Sea Kayak Antarctica – The Adventure of a Lifetime

Written By: The Planet D

My hands were shaking when our guides Val and Solan told us to prepare to jump into our kayaks for our first sea kayak adventure in the icy waters of Antarctica.

We had taken a zodiac off the ship to calmer waters with our kayaks in tow and now it was time to start paddling through brash ice, around icebergs and through waters filled with marine life such as humpback whales and leopard seals.

Sea Kayaking in Antarctica

antarctica sea kayaking
Getting into the Kayak from the Zodiac

It was going to be an exciting 5 days, but we were also a little nervous. Dave and I put on a good face though and we both volunteered to jump into our kayaks first. Our guides pulled a sea kayak parallel to the zodiac and I climbed in as a few people held on to keep it steady.

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Getting into the kayak from the zodiac is where most people fall in. Sea kayaks are tippy and if you don’t distribute your body weight properly, you’re going overboard.

Luckily we took a refresher course at the Toronto Kayaking club before we left for Antarctica so we felt comfortable with our entries and exits and even were prepared for a roll if need be. Hopefully, that would never happen, as these waters are chilly!

antarctica kayak
Seals Sleep on Ice Flows in Antarctica

Once we were in the water, we paddled around to get comfortable in the kayaks.

I felt stiff, nervous and unstable at first, but once we all got into a group and started paddling along the shore, my confidence grew and I relaxed into the motion while taking in the incredible scenery.

sea kayak Antarctica
Incredible scenery while sea kayaking in Antarctica

Sea Kayak Antarctica

There is nothing more special than kayaking in Antarctica and we highly recommend everyone do it when taking their own Antarctic Expedition.

It’s expensive at another $950 added on to the price of your trip, but if you are going all the way to Antarctica for an adventure, this is the adventure of a lifetime.

The amazing thing is you don’t just kayak once, we had the opportunity to kayak 8 times during our 12-day Antarctic Explorer trip with Quark Expeditions.

Our Guide Solan Kayaking in Calm Water

While the rest of the ship did their shore landings to visit the penguins, our group of 16 people set out to face the elements.

We had a minke whale surface right behind our group and penguins jumped right in front of our kayaks.

We saw leopard and Weddell seals sleeping on ice flows and crept towards them so silently, we could almost reach out and touch them.

Antarctica, Seal
Seal Sleeping in Ice Flow

When you take the kayaking trip, you don’t miss out on any of the land activities either.

After kayaking, we do shore landings where we have the opportunity to walk on the continent and visit with the colonies of penguins.

We experienced exactly what every other passenger experienced, but more!

Land Excursion, Antarctica
We had excursions on Land Every Day too

We kayaked through a bay filled with icebergs and even kayaked completely around them.

There are rules to stay twice the distance away from the height of an iceberg as they can roll over at any time, taking you with them.

antarctica blue ice
Sea Kayaking Around Icebergs in Antarctica

We kayaked through thick layers of brash ice.

We could hear the ice scraping along the sides of our kayaks as we paddled though the thick layer of frozen water creating our own trails.

Deb Kayaks through the Brash Ice

The trick to paddling through brash ice is to take it slow. Stay balanced and don’t do any sudden turns. It is an exhilarating experience to paddle through such rugged conditions.

You feel as if you are a true adventurer and not simply a tourist watching from a distance. We were experiencing Antarctica to the fullest.

antarctica kayaking
Seals lay on Ice Flows as we Kayak through Brash Ice

Some days the conditions were rough and the waves were high and we had to paddle with all our might to make it to shore.

Other days were calm and we sat in silence taking in the landscape before us. We sat in our kayaks facing giant glaciers that were constantly calving (giant chunks of ice breaking off and crashing into the water)

In complete silence, we all yelled our names and at one point we yelled “Meatloaf” paying homage to Paradise by the Dashboard Light while paddling in Paradise Bay.

We listened to our voices echo from the high glacier walls surrounding us.

Antarctica Kayaking
Our Sea Kayaking Group

We sucked on ‘thousand-year-old’ glacier ice that floated in the water when we were thirsty and we played around as our confidence grew and tried to paddle over larger and larger pieces of ice.

