sea kayaking Kayaking in Antarctica

Debbie Grainger

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

Although my trip to Antarctica 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 Antarctica is going to very different from what I have already experienced.
I booked myself onto an one day ‘Improvers’ course in Anglesey, North Wales. If I had had more time, I would have booked onto the course for two or three days.

The course aimed to develop:

  1. Trip planning in tidal waters
  2. Communication – sharing the planning and developing safe team journeying practice, “enfranchising the group.”
  3. Route choice – preparing a practical understanding of the sea to enable good route choices, e.g. inshore lines vs an offshore lines
  4. Boat handling skills in sheltered to moderate water conditions
  5. Problem-solving – e.g. medical problems, rescues, assisting others
  6. I arrived at our meeting point just before our agreed time of 9am, 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.

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

The scenery this time around was beautiful, and it helped that we had a lovely sunny day for our activity. I’m sure the landscape in Antarctica will be stunning too. I’m looking forward to kayaking 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.

Planning your Antarctica Kayaking Trip

At WILDFOOT Travel, we encourage our customers to book 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 including camping, kayaking, snowshoe/hiking, mountaineering, and photo workshops? You can find out more about our available Antarctica expeditions here.

The prices for kayaking in Antarctica 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.

So, what is typically included in your kayaking trip in Antarctica?

The kayaks, paddles, Neoprene wetsuits, splash shirts and spray covers, Neoprene booties and caps, 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 (for hygienic purposes under the wetsuit)
  • A fleece jacket or vest to wear over your thermal underwear
  • 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/sun block

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 it won’t be a comfortable experience in Polar weather!

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 to Antarctica, take a look at our expedition cruises and Antarctica itineraries we have available.