If you’ve ever thought about going to sea in Antarctica (or you’re just curious), then this guide will tell you everything you need to know.
There is no calmer, more uplifting, more uplifting experience, than floating wonderfully across a calm sea under a beautiful blue sky.
Throw in icebergs, penguins, seals and baileys and hot chocolate, and you have a recipe for perfection.
Our first few days in Antarctica consisted of sailing, hiking, spotting lots of wildlife up close and even spending the evening camping on the continent. Every minute was one of the best experiences of our lives.
But there was one activity we enjoyed more than anything else – sailing around the Antarctic Peninsula.
We have had the opportunity to kayak in some amazing places, from the oceans of British Columbia to the Ningaloo Reef in Australia, to the tropical islands of Southeast Asia and the Caribbean. But all this seemed to pale in comparison to such a wonderful thing as sailing near ice and ice.
On our trip to Antarctica with One Ocean Expeditions, which is no longer in operation, we had signed up for their special kayaking program, and were eagerly awaiting our chance to go out.
On our latest trip to Antarctica in 2022 we got to go kayaking again, and it was just as amazing as the first time.
Check out more amazing things to do in Antarctica in our latest article.
Since we still wanted to take more chances to hike and take pictures, we planned to go out on the 4th day with the whole group.
We couldn’t believe our luck when we woke up that morning with the picture of a good day.
There was no wind at all, making glass across the sea. Adding to the meaning of the clear sky was one of the most fascinating phenomena in nature – lenticular clouds.
These UFO-shaped clouds are formed when air passes through the Earth and encounters ‘obstacles’ – in this case mountains. Air rises and settles on the lower side of the ridge, creating steady waves of moisture.
Needless to say, we were excited!
Check out our ultimate travel guide to Antarctica!
Just before breakfast we joined our fellow kayakers for a quick briefing on where we were going and what to expect.
The kayaking guides were Mark and Ehren, two adventurers who have led countless expeditions to some of the world’s most remote places, such as Alaska, Greenland and Mongolia.
Between them they had over 40 years of teaching and guiding experience, so we knew we were in very safe hands.
The morning kayaking tour took place at Cierva Cove, the most spectacular place on the Antarctic Peninsula with black rock islands and floating ice.
After filling up on a delicious breakfast we entered the mud room at Akademik Ioffe to change into our clothes.
Fully decked out in the best tech gear on the market we walked down the gangway and jumped into the zodiac to take us to our launch pad.
One Ocean Expeditions staff had already unloaded the kayaks and were waiting for us on the beach. Alesha and I were filled with nervous excitement as the zodiac approached.
When they reached a certain area in the center of the mountain, Mark and Ehren organized the group so that some would go in one kayak, while others went in two. We chose two kayaks, so we could have fun together (and take lots of pictures and videos).
The kayaks were pulled up to our zodiac and Mark helped carry each guest into them, making sure they wouldn’t pass as we entered them, while Ehren parked his kayak on the other side to catch them.
Alesha and I were two of the last people to load into our kayaks, and with the help of Mark and Ehren it was surprisingly easy to jump in. We had put all our cameras in dry bags to make sure nothing would get damaged.
After settling in with waterproof aprons attached to protect the inside of the kayak (and our legs) from any splashes, we entered the cave.
We quickly got into the group and into the rest of the group. Mark and Ehren followed next, gave a final briefing, and then we were on our way.
For the next two hours we cruised between high mountains that glistened a brilliant blue in the morning sun, and around a rocky island that housed a colony of penguins.
Being careful not to get too close to the icebergs in case they tipped over, we marveled at their beauty as we watched them from the water. Knowing that the ice pieces were thousands of years old was humbling.
Her beauty was the most beautiful we had ever seen, and we couldn’t wipe the smile off our faces.
Just when we thought life couldn’t get any better, the ship’s hotel manager, Craig, arrived at our stargazing group. He shook all the people, and then he shouted loudly, “Baileys and hot chocolate anyone?“
We couldn’t paddle fast enough. Passing large plastic cups filled with his deliciously intoxicating chocolate, we thanked him and allowed ourselves to sit on the calm water and savor every second.
When we walked in silence with our friends around us, Alesha looked at me and asked in disbelief, “Is this really happening?”
Looking around at the floating icebergs, snow peaks, sliding glaciers and swirling clouds above, we tossed and sipped our hot chocolate again. Yes, this was really happening.
When the Baileys were finished everyone handed their cups back to Craig and we continued paddling, making the most of an amazing day. Several crabeater seals suddenly appeared, coming right up to our kayaks to check us out before we swam to the penguin shore.
Resident photographer Dave Brosha came in the zodiac and asked if he could take a few pictures of us all kayaking together. During his month in the Antarctic, he didn’t have the chance to catch the sailors with the weather as good as it was that day.
We hugged in the semi-round while Dave was shooting.
Before the end of the trip Mark found some small rocks that we were going to visit, and we paddled around trying to prolong the trip forever.
Back at the train our hearts were beating with joy. Our dream of sailing in Antarctica came true, and the conditions could not have been better.
Although we didn’t see any whales like some of our friends had a few days ago, it didn’t matter. Our day was amazing.
There is only one problem. How are we going to be ahead of ourselves drinking Baileys and hot chocolate on a bluebird day, surrounded by icebergs and penguins with clouds overhead while kayaking around Antarctica?
Safety and Equipment When Kayaking in Antarctica
Obviously kayaking in Antarctica isn’t the kind of adventure that comes without some sort of risk, but the real possibility of something going wrong is extremely low.
One Ocean Expeditions*** takes great pride in providing a safe and excellent experience for all of their customers, and those who choose to participate in their kayaking program as well.
Each Antarctic (and Arctic) expedition has a limit of 16 people allowed to join the sea kayaking programs to ensure that the guides have full control over the limited number of participants. These must be booked well in advance of your trip, as there is no chance to book while on the boat.
Before everyone is allowed to start kayaking they have to go through a safety briefing and be introduced to all the necessary equipment.
The biggest risk with kayaking in Antarctica is exposure to the elements, especially cold water. This is why kayakers are provided with full body dry suits, special gloves, shoes and an apron.
Providing these unique tools takes time (and a quick touch), but ensures that everyone stays dry.
When the wind picks up or the weather starts to deteriorate then the zodiac collects all the kayakers and takes them to safety, or the tour leader makes the decision to cancel the kayaking trip until further notice. Safety is very important.
Kayaks are designed for use in cold weather and are recommended for handling ice and rocks. They are also very durable.
At no point did we feel uncomfortable or unsafe. Knowing how Mark and Ehren, our experienced guides, also helped make everyone comfortable with this amazing trip.
If you’ve ever wanted to go kayaking in Antarctica, going with One Ocean Expeditions will help you make this once in a lifetime experience one of the most exciting experiences you’ll ever have.
[box] Our sailing experiences are made possible by our partnership with One Ocean Expeditions. All thoughts, opinions and cups of Baileys and edible hot chocolate are, as always, ours.[/box]