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Another happy customer writes a blog post

  • January 16, 2012 11:38 am

Check out the original blog and see the pictures here!

The Most Frightening Kayak Trip On The Planet

Posted on January 8, 2012 by Earl

Have you ever had an experience that you were so excited about before it began, but then, once you found yourself in the middle of that experience, you started to wonder if it was such a good idea after all?

That’s exactly what I went through at one point during my visit to South Africa. And it all had to do with an early morning kayak ride.

Ordinarily, I am more than happy to participate in a leisurely kayak experience and never have I felt my life threatened in any way whatsoever while paddling around any body of water. But, when I found myself paddling a kayak around the St. Lucia Estuary in South Africa, that all changed, and it changed quite quickly.

Fish don’t scare me, but what does scare me is the sight of an 8-inch shark fin rising out of the water only 2 meters from my kayak, just seconds after leaving the shore, especially when there was never any mention of sharks during the orientation we received before getting into the water.

And when I pointed out to our guide that I saw what appeared to be a shark fin, only then did he inform us that this estuary is, in fact, home to three different kinds of sharks. Great news.

However, after keeping my eye on the middle of the estuary for about five minutes and not seeing any more fins, I finally began to relax and enjoy the paddling. But of course, when the main aim of your kayak trip is to spot hippos and crocodiles in the wild, any moments of relaxation are not going to last very long at all.

The first crocodile we spotted was resting on the bank of the water, but once our three kayaks were only 8 meters or so away, it quickly entered the water and began to swim off. I started to breathe again, right until the son-of-a-witch turned around, popped it’s two eyes out of the water and just stared at me. Yes, me.

Then, as my kayaking partner Rachelle (from and I frantically tried to catch up to the rest of the group (we were in the kayak at the back), the crocodile would dip down into the murky water and ten seconds later, re-appear in a new location, still following me, still staring me down and still making me somewhat nervous.

Crocodiles eat people. And being in the wild with them, busting through their habitat in three large kayaks suddenly seemed like quite a questionable idea. It continued to seem like a questionable idea for the next fifteen minutes as that massive crocodile swam behind me, once even popping up directly to my right, only 3 meters away.

To be honest, the only thing that could take my attention away from the thought of being eaten by a crocodile, was the thought of being snapped in half by a hippopotamus.

So, when we spotted a 2000 kg hippo grazing on the side of the estuary and then suddenly head towards the water, break into a jog (apparently hippos can run at a speed of 44 kms/hr) and continue jogging in the direction of our kayaks, I really began preparing for a most unfortunate end to my life.

Luckily, the hippo ran right into the water where he, too, proceeded to stick only his eyes above the surface, watching us quite closely, just as the crocodile was doing from the other direction.

Now you might think that the ideal thing to do at this point in order to calm down and regain one’s composure would be to take a break from kayaking, a short rest if you will. We took a break alright, paddling across the estuary to a quiet spot along the shore where we parked the kayaks and stepped onto dry land. But this ‘quiet spot’ turned out to be an area where hippos enter and exit the water in order to eat.

And if there’s one thing I learned about hippos during my time in South Africa, it’s that these beasts do not appreciate it when anything or anyone is standing in their path as they roam the banks of an estuary. So what did we do? We hung around this area for about ten minutes.

In the end, we were not attacked of course, but when we climbed back into the kayaks, we were then taken to an area of thick marshes, narrow channels and mangrove forests, all places that could easily hide a hungry crocodile or hippopotamus.

It was not a comfortable ride as I tried to pay close attention to my surroundings, as if my spotting a crocodile swimming towards me would in any way prevent it from biting off my arm.

In all honesty, this was the scariest activity I have ever participated in. Scarier than sky-diving, scarier than swimming with whale-sharks, scarier than volcano boarding in Nicaragua, scarier than traveling to Pakistan or Afghanistan.

But, at the same time, just as is the case with all of those above experiences, kayaking with crocodiles, hippopotamuses and sharks is something I would do again without hesitation. It’s also something that I would recommend to every individual who travels to this part of the world. Just face the fear, feel the terror of being surrounded, in the wild, by such amazing creatures.

After all, this is perhaps one of the most unique opportunities in South Africa to get so very close to these animals. It’s impossible to describe the feeling properly so you’ll just have to experience it for yourself.

And just think of the photos you’ll take!

Our kayak tour in South Africa was operated by St. Lucia Kayak Safaris, which I would recommend to anyone looking for adventure and interesting knowledge about the area and wildlife you encounter.

New e-mail from some happy kayakers :)

  • October 10, 2011 3:13 pm

“This is an email to say many thanks for the fabulous day trip you organised for Neil, Cherry and Carl Harrington on 20th Sep 2011. You kindly changed it from the 19th, which was wild and wet.

We went kayaking in the morning followed by a safari trip out to Cape Vidal, where we swam and had a delicious bbq, surrounded by onlooking monkeys and mongoose.

Attached are a couple of photos!

Best wishes for a great season.”

The Harringtons - 2011

Hey Cheri, Neil and Carl! You are more than welcome, and we are glad you all enjoyed it so much.

See you next year!

New poster for St Lucia Kayak Safaris!

  • September 13, 2011 10:01 am

Carly – aged 8 – decided that we needed a new poster, and here it is!

