Kayaking to glory – cleaving through the Barrier Reef
On his desert island, Robinson Crusoe had made a Kayak (the English call it canoe) so big that he couldn’t pull it to the sea. Thankfully, today we have lighter versions made of fiberglass, polyethylene, Kevlar, carbon fibre, Royalex or hand-built systems like the ‘skin-on-frame’ varieties. Today, kayaking is an immensely popular sporting and entertainment activity, and is catching up fast around the world. And Great Barrier Reef allows one of the most exotic and fantastic kayaking trips in the whole world.
The world’s largest coral reef, the Great Barrier Reef stretches over 2000 kilometers, hugging the Queensland coast of Australia throughout. It is so big that it is even visible from space! Called the largest living animal, the coral reef and the coral islands are actually the living bodies and dead shells and deposits of billions of corals – in the whole Great Barrier system, there are 900 islands and 3000 coral reefs. While the Europeans first came to know of the Reef as late as 1770 when Captain Cook ran aground it, Indigenous Australians knew about it from the beginning.
The corals of the reefs provide a huge natural breakwater, making sure the water is rather calmer that it would have been before the birth of the reef. This has been a godsend for kayaking. While whitewater kayaking is much more tumultuous, most of the tourists trying their hands at sea kayaking at the Reef are either new to it, or only modestly experienced. Therefore, the relatively placid water makes for easier kayaking and fewer capsizing (and less disturbing of corals). The waters allow the kayaks to be relatively more flat bottomed, allowing for better floatation stability. But even if you tumble, don’t worry, don’t worry even if you don’t know the ‘eskimo roll’. The kayak would stay afloat. Besides the guides and helpers from the kayak company would be nearby.
The kayaking opportunities are many around the Cairns, Palm Cove area. From Palm Cove, one can paddle around the resort Island of Double Island. One can also take a walk on the private beaches, provided the touring company has asked permission for this. A holiday destination for the rich and the famous, Double Island has better attractions in the form of dolphins, turtles, manta rays, and other marine life. Other parts of the island include beautiful tropical gardens, where you can have a relish of delightful tropical fruits, or have a nice cup of coffee or tea. One can get stunning views of the coast, Cape Tribulation and Daintree from this location.
But perhaps the greatest charm of kayaking on the Great Barrier Reef is the close proximity with the corals. The millions shades of colors, the bewildering shapes, the swaying tips of live corals and the surprising encounters with flighty fish shoals (with god knows how many millions fishes in them!) are unique experiences. As you sink in a pleasant sunset from the water, you might feel like never returning. Some try a compromise – there are some liveaboards where you can stay for a few days if you don’t feel like leaving!
The Great Barrier Reef is a fragile environment, and is heavily regulated. One must make sure that the ecological balance and the sanctity of the reef is maintained so that you and I may enjoy this heavenly gift for all time to come.
The reef is a huge stretch of wonder and can be accessed from anywhere. But the best access point is probably from Cairns area, another charming place around 25 minutes from Palm Cove that can keep you busy with sights, sounds and activities for a fortnight. And visitors to Double Island can stay at the Sanctuary Palm Cove which is situated just across a narrow channel of the Great Barrier Reef which provides luxurious accommodation facilities to add comfort to the trip.