Friday, May 13, 2011

Favorite paddling destinations: the world

Last post, I listed my favorite paddling places in Canada. Now, to paraphrase broadcast news legend, Paul Harvey, "here are the rest of the places."

In other words, some of my favorite paddling trips around the rest of the world.

It's kind of a mirror image of my Canada trips, in that while my Canadian favs all involve canoeing, most of these are kayaking excursions - the notable exception being the Okefenokee Swamp.

1. The Oriente, Ecuador
Dawn along the Rio Shiripuno,
in Ecuador's Oriente.
Specifically, the Rio Shirpuno. We spent five days paddling along this jungle river, camping along the riverbanks three of the nights, staying a fourth night in a Huaorani village. The chief of the tribe, Moi, was our head jungle guide. Saw plenty of parrots, toucans and other birds, plus some caimans. One of the unique aspects of this trip was the face we were paddling small touring (sea) kayaks on a moderately fast-moving river. No rapids or whitewater to speak of, though. Read more about at A Journey Back into Time. 

2. Belize Barrier Reef
My first foray into sea-kayaking, took place at this UNESCO World Heritage site back in 1991. Great trip, we spent five days cay-hopping out to the reef - the second largest in the world - and back, camping on desert islands, snorkeling and learning the secrets of a good rum punch. Lots of outfitters run trips here.

Canoeing Okefenokee.

This is the largest national wildlife refuge in the U.S., east of the Mississippi. It's home to deer, black bears, plenty of birds and - the animal most people associate with the swamp - alligators. Spent three days paddling there, camping out two nights, and I must have seen 50 gators, many up close. Saw plenty of birds, too - herons, cranes, songbirds, raptors - and even some deer.

4. Everglades National Park, Part 1
Mention the Everglades, people automatically think, "swamp." Yes, there are swamps there, but much of the park consists of a "sea of grass" as well as mangroves, coastal islands, and wet "prairies." I spent half-a-day paddling a canoe through the Big Cypress National Preserve. Saw a few gators, and plenty of birds.
5. Everglades National Park, Part 2
I spent much  more time paddling a kayak among the Ten Thousand Islands, a series of coastal mangrove islands in the park. Saw plenty of wildlife - dolphin, sea turtles, manatees, herons, egrets, songbirds, ospreys, and many very small but pesky raccoons - but nary a gator, the animal many people associate with the 'Glades. It actually reminded me very of Belize - we camped on sandy island beaches every night.

Camping in the Everglades:
no swamps to be seen, anywhere.

This river provides plenty of opportunity for paddlers to get up close to anhingas, herons, egrets, many varieties of songbirds - and alligators. It's within shouting distance of Cape Canaveral, so you could see gators one day, gantries the next. I spent an entire day paddling a very stable, open-pit kayak - kind of like a cross between a canoe and kayak, really - and the river is slow enough that you have plenty of opportunity to stop and check out points of interest along the shore.

7. The Mangroves of Grand Cayman Island
I've never really trusted those "sit-on-top" kayaks after spending an afternoon trying to stay atop one in the surf at Lake Malawi. But on this trip, I had no choice - it was the only type of kayak the tour company provided, at least for this particular tour. And I was even put on a-two person kayak with a non-paddler. But since we weren't dealing with big waves in the mangroves, we never really risked tipping (whew!) We did learn lots about the different kinds of mangroves, though - red, white and black - and the role they play in coastal ecology.

1 comment:

  1. John, I did a very similar trip in Ecuador's Oriente, along the Shiripuno, (maybe 5-7 days, can't remember exactly), back in 1991! We had long dugout canoes and also camped along the river banks. It was an unforgettable experience!