“It’s not that kayakers see anything different than the rest of the participants; it’s that they see it in a different way.”
I always say this to my small groups who have signed up for one of our onboard kayaking programs. But it’s not always true. Sometimes we do see things that others don’t.
On our recent cruise through the Norwegian fjords and on to Spitsbergen, we stopped in Reine, in the Lofoten Islands, renowned as the most beautiful village in all of Norway. Most of the passengers went ashore for nature walking and picture snapping, but we also offered a paddle, and a core group of kayakers took us up on it.
I had carefully planned a route that would take us along the ridiculously picturesque waterfront, through a narrow gap, along the base of towering granite cliffs, and along the edge of a mighty fjord, avoiding the wind chop and strong currents that obtained in the center of the fjord. But almost as soon as we were on the water, we threw out the whole plan—because of a radio call.
We heard from a staff member in town that killer whales had been seen in the fjord. The directions were vague, but we looked, and there, way across the inlet, we could see spouts.
I looked at my group of paddlers, most of whom I didn’t know, some of whom clearly hadn’t been in a kayak in some time, some of whom had never paddled in cold or rough waters. And I told them to keep together, and asked our safety Zodiac to stay close; we started off. This was an opportunity we could not miss.
And they did great. They kept together, we made good time on the crossing, and the reward was…kayaking among a pod of killer whales. It was incredible! They were feeding, rising, blowing, descending, rising again. It was the closest I’ve ever been to an orca in a kayak, and being in a kayak, sitting in the water with the animals, is an intense experience.
And it was just for us. The whales didn’t stay long—we were just in the right place at the right time. On any expedition, every person and every sub-group has different experiences and sees different things. This is the stuff of many animated conversations at cocktail hour every evening. But kayaking is a special way to see things, and occasionally results in something truly magical.