All our guides are freshly qualified

  • September 1, 2011 3:04 pm

Justin, Phillip and Carl all completed their kayak guide qualifications this week. Even after trying to chop his finger off and sporting 14 stitches, Carl battled on. As the newest member of our crew this earnt him some nice little brownie points with the boys.

It isn’t all plain sailing, you have to be able to get back in once you fall out… easier than it looks.

As if that wasn’t bad enough they then were assessed whilst they took a group out on the water!

If you click for larger image you can see that the splashing is actually a crocodile running into the water...

But it wasn’t all on quiet, flat water, oh no…

Despite it being hard work they had great fun, although that water was pretty cold…

Note: Justin is smugly sitting nice and warm on the kayak as Phillip shivers and Carl drowns

With thanks to Andrew Kellett for assessing our guys.

Great News! – More water for Lake St. Lucia

  • July 28, 2011 9:19 am

ZWF News – More water for Lake St Lucia – ZO STORY: Dave Savides – 25/07/11

The mouth of the Mfolozi River has been opened to the sea by breaching the beach berm, to prevent back-flooding of low-lying sugar cane fields after recent heavy rains swelled the river, and to allow marine species to enter through the back channels

A new channel is being opened to increase the flow of fresh water from the Mfolozi River into Lake St Lucia. According to the iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, progress on the second back channel has been impeded due to the recent unseasonal heavy Winter rains and resultant muddy conditions, but excavation will continue once conditions improve. ‘The creation of the second channel linking the Mfolozi River to the estuary is a significant step in bringing relief to Lake St Lucia following the eight-year drought in north-eastern KZN,’ said Andrew Zaloumis, iSimangaliso Wetland Authority CEO. ‘It will assist in maintaining the viability of the St Lucia system and allowing the Mfolozi to naturally link into the St Lucia estuary as it did before man’s intervention. ‘Over the past 50 years, there have been numerous attempts to solve the problems that have arisen as a result of the changes to the Mfolozi catchment and St Lucia system. ‘It is evident that no quick fix solution is possible. ‘Using the best available science, we are implementing an ongoing, well researched management strategy to improve the ecological viability of the St Lucia system with its adjoining wetlands,’ said Zaloumis. ‘Based on the review of current scientific knowledge, particularly the recent research on the sources and dispersal of sediments, and an assessment of the status of the Lake St Lucia system, the Mfolozi and St Lucia mouths will be allowed to combine during the rainy season. ‘iSimangaliso is currently implementing a $9-million Global Environmental Facility (GEF) project which is developing a longer term solution to improve the hydrological functioning of Lake St Lucia by investigating alternative management options and selecting the most feasible solutions. ‘Ezemvelo staff are working with the iSimangaliso staff in implementing these new measures and we certainly look forward to seeing the results,’ he said.

Well done Justin!

  • June 26, 2011 2:43 pm

A couple of days ago Justin, our lead guide, reported a string of floats spotted on the Estuary whilst on a paddle with guests.

With EKZN Wildlife officials we went out and recovered what ended up being a long gill net set by illegal fisherman.

After nearly an hour and a half of struggling with the net we managed to
release what we estimate to be around 500 fish back into the estuary. In the end there were only 10 dead fish we couldn’t save!

Great spotting Justin!

What a busy day!

  • June 25, 2011 11:50 am

We are proud to announce that St Lucia Kayak Safaris has this week been awarded the new tender to operate the kayaking trips by the iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority.  This is the start of what will be a very exciting partnership with the iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority.

The new tender includes exclusive new areas of operation like the restricted access area at Catalina Bay on the Eastern shores and for the first time ever, sea kayaking at Cape Vidal.

Looking forward to bringing you the brand new adventures! Watch this space!

Greetings from St Lucia!

  • February 28, 2011 11:58 am

Hi all! The sunshine and light, breezy afternoons have conspired to treat guests to amazing hippo sightings during the last week as we were lucky enough on one occasion to have 4 adult hippo in a very playfull mood- breaching, rolling and chasing eachother around in the water fairly close to our kayaks. On another occasion while parked on the banks of crocodile island, one hippo decided to get out onto the island for a graze, unperturbed by our presence. We did however back off slightly after he gave us a big yawn and a bit off a stare, making sure everybody knows who has right of way in and around the estuary!  These sightings offered very good photographic opportunities, so if you were there please share your pics with us and you might win a Kayak Safaris T-shirt for your efforts!

Hippo haven

  • February 21, 2011 7:59 pm

Just got off the water after the perfect late afternoon paddle. With a light breeze just enough to take the edge off the scorching sunshine, a few hippo decided to get out onto crocodile island for a snack. With the wind in our favour we sat hidden by some reed beds with these 3 hippo grazing to within 30 meters away from us, seemingly unaware of our presence.  They eventually returned to the water where one decided to have a back scratch by means of rollng around on his back in the shallows. An unforgetable experience indeed!

Hi all!

  • February 14, 2011 4:47 pm

Been having a brilliant time out there and paddlers have been rewarded with very good sightings and a few fairly close-up encounters of  hippo as they huddle up in the shallows on those hot summer mornings, making for some good photographic opportunities. Also spotting some big crocs regularly as the still dropping water level opens up bigger banks for basking crocs. For the birders; a variety of sandpipers and plovers, incl large numbers of Common Ringed Plover, are present at the moment and active on the islands and as a bonus we have had a few recent sightings of Little Bittern.