This experience involved seals. Fat, adorable, sun-bathing seals.
I had heard that Abel Tasman National Park was pretty gorgeous and we happened to be in the area so we went for it. After visiting the information center, it was clear that the THING to do there was sea kayaking and since we had never sea kayaked before, we booked a trip.
Choosing A Company
The information center had so many pamphlets for sea kayaking that I took a defeated seat in the middle of the floor and aimlessly flipped through them all, thinking about what I would eat for dinner. Hating the thought of expending any energy on planning, I opted for waiting in line, asking the girl at the counter which was the cheapest option and letting her do all the booking work for me.
We didn’t want to spend a ton of money and we didn’t want to be stuck with a guide either so we booked a kayak rental with Independent Kayaks. It cost $55 NZ dollars per person for a double kayak, all the necessary gear and a safety briefing.
We initially joked about the seemingly unnecessary, hour long safety briefing scheduled for eight thirty but were eating our words when we realized that sea kayaking was a bit more intense than what we were used to.
Richard, our instructor, showed us how to use the dry bags, how to secure ourselves into the kayak with a splash guard and what to do if a wave were to flip us over, trapping us under the water. We did drills to practice how to save our partner if they were stuck in a flipped kayak, how to get them back in the thing if they became injured and how to get ourselves back on board if things went wrong. I wasn’t scared or nervous before, but I definitely was by the end of our briefing.
But, we stayed clear of large waves, were extremely careful around the rocks when trying to check out the seals and had no mishaps. In fact, the worst thing that happened to me was the nasty scratch I got from the company cat who didn’t appreciate my affection.
What To Expect
Do not be fooled, this day outing is a workout. It’s all fun and games until it’s time to return to the beach and you just would rather float back than dip that paddle into the water one more time. Aside from the physical demands, make sure to bring a bathing suit and towel for the island beaches, a camera to get shots of the seals, plenty of water and lunch.
Oh, sunscreen too. Don’t forget it! You will have the entire afternoon to kayak around, make as many stops as you please and pretty much have the freedom that you could only hope to get from a company called Independent Kayaks.
Where To Stay
The pickup point for our kayak company was at Old Macdonald’s Farm campground so we figured we would save the morning commute and just stay there overnight. The grounds are huge and there are multiple kitchens, showers and lounges with WIFI. You’ll have to pay to use it but it reaches around the grounds. Best of all, they have some pretty wild Alpacas that will let you get in a pet if it’s quick!