South Georgia: Extreme Sea Kayaking and Wildlife Galore!

Mone Petsod

01 Mar 2019

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NWS client Mone grabs her paddle and heads to the Subantarctic

Kayaking with penguins, fur seals and elephant seals in the remote island of South Georgia, just under 1,000 miles from Antarctica, while bobbing in metre-high swells and 60-knot winds and billowing snow. Cold. Wet. Exhilarating. And crazy fun. It was the wildest thing I have done, ever.

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I had kayaked only three times in my life and in a very calm sea. However, calm it is not in South Georgia. I knew I was kayaking in far rougher waters than I ever had before. But I was determined to grab the opportunity and enjoy the experience in this remote wilderness where very few people have visited.

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Naive or ignorant as I was, I had an absolute trust in my guides and pushed the inherent dangers out of my mind. I realised how fortunate I was and that my trust was not misplaced when I learned afterwards that I was receiving personal guidance and instructions from the most amazing kayaking experts in the field.

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On our second outing, while negotiating our way through a narrow passage, I felt a jolt behind me that kicked my adrenaline into high gear. I thought my paddling partner who had been reassuring me how stable the kayak was had made a sudden move that tilted the kayak. She informed me that a fur seal actually bumped our kayak, intentionally. Oops.

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All I wanted when I signed up for the trip to South Georgia was to see king penguins and their chicks. Flipping in a kayak into the icy Antarctic convergence was not on the agenda.

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High seas, rough weather, gigantic elephant seal bulls fighting for harems, and aggressive fur seals jostling for position on each landing beach put the expedition team on high alert. Time and time again, the team with hiking poles in hand (to keep fur seals at bay) lined up to form a corridor and ushered us along toward the penguin colonies.

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It was difficult not to linger to take in the rugged beauty and the immense wildlife that greeted us at every turn. We were instructed to give the wildlife the right of way and to keep at least a 10-metre distance from the animals.

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But what does one do when seal pups cry for their mums or look at you with those doe eyes and scoot over to you and nudge you with their jowelled snout? What does one do when penguins approach you with their head tilted or when brown woolly chicks peck at your camera?

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And what does one do when hit with plain after plain after plain covered with hundreds of thousands of adult king penguins and brown woolly youngsters?

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This Subantarctic island in the most remote sea at the end of the earth filled me with awe.

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