Kayaking in Antarctica offers adventurers a rare opportunity to intimately explore the icy coastal landscapes and wildlife that resides in the surrounding oceans of the White Continent. Gliding through frigid waters in double kayaks with the guidance of expert polar guides allows you to discover secluded bays, observe curious whales and seals up close, and watch as scores of penguins swim out to feed and weave through brash ice. From a distance, towering bergs and bright blue glaciers seen from sea level is an unforgettable experience.

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The perspective aboard a kayak is ideal for photographers searching for that unique shot with an impossibly beautiful vantage point. Naturalists and visitors that decide to go kayaking often say they feel at one with the ocean and wildlife they encounter. Every day is different, from the varied ice formations to the vast assortment of wildlife that frequent the calm Antarctic fjords.

–Anna Zuckerman-Vdovenko
Expedition Designer – Secret Atlas

Why Go Kayaking in Antarctica

Kayaking Antarctica

Get closer to Antarctica’s stunning icescapes and varied wildlife than is possible on land or aboard a ship

Kayaking in Antarctica

Paddle in small groups for a more personalized, peaceful experience

Kayakers in Antarctica

Stay active while exploring the dramatic Antarctic environment

A group of Kayakers in Antarctica

See sights not visible to regular cruise passengers

Appreciate the grandeur and silence of Antarctica at water level

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What to Expect During an Antarctica Kayaking Expedition

Typical Kayaking Excursions

Some Antarctic ships offer kayaking as an optional activity you can book in advance. On designated kayaking days, while other passengers go ashore, kayakers launch earlier to paddle to that day’s landing site, exploring along the way. 

Kayaking outings typically last 2-3 hours depending on conditions. Guides select routes best suited to the group’s abilities, aiming to maximize wildlife sightings and interactions with ice.

You’ll often have the landing sites to yourselves on arrival, as other passengers come later.

After beaching kayaks, you can join regular excursions before paddling back to the ship when your group is ready. You get the best of both worlds – adventuring by kayak plus ample time to explore on foot with everyone else!

What You’ll See While Kayaking

Kayaking allows intimate encounters with Antarctica’s abundant wildlife. Paddling silently means there is potential for whales, seals and penguins to approach closely without disturbing them. 
It’s also the best way to appreciate the dizzying variety of ice, from brash ice chunks to towering tabular bergs and wave-sculpted growlers. Kayakers routinely enter icy coves too small for ships to access. They often watch dozing crabeater and Weddell seals hauled out on the the bergs, thrill to the close encounter with the occasional leopard seal showing off its characteristic toothy grin and delight paddling alongside spirited penguins porpoising by.
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Kayaking Conditions

The calm, ice-strewn waters surrounding the Antarctic Peninsula offer ideal kayaking conditions for much of the season. Expedition staff monitor conditions daily to ensure safe, enjoyable outings matched to the group’s abilities. 

Weather can change rapidly, occasionally limiting paddling opportunities, but you’ll likely kayak on 50-75% of days. Seasickness is less common while kayaking than aboard ships. Beginners welcome – neither kayaking expertise nor ability to roll are required.

Guest Stories

People are at the heart of everything we do here at Secret Atlas, and our guests' experience is top of our list.

We've put together a video for our guests to share their experiences with you, or you can read guests' stories below.

Antarctica Kayaking Expeditions

Kayaking Excursion Logistics

Booking Kayaking in Antarctica 

Kayaking is offered as an optional add-on activity on many Antarctic cruises. Due to its popularity, we advise you to register your interest well in advance to secure your spot! Last-minute signups may be possible if spaces remain.

Couples and friends paddle in double kayaks. Solo travelers will be paired up by guides.

Gear Provided

High-quality gear suited to polar conditions will be provided:

  • Double sit-in kayaks
  • Paddles with drip rings
  • Spray skirts
  • Wetsuits / drysuits
  • Pogies (paddle mittens)
  • PFDs (life jackets)
  • Neoprene boots
  • Dry bags

What to Bring

You’ll want to wear or pack:

  • Sunglasses & sunscreen
  • Insulating layers
  • Warm hat & thin gloves
  • Backup clothing
  • Camera
  • Waterproof sack for photo gear

Kayaking in Antarctica FAQs

Some previous paddling experience is recommended, but you don’t need to be an expert. As long as you feel comfortable getting in and out of your kayak and can control your direction, you should be well prepared for the activity.

Double kayaks are generally used as they are more stable, especially for less experienced paddlers. Solo travelers will be paired up. If you have strong experience, you may request a single kayak, at the discretion of guides.

Unfortunately not – each person needs to be registered individually to be assigned appropriate gear and receive safety briefings. Only people signed up can join kayaking.

Don’t worry – between your wetsuit, personal flotation device, and being surrounded by guides, falling in the water is not dangerous. You’ll simply climb back aboard, perhaps with an assist from the nearby safety Zodiac.

Visiting Antarctica by ship is extremely safe overall. You’ll be with experienced polar guides focused on safety at all times. The remote location necessitates extra preparedness, but responsible tour operators take this very seriously.

Cold, dry air can make it feel harder to breathe deeply during outdoor exertion. The time of the year ships visit Antarctica is the austral summer, so temperatures especially along the Antarctic Peninsula are usually commensurate with a ski resort. Adjusting your pace helps compensate for physical activity such as kayaking or hiking in Antarctica. Staying well hydrated also helps ease breathing. Unless you have severe respiratory issues, breathing difficulty should not limit your Antarctic adventures.

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