted by a humpback whale! It was an unbelievable experience and the highlight of my trip!
From my personal experience I can say that kayaking in Antarctica was an amazing way to explore the surroundings far from the group, and to see even more wildlife.