The words surf, waves and sea kayaks seldom get uttered in one sentence without some sort of feeling of fear and trepidation. The best way to get over this fear is to face it and come to the realization that it too can be conquered. Sometimes by conquering it you may even find a new passion for an all new sport.
Coastal Kayaks hold surf sessions every now and then to give paddlers the opportunity to face some waves under the watchful eye of some skilled assistance. It was really amazing to see how through good tuition people soon appeared comfortable in some challenging wave situations. Also, as their comfort levels increased, so did the size of the waves they attempted catching. The nice thing about Muizenberg is that if you get wet, you will only get wet, there are no hidden rocks or funnies to harm you. There is also quite a few people around so you should always be able attract some attention if you find yourself in a jam. What makes these days even better is that there is always another paddler willing to help and give advice when needed. The key to understanding the surf zone is technique and practice and the day gave ample opportunities for both. I for one was very impressed by the guys surfing the doubles.
Although the Coastal Kayak Surf Session Sunday took place almost a year ago, I just recently completed the video for it, hence the late post.
We have always wondered how Luna & Solo would take to kayaking but never really had the opportunity to find out. The fact that they are totally mad about water was a fair indication that keeping them on the boats would be a little problematic especially on longer trips. We also suspected that Luna would quite easily be able to sit in or on a hatch but Solo would be a little big and at the same time a little nervous to sit on a boat. As it turned out, Solo did not care much for these strange things that float on water, but Luna on the other hand, the pictures speak for themselves.
At first we were a little weary of taking on the open ocean. Everyone in this area seems to be very concerned about big fish with many white teeth, especially in the vicinity of the seal island between Diaz Beach and Hartenbos. It makes sense that sharks will be more prominent in that area but its rather weird to think that something that swims to Australia for his annual summer vacation will confine itself to such a small area. For the amount of people who make use of the warmer waters along this coast, especially at Diaz Beach, there have been very few attacks to this day. That said, we were very cautious and careful, maybe even more cautious than usual.
Launching in Mossel Bay is best done from Santos Beach. In mid season you are going to struggle to get parking so make sure you get there early so you don’t have to walk your boat too far to get to the water. There are buoys in the water indicating the swimming areas and you should avoid paddling in these areas as you are considered to be a boat. Just be aware that there is also other boating traffic in the area as you are very close to the harbour and the Yacht Club.
You can paddle quite close to the shore but there are a few sections along the coast where surprise breaks could cause some entertainment especially on days with good swell. Areas to look out for are The Point, De Bakke, Diaz Beach and Ding Dangs.
Ok, now we made a bit of a boo boo on our trip, we assumed it would be ok to paddle into the harbour as there is a marina in it, and guys on yachts often have kayaks, NO NO NO - not a good idea. We were kindly informed by someone shouting at us from the harbour wall, that you are not allowed to paddle in the harbour. No loss, its not a very pretty harbour anyway, besides they pumping too much fish guts in the water, dem teethie dudes might be around If you decide to paddle past the harbour, you must be very careful as there is quite a bit of boating traffic in the area. Remember that Mossel Bay is home to Mosgass.
Dolphins are a common site in these waters and the one day we spotted a few hundred dolphins swimming past. It was incredible to witness all of them making their way past the beach, their speed and agility is incredible. I also heard from a good source that spear fishing is good along the Mossel Bay coast so if that tickles your fancy, give it a bash.
We paddled about 10.5km in total.
Wilderness Lagoon is another one of those paddles you just have to do. I would rate this as one of my favourite paddling destinations to this point.
Again, it is a lagoon so it will be wise to take tides and water levels into consideration before embarking on this trip and finding yourself stranded. The tide was a little low when we paddled the area so there were times when we had to chimp walk our boats over shallow sections. No problem for Suz’s plastic but another few scrapes to my gel coat - oh well its character they say.
What is Chimp walking?
We found that the Eden Aventure’s base camp was an awesome spot to launch from. Your vehicle is safe, there is a lovely slipway, you can stock up on drinks and munchies at base camp and the people where very helpful in showing us the possible routes and times. It is also good to note that Eden Adventures specialize in organizing adventure tours in the area and even hire out canoes if you forget your kayak at home. If you do bring your own boat, you will just need to pay Park Fees which is covered by your wildcard if you have one. If I am not mistaken the cost was something like R25/p for a day.You get there by taking the Wilderness National Park, Eden Adventures turnoff from the N2 and looking out for the Eden Adventures board once your enter the National Park.
We first headed out towards the mouth of the lagoon which is a 3km paddle one way. This section of the Touw River has houses on its banks but is still predominately natural with bird life and fish life abound.
Towards the lagoon mouth
It was also interesting to note how the waters outward current increased as we got nearer to the mouth of the lagoon. When we reached the N2 bridge the current was actually quite scary so we turned around and headed up stream. A word of caution – the coast at Wilderness is renowned for being one of the most dangerous seas in South Africa. The big waves and uneven ocean floor make for a messy sea with numerous strong currents that often cause unsuspecting swimmers a little excessive excitement.
North of the launch site
To the north of the launching site the river gets more pristine as you go further up. Wilderness National Park has a beautiful camping site along the river with grass all round and ample shade. As can be seen from the photos, the area past the camp is very wild and mostly natural forest vegetation.
We were fortunate enough to spot a Knysna Loerie hopping around in some trees so if you are a birder, be on the lookout. This is also where the lack of water became more of a problem as there were some very shallow sections along the way. At the point where we stopped, about 2.5km from launch, the hiking trail starts that leads to the waterfall. Apparently it is quite a beautiful walk along the river covered by forest.
