sea kayaking Kayaking in Antarctica

The great white continent is one of the last places on earth where you can experience true adventure. With its stark climate, extreme landscapes and incredible wildlife, it’s fast becoming a popular destination for travellers who are looking to witness the sheer beauty and thrill of being in the wilderness. At Wildfoot, we offer a variety of different expeditions to ensure that your dream adventure is truly unforgettable. As well as fantastic itineraries to choose from, we also offer a number of exciting activities to try – one of the most popular being kayaking. 

In this blog post, we’ll explain all you need to know about kayaking on an Antarctica cruise expedition, as well as a special feature from Wildfoot Travel Expert, Debbie Grainger. 

Kayaking with Wildfoot

You’re going to have incredible opportunities to spot wildlife, such as seals and albatrosses, on your Antarctica cruise expedition, as well as taking in the beauty of this alien landscape. However, nothing compares to the experience of getting close and personal with whales or dolphins in your very own kayak. There’s no doubt that kayaking gives you a unique perspective when exploring a new and exciting location. While it’s a great workout and will have you deep breathing the fresh sea air in no time, paddling through icy blue waters with cold white icebergs in the distance can also be a form of meditation. Calming and stimulating and at the same time – what’s not to love?

Wildfoot guides are adventurers to their core, so you can be sure they’re going to recommend the most incredible itinerary for your trip. Not only do they know the Antarctic extremely well, they’ve got first-hand experience of kayaking through the ice so they know how magical an experience it is. You can also be sure that while the adventure is important, safety comes first and they’ll always prioritise your comfort and security – so you can kayak with confidence!

Kayaking, a greta way to see wildlife in Antarctica
Kayaking. If ever you have an opportunity to kayak in the Polar regions, grasp it with both hands!

The Experience: What to Expect

Exploring in a kayak is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It’s one of the best ways to see the continent, however, it might not be for everyone. Here’s an overview of what to expect to help you decide if it’s an activity you might like to try.

It gets your blood pumping: While you’ll be seeing some incredible sights on your trip, spending around ten days on a ship means it’s easy to become a little sedentary. You will have opportunities to explore on land but much of your time will be spent on the main vessel. Kayaking throughout your trip is a great way to keep active and get your body moving. So if you’re an activities kind of person on holiday, you’ll definitely want to give it a go.

There’s nothing like it: Exploring the icy waters of this part of the world is a feeling like no other. It’s a rare experience that will deeply enrich your trip and it gives you the chance to fully immerse yourself. You’ll have so many chances to get out on the kayak that you’ll soon find yourself exploring areas that you may have missed on the boat.

Camaraderie: You will be one of a small group of kayakers and together you will be sharing the life-changing experiences of being fully absorbed in the majesty of the landscape around you.

Get closer to nature: One of the best parts of an adventure like this is the nature and wildlife that you’ll encounter. When you kayak, you’re brought even closer to this magical world – you can literally touch the water around you. All that ice you see, you can reach out and put your hands on it (safely of course). You might even get the chance to sneak up on a group of seals or dolphins.

You have to commit: If you choose to kayak on your trip, you’ll be committing to a certain number of outings nearly every day. This can be quite strenuous for some people, so you’ll want to consider this carefully before signing up.

Wildlife sightings: As you are quietly paddling there are opportunities to spot some wildlife that you might otherwise miss if you only opt for Zodiac cruises. On occasion some of our kayakers have returned from an expedition with reports of close encounters with surfacing whales: a truly life changing moment for them!

Photography opportunities: Being on a small boat on the water is all about balance, which means if you want to take your big, fancy camera out every few moments, you’ll be impeding that balance. A Go Pro with a mount or stick for taking underwater images is ideal, and your guides will make sure that you have opportunities to take still photos. The secret is being prepared in advance with a waterproof bag and making use of the kayak’s netting which is in reach of the first kayaker on each boat. It takes a lot of skill to photograph from a  kayak, but many of our cruises include photography workshops on board so you will have a chance to get lots of advice. 

How it Works

If you choose to kayak during your trip, you’ll be put into a group of fellow kayakers and will have your own itinerary throughout the trip. Before you set off, you’ll be fully briefed on the equipment and safety procedures, and be able to ask any questions. (Usually, there’ll be an extra cost to take part in the kayak tours.)

When it comes to kayaking, safety is paramount. If the sea conditions are poor or the currents are too dangerous, you will not be permitted to go out. An expert guide will be assigned to each group of kayakers (generally 15-20 per group). A zodiac and guide will be in attendance at all times but will remain far enough away so that the amazing silence of the kayaking experience is not disturbed by the boat’s engine.

Exploring the Antarctic from the water will give you an unforgettable perspective of this beautiful part of the world. Usually, you’ll head out a few hours earlier than the zodiac groups and paddle for a few hours. This means you’ll reach the landing site later and have less time on land but, often, there’ll be fewer people around and you could even have the site to yourself.

Planning your Kayaking Trip

At WILDFOOT Travel, we encourage our customers to choose their excursions at the time of booking. This is to save disappointment if they decide later to kayak or camp, to find out at that stage that they’re fully booked.

Did you know that we have some expeditions that include a taster of various activities includingcamping, kayaking, snowshoe/hiking, mountaineering and photo workshops? You can find out more about our available cruise expeditions here.

The prices for kayak trips start from around £366pp. Subject to weather conditions, the expedition team will aim to get you out as many times as possible, as other passengers will do the landings.

What is typically included in your kayaking trip?

The kayaks, paddles, drysuits, splash shirts and spray covers, and a life-jacket/kayak vest are all included.

