Paddling along British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast, I watched, mesmerized, as bioluminescence lit up the water. Our guides at Metta Eco Experiences encouraged us to dip a small stick into the water to swirl around and watch the sparkles and shimmers from tiny organisms in the water. We dipped our hands into the cold Pacific Ocean, wiggling our fingers as the sparkles formed, remaining on our skin briefly when we pulled them out of the water, shimmering with light.
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Kayaking is a way to immerse yourself in incredible experiences, with opportunities to see phenomena like bioluminescence, as well as wildlife and even urban cityscapes. Kayaking can also be a dangerous activity, so going with a professional guide is a great way to make it safer and provide a better overall experience.
Not only do guides know the local weather and conditions intimately, they also know the best spots to see wildlife and other natural phenomena and are able to offer up a plethora of facts and other information. Guides also know the best practices to avoid running into issues with hazards like ship traffic, ice, wildlife, waves, cold water, environmental conditions, darkness, and icebergs, among many others. Be sure to always follow kayaking safety practices, including wearing a PFD, and brush up on paddling safety tips.
Bioluminescence Experience – Sunshine Coast of British Columbia, Canada
The Sunshine Coast of British Columbia is home to stunning beauty, but when the sun goes down, be sure to keep watch for bioluminescence in the water. Summer is generally the best time to spot this incredible phenomenon, which is created by tiny organisms in the water, though a number of factors, including the water temperature, can affect what you can see. The best views are after dark, so for safety, be sure to venture out with a guide like Egmont’s Metta Eco Experiences, which offers an Into the Night tour focusing on seeing bioluminescence.
Oyster Farm Odyssey – Morro Bay, California, USA
Paddling to a working oyster farm is a unique experience that you can have in Morro Bay, California. Join a tour with Wildheart Coastal Adventures to head to the back bay to learn about oysters and estuary ecology before visiting Grassy Bar Oyster Company’s farm. Kayakers can taste a freshly shucked oyster right there at the farm, and they return home with a dozen delicious fresh oysters.
Whales, Puffins, and Icebergs – Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada
Newfoundland, Canada is a fantastic place to see a variety of whale species, a number of seabirds—including puffins, and sometimes even icebergs. A number of kayak operators bring people out to observe these incredible creatures and spot massive chunks of ice. Since the weather and conditions can be challenging and icebergs can be quite hazardous and flip unpredictably—and because only a small piece of each iceberg is visible above water—it is important to go with a guide and stay far away from any icebergs you might see.
Desert Kayaking with Cacti and Wild Horses – Scottsdale, Arizona, USA
Kayak in the Arizona desert alongside cacti and you might even sneak a peek at a wild horse. Near Scottsdale and Phoenix, the lower Salt River offers opportunities to paddle beside beautiful scenery and maybe even spot wild horses, bald eagles, or other wildlife. At Saguaro Lake, see the Superstition Mountains and other ranges while paddling by majestic saguaro cacti and maybe spot a bighorn sheep. Saguaro Lake Guest Ranch offers excursions, as does REI Co-op.
Kayak the Seventh Continent – Antarctica
Antarctica is a once-in-a-lifetime trip that offers incredible opportunities to see spectacular scenery and wildlife like whales, penguins, and leopard seals. A number of companies offer expedition cruises to the seventh continent, and some offer opportunities for guests to kayak in Antarctic waters. Atlas Ocean Voyages and Hurtigruten Expeditions are two companies that offer opportunities for guests to kayak or paddle in Antarctica, but keep in mind that activities in Antarctica are always weather-dependent. If conditions are unsuitable for an activity, operators will postpone or cancel, but that’s just part of experiencing the true wildness of Antarctica.
Kayak under the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame – Cleveland, Ohio, USA
Paddle under the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame on the Cleveland Rocks Tour with outfitter 41 North Coastal Adventures. The trip is an urban kayaking adventure that leaves from Whiskey Island and includes part of the Cuyahoga River. It offers the opportunity to see ships that transit Lake Erie and view the SS Mather—a historic ore freighter that is now a shipping museum, as well as see the West Harbor Lighthouse. Of course, the highlight is kayaking under the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Wildlife Watcher’s Bucket List – Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
Exploring the Galapagos Islands is a bucket-list item for any wildlife lover, and getting out on a kayak is an optimal way to fully experience this Ecuadorian archipelago. A number of companies, including Metropolitan Touring and Hurtigruten Expeditions, offer small-ship cruising in the islands with opportunities to go kayaking. Kayakers can spot a variety of birds, as well as sea lions and other animals. Spend time in a glass-bottomed boat, snorkeling, and hiking to see the full range of Galapagos wildlife, including marine iguanas, blue-footed boobies, Galapagos giant tortoises, Galapagos penguins, and more.
Wild Alaska – Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska, USA
Located in southeastern Alaska, Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve is home to more than 1,000 glaciers, including some that run right down into the water. Exploring this rugged area via kayak is an incredible adventure, with opportunities to look for wildlife like bears and eagles and see glaciers. However, many hazards exist, including calving glaciers, ice, challenging conditions, extreme tides, and dangerous wildlife, so venturing into the park with an experienced guide is your best bet. The park provides a list of authorized guides, or you can take a multi-day ship excursion with operators like Uncruise.
Which unique kayaking experience caught your eye? Tell us in the comments below.