We only took our waterproof cameras with us out on these excursions. When paddling in Antarctica there is a very real danger that you could fall in, so our advice is to use a Gopro or an Olympus Tough waterproof/freezeproof camera. We came away with amazing footage from the entire trip.

kayak antarctica
Passing a Sea-Bird on our Kayaks

After a couple of hours Kayaking, we either landed on the shore to visit the penguins or we returned to the zodiac to be taken to the next destination. Shore landings always relied on conditions.

At times the water was too rough to land, but at others we could paddle right up to the beach, step out of our boats and begin the hike along the path to see the amazing wildlife of Antarctica.

We left our dry bags filled with our non-waterproof camera equipment in the Zodiac and once we were on dry land, we could start shooting away at the beautiful scenery.

Sea Kayaking in Antarctica is the perfect addition to any Antarctic adventure.

Have you always wanted to visit Antarctica? Check out Quark Expeditions for details.

Read next: How to Pack for an Alaskan Cruise

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About The Planet D

Dave Bouskill and Debra Corbeil are the owners and founders of The Planet D. After traveling to 115 countries, on all 7 continents over the past 13 years they have become one of the foremost experts in travel. Being recognized as top travel bloggers and influencers by the likes of Forbes Magazine, the Society of American Travel Writers and USA Today has allowed them to become leaders in their field.

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26 thoughts on “Sea Kayak Antarctica – The Adventure of a Lifetime”

  1. Wow! I stumbled upon your blog and clicked myself through to Antarctica! I dream of going there one day! These pics are stunning!

    • Thanks Zoe. You are right, it really does stick with us. Whenever people ask us what is the best thing we’ve ever done, that shoots right to the top of our list. I think it will take a lot to top Kayaking in Antarctica.

    • You would love it. Once you get over the initial fear that the water is really cold if you fall in, the kayaking in Antarctica is a real blast.

      • Yeah that would be the exact fear. That the water would be cold. I hope there would be a good rescue team out if I was to try something like this.

    • Trips to Antarctica start at about $5000 If you are already in Ushuaia Argentina you can get Hal price deals for trips that are about to depart. Plus f you follow the link to Quark Expeditions at the bottom of the post you can se their price list plus a 5% discount using ThePlanetd promo code. Cheers!

    • A cruise to Antarctica starts at approx $4000. If you fly directly into Ushuaia and try to hop on a ship that is leaving within a day or two, you can get deals up to half price off. The kayaking is an extra $1000 approximately, but it is totally worth it. There is no better way to explore and you get more than one chance to paddle. We were on the water 8 times during our trip.

    • You definitely have to do it. We dressed in layers and Quark Expeditions give you big, warm expedition coats to wear and keep. So you never feel that cold while exploring antarctica. Surprisingly, we didn’t even wear gloves when paddling, we had little neoprene mitts on our oars and that kept our hands very warm.

  2. Seems like quite an adventure, it’s not everyday that you see lovely pictures & stories like this. Thank you for sharing.

  3. I’ve lived and worked in Antarctica 6 months in total and it’s still not enough for me. The continent has a strong grip over many people. Beware, it can be addictive!

  4. Wow! completely awe inspiring. I guess it must have been like kayaking through the heavens. Antarctica seems to be completely another world with its own unique landscape, wild life and surroundings. I do not know Kayaking, but after seeing this I think it is worth to learn it, as there could be no other better way to explore the place than this. How to get to Antarctica, if we start from Europe? I guess no permissions or visa of any sort is required, isn’t it?

  5. Amazing photos guys…makes me wish I was back in Antarctica! Except that sleeping leopard seal…evil penguin-eating things! 😉

  6. Holy CRAP that’s awesome!!! Great pictures and write up. I cannot wait to make it down there… hopefully it will be sooner rather than later. Thanks for sharing!


  7. The photos look breathtaking. My hubby and I took a sea kayaking class together a couple of years ago and deemed it wasn’t for us, so I’ll just have to enjoy your photos!