The idea of traversing the Turks and Caicos Islands in a kayak is not a new one. The Taino Indians who lived here centuries before today’s inhabitants hollowed out trees and used branches to paddle between islands around the Caribbean Sea and across the Caicos banks in search of resources. This principle of kayaking as a means of exploring is still used today, but modern man has added a timeworn twist.
Leaving the safe harbor of the Leeward Channel you’re filled with excitement, the promise of an unforgettable experience lays ahead.
Paddling through the Princess Alexandra Nature Park, you continue along the wetlands of Water Cay and Pine Cay where starfish dot the path.
After quite a while of kayaking – mostly into the wind – you notice your muscles slowly tiring. You turn to see nothing but the sea and sand behind you and your mind starts to question if your body will have the strength to return.
Big Blue guide, Michael, signals to the pristine nearby beach, demarcating the halfway point of the journey, and you and the rest of the group happily make for the beach. You take a quick break on the untouched beach. Birds flock overhead. You notice an iguana peak through the sea oats atop the dunes. Far away from civilization you have discovered a perfect demonstration of nature’s beauty.
The crystal clear turquoise water invites you for a swim. Feeling refreshed you prepare for the return journey. Michael reminds you of a few pointers as he hands you a blue Kayak sail attached to the kayak with relative ease. With the horizon always at your side, you slowly set adrift in the opposite direction, heading home on a journey that you never thought you could still make on your own accord.
The wind whips at your back, blowing energetically into the sail in front of you. Your sleek craft effortlessly cuts through the water, requiring little effort from your tired muscles. A turtle pops its head out of the beautiful water, before cruising away effortlessly beneath the surface.
After a relaxed journey back full of sightseeing and basking in the sun, you make a last effort to paddle back along the Leeward channel. Your destination in sight, you let the kayak drift into the docks. Packing up the sail in a matter of seconds, you realize the feelings of joy for the experience and a tinge of disappointment that the adventure is over. After all, you could have easily ‘sailed’ on down Grace Bay beach, alas with no strength left to paddle back up against the wind and current.
If you think a scene this special could only be something from a dream, think again. Experiencing raw nature, just you, the water and the sound of the wind, with indigenous animals around every corner is reality in the ‘beautiful by nature’ TCI.
A kayak sail functions like an umbrella fastened to the front of the kayak, simply controlled by one bungee cord. The ability to use the wind means you only need to paddle for one leg of the journey, and harness the power of the wind for the return leg (and it is distinctly recommended in that order).
For the kayaker and adventurer, the Kayak Paddle and Sail Adventure brings more of the Caicos Cays within reach – in a raw and unplugged kind of way – using all of your energy on the journey to the halfway point. The experienced guide helps you fix the sail to optimize the potential of the wind and give you maximum control over the kayak. “Essentially it is an opportunity to explore further up the coast because you’re only using energy one way,” explains Big Blue operator and spirited resident adventurer Mark Parrish, who brought the idea of combining kayaking and sailing to the islands.
Introduced to the Wind Paddle Kayak Sail by a guest, Parrish was immediately intrigued by the idea. A pioneer in ecotourism, he and business partner Philip Shearer have been enamored with the idea of showing people the “real Turks and Caicos” since they started Big Blue in 1998.
This guided trip offers a unique opportunity to travel further than on the classic ‘Kayak Eco-Tour’, and enjoy a moderate workout in paradise (distance will vary according to the wind conditions and kayak abilities).
Oh! And one more thing – don’t forget the eco-friendly, biodegradable sunscreen
Images: SEAN BRADY/KAIERI PHOTOGRAPHY