However, you will want to make sure you dress appropriately for your excursion in the open Polar air. So, you’ll need to bring along your own:

  • Thermal underwear bottom and top with loose fitting clothing like jogging pants and fleeces to go under the dry suit.
  • Gloves (preferably ski/snowboard/mountaineering gloves with some grip and a Gore-tex outside with Thinsulate inside).
  • A wind-and-waterproof breathable jacket or paddle anorak/jacket and trousers (e.g. Gore-tex)
  • A waterproof bag (if you’re bringing a camera)
  • Fleece hat
  • A turtle neck or neck gaiter
  • Thick socks
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen/sunblock
  • Try to avoid bringing cloth clothing like t-shirts or jeans. Once it gets wet (from water or sweat), it will stay wet for a long time – and that won’t be a comfortable experience in Polar weather!

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need experience?

Although this activity is open to anyone, having some basic paddling experience and feeling confident getting in and out of the vessel is preferred. There’s no need to have lots of experience, but we ask most participants to have paddled before as this won’t be a beginner’s course. Generally we will recommend that you try out a day or two of sea kayaking to prepare for your trip.

How often will I kayak?

As many times as possible. As long as the weather conditions allow it, you’ll get the chance to head out several times a day, but safety is always prioritised so the total amount of times you’re in the water will depend on this. If you have fine weather, you could be on your kayak frequently so make sure you’re prepared to do a fair amount of physical activity.

Can I do it for just one day?

It depends on the itinerary and the operator. But if you’re someone who wants to try it out, this can be a great option as the price will be lower and you’ll get a nice mix of kayaking and zodiac excursions.

Getting Ready for an Antarctica Cruise Expedition

Debbie Grainger

Wildfoot Travel Expert Debbie Grainger has another trip to this icy world fixed firmly in her sights. In preparation for her next polar expedition, Debbie decided to brush up her skills, to ensure she has the basic skills and confidence to take on any excursions offered on board. Here Debbie gives us a first-hand account of her kayak course in North Wales.

Although my next Antarctica cruise expedition is still three months away, I decided to brush up on my kayaking skills in anticipation of taking to the Antarctic seas by kayak.

I have kayaked in the Caribbean and the Med, as well as in various Welsh mountain lakes. Somehow, I think that this next destination is going to be very different from what I have already experienced.

I booked myself onto a one-day ‘Improvers’ course in Anglesey, North Wales. If I had had more time, I would have booked the course for two or three days.

The course aimed to develop:

  • Trip planning in tidal waters
  • Communication – sharing the planning and developing safe team journeying practice, “enfranchising the group.”
  • Route choice – preparing a practical understanding of the sea to enable good route choices, e.g. inshore lines vs offshore lines
  • Boat handling skills in sheltered to moderate water conditions
  • Problem-solving – e.g. medical problems, rescues, assisting others

I arrived at our meeting point just before our agreed time of 9 am, and within a few minutes, the rest of our group plus our instructor Geth arrived. We introduced ourselves to each other and went inside the café for a cup of tea while we discussed the tidal waters, route choices and our previous experiences.

Kayaking in Anglesey

Half an hour later, we were back in our cars and driving to Porth Dafard.  According to the tidal readings, we should have a great experience of kayaking the North and South Stacks – or ‘The Stacks’ as they are referred to. The Stacks are two small islands off the North West corner of Anglesey. The sea here is renowned for being rough and wild, so you need to plan the tides and weather very carefully when making trips to this area of Anglesey.

Geth was aware that I’m off to Antarctica, so he encouraged me to tackle the choppier waters, and the swells on our way back to shore. The scenery this time around was beautiful, and it helped that we had a lovely sunny day for our activity.

So, now that I’ve brushed up on my skills, I’m looking forward to my kayaking excursions during my Antarctica cruise expedition. I hope to see more wildlife there than I did in Anglesey, as I only saw a couple of seals.

I’m sure the landscape will be stunning, too. I’m looking forward to being near icebergs, hearing the crackling of the ice in the sea, anticipating my first whale sighting, and hopefully lots of cheeky penguins darting around our kayaks.

If you’re travelling as a couple or group, you don’t have to book the same excursions. If one of you wants to kayak or camp, then that’s fine. But why wouldn’t you want to experience a bit of an adventure while you’re in Antarctica? After all, it may be your only time of travelling there, and I recommend you take the opportunity of every experience while you can.

I’ll update you on my kayaking experience in Antarctica. But, if you’re planning a trip, take a look at our Antarctica expedition cruises and the itineraries we have available.

For a Kayaking Experience, We Recommend… 

Our Wildfoot Travel Experts are a team of adventurers. They’ve explored all over the world to ensure they can offer the very best insight and advice when helping you plan your next trip. The White Continent is a land of extremes and breathtaking beauty and exploring this part of the world promises an experience like no other. We put our customers’ needs first to ensure that we can offer a holiday escape to remember.

South Georgia & The Falklands Special

Set sail on this 15-day Antarctica cruise expedition aboard the new Polar vessel, Sylvia Earle, where you’ll explore the wildlife-rich lands of the Falklands and South Georgia. This trip allows you to immerse yourself in the natural lands and interesting history of the now barren islands. You’ll have plenty of chances for Zodiac excursions, land visits and more.

Argentina & Classic Antarctic Peninsula

For those wanting the best of both worlds, this trip offers a fantastic Argentinian tour of Buenos Aires, the Valdes Peninsula and the amazing Iguazu Falls. This is followed by a classic Antarctica cruise expedition during which you’ll do whale watching, iceberg spotting and incredible land explorations.

Antarctica, Patagonia & Falklands Special

This itinerary has it all. With such variety, you’ll get the best of everything from wildlife and stunning scenery, to Zodiac outings, first-class lectures and presentations. This is a once-in-a-lifetime trip that’s not to be missed

If you’re an adventurous spirit there’s no place on earth like the Antarctic. Contact our experienced Travel Experts today and start planning your dream trip.