Sea-kayaking trips for beginners

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of April 9-15, 1998
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Sea-kayaking trips for beginners
Question: I am interested in a sea-kayaking trip, but have zero experience. Trips to Alaska and Baja California seem the most tempting. Any thoughts?

Mark Hanson
Littleton, Colorado

Adventure Adviser: Your choice between Alaska and Baja will largely be determined by the time of year you'd like to go. The Baja sea kayaking season is October through May, and the Alaska season is June through September. In Alaska, you'll be paddling chilly waters amongst precipitous fjords, calving glaciers, and lounging brown bears. In Baja, on the other hand, you'll be enjoying more sunny days than virtually anywhere else on earth, paddling a jagged, barren, desertous landscape, surrounded by sea lions and grey whales.

Since you've never kayaked before, I definitely recommend you go with an outfitter. Most outfitters offer two styles of trips — an expeditionary trip where you paddle from point A to B and camp at different sites every night, or a base camp trip where you stay at the same camp every night, but have ample opportunity for day trips from base camp. There are quite a few reputable companies to choose from in either Alaska or Baja. Most of these companies require no experience, but to be on the safe side, be sure to ask. In Alaska, Alaska Discovery (800-586-1911) is the only company that guides multiday sea-kayaking outings in Glacier Bay. Their eight-day trip includes equipment, meals, and a floatplane ride back to the put-in for approximately $2,000 per person. Northstar Adventures (520-773-9917) offers trips to Prince William Sound and Kenai Fjords National Park. A four-day trip with equipment and meals costs $1,050; a five-day trip costs $1,300. (Northstar offers trips in Baja as well.) If paddling Alaska's Inside Passage sounds more appealing than the frightfully open waters of the sound, try Tongass Kayak Adventures (907-772-4600, call for prices)

In Baja, most companies run their trips out of La Paz, which is far south on the Gulf of California side of Baja. Baja Expeditions (800-843-6967) offers seven- and ten-day trips for $950 to $1,395. Ecosummer Expeditions (888-499-0628) offers one- and two-week trips for $1,045 to $1,795. SeaQuest Expeditions (360-378-5767) offers eight-day trips for $995 to $1,095.

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