The Serpentine River
Branching off of the Touw river is the Serpentine River which is also navigable when the water levels are sufficient. Here grass and bulrush cover the riverbanks and provide shelter for many birds.
We paddled about 12.5km in total but this can be increased by going further along the Serpentine River.
Knysna lagoon is a must do paddle for all paddlers in South Africa. The scenery ranges from natural, lush, forests to playboy style mansions in a matter of minutes.
We decided to launch from the Leisure Island boat club as we figured it would be good to paddle into the lagoon with the incoming tide and out again with the outgoing tide. Please be aware though, we were approached by a gentlemen who asked us to pay R50/boat to launch our boats, we laughed, he laughed, we said his kidding, he said his kidding… Later that day when we were taking the boats out, he made the same joke… somehow I don’t think he was actually joking and maybe he did expect us to pay R50 for the use of the slipway. It is not necessary to launch from here though, if you just drive around Leisure Island you will discover a parking lot for a small beach where launching will also be a breeze. Another place that I can think of is near Lightleys houseboats on the other side of the bridge.
It is vital to take the tides into account. At low tide you will only have access to paddling the major canals whereas during high tide you will definitely have more options to paddle.
At low tide stick to the indicated boating lanes to prevent beaching
Also be very careful when approaching the heads. There is quite a bit of boating activity in the area so be aware of others on the water. Also be careful when you approach the heads on an outgoing tide, the current created by the escaping water, along with shallow banks and reefs can be quite treacherous. It is advisable to stay clear of the heads unless you know what you are doing and are accompanied by someone who knows the area well.
Nature at its best
We started off by first heading towards the Heads to get a few photos and then we paddled our way back to Belvidere hugging the Featherbed Reserve as long as we could. The natural beauty of the Featherbed forest is amazing to see and no photo can do it justice. You just have to experience it to understand.
Something we are not used to is all the cultivated oyster intertidal racks you see in the lagoon. Juvenile oysters imported from Chile or France are sent to oyster nurseries in Port Elizabeth where they stay for about 3 months in conditions which promote rapid development. They are then brought to Knysna and placed in fine plastic mesh bags and tied onto the intertidal racks. This allows the oysters to be exposed during low tide and submersed during high tide. The exposure ensures that parasites are killed and reduces fouling of the bag and oysters by other organisms. After about 9 months they are harvested and sent to Port Elizabeth to complete the final stages of their cultivation.
Featherbed Reserve Coasline
Outeniqua Choo-tjoe rail
Although its manmade, the Knysna Waterfront is another wonderful area to discover. Again, bear in mind that this is a functional harbor with real boats so be aware of other traffic. You really will look rather silly plastered to the bottom of one of the glass bottom Knysna ferry boats.
The Knysna Waterfront
The harbour is also the entrance to Marina which is an a good view of what it’s like to be comfortable in life. We even spotted other kayaks in the marina.
We found a slipway to the west of the harbor where we pulled out our boats so that we could have a milkshakes and chips at Spur(not really dressed for much else). Don’t leave your boats on the slipway unattended as this could cause problems if someone else wants to us it while you not there. There is a little open area next to the yacht club you could leave the boats.
The section back to Leisure Isle felt like it took forever to paddle, maybe its not such a good idea to stop off and have milkshakes and chips, stomachs full – eyes shut syndrome tends to set in.
Leisure Island boat club slipway
All and all we paddled 21km but you could paddle a lot more or a lot less depending on how you feel. To try to optimize you paddling area, keep the tides into consideration.
On Saturday we did another paddle from Big Bay to Melkbos Beach and back. As we were getting ready to turn round and head back, we spotted a rather large fin sticking out of the water a few meters away from us. The shape and movement of the fin indicated that the creature it belonged to was not a seal or a dolphin. With caution we moved a little closer to try and indentify the owner of the large fin. As is usually the case when approaching an unknown creature of the sea, thoughts of breeching sharks ensured our progress to be slow and careful. Then as we neared, the strange and freakish outline of a sunfish became visible through the murky water. They really are strange creatures!
Sunfish(Mola Mola) are quite common along the coast of Southern Africa and are usually seen when the warmer, jellyfish rich currents hug our coasts. Also interesting to note that they are the heaviest bony fish in the world with the average weight of 1000kg. This is easy to imagine when you see that what looks like a rather flat fish is actually not that flat.
The amazing thing is that the sunfish was just as inquisitive about us as we were of him/her.
Yesterday we introduced Suzaan’s sister to the cozy, comfortable and dry world of sit-inside kayaks. Linelle has paddled before but only on a sit-on top kayak so at first the whole concept of a splash skirt was rather difficult to understand and maybe even a little daunting. As I recall, the first time I went kayaking the thought of attaching myself to something that can capsize and potentially drown me just didn’t make too much sense at the time. That sentiment didn’t last long however, the first cold wave that splashed onto my lap had me raving about this wonderful skirt that keeps the cockpit warm and dry. Of course capsizing a few times and performing wet exits added to the confidence and appreciation for the splashy. After a short while you become so accustomed to having it on that you actually feel rather naked without it and its at times like these that you realize how many rogue waves and water droplets actually make their way into your cockpit. As Suz can attest, splash skirts also prevent unprotected, bare legs from getting roasted in the sun as they tend to be 100% UV resistant. Its hard to beleive but Suzaan managed to burn herself some bobby sox which lasted for more than a year. The sun is so dangerous these days, you cannot afford to go out unprotected, especially not when its cloudy.
the customary visit to the Seal family
Linelle looking comfortable