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  • Writer's pictureJulie Prusak

Sea Kayaking in Greenland: My Best Mother-Daughter Arctic Moment

Updated: Jan 5, 2023

The chance to paddle a kayak between enormous icebergs ranks high on my adventure bucket list. During our Silversea Expedition to Antarctica in 2019, our family of five missed the opportunity to kayak due to rough seas on our assigned day. After two years of cruise cancellations, I was even more determined to experience the thrill of gliding through remote polar seas by kayak.

During our highly anticipated Arctic Expedition onboard the Silver Cloud this summer, I finally achieved my goal. It was well worth the wait. In fact, sea kayaking with my daughter was the highlight of my Arctic adventure.

Sea Kayaking with Silversea - Stay Safe and Comfortable

Preparations for sea kayaking in Greenland are considerable, requiring specialized equipment, a support team, some training, and a reasonable fitness level. Thankfully, the experienced Silversea Expedition Team has perfected a program to enable even weekend hikers like me to safely sea kayak.

The program runs parallel to other excursions every day that weather and logistics permit. Up to twelve kayakers per excursion are selected by lottery the evening before from those who have signed up. Don’t forget to sign up each evening if you want to be considered for a slot! On our expedition, everyone who wanted to kayak got a slot. Some people went kayaking multiple times since there were fewer interested guests than slots available.

The Silversea Sea Kayaking program is open to guests who meet these criteria: 16+ in age, have sea kayaking experience, speak and understand conversational English, are able to swim, and are physically and mentally fit. On our expedition, guests who had any kind of kayaking, canoeing, or paddle boarding experience were allowed to participate, provided they attended a mandatory safety briefing and fit into the dry suits available.

Gearing Up

Actually, dressing for the outing was surprisingly the most strenuous aspect. Silversea provides all the gear required to stay safe and comfortable during the nearly three-hour excursion. The staff also provides instructions and demonstrations on how to get into (and out of) the gear, the zodiacs, and most importantly, the kayaks.

From cruise ship to zodiac to kayak and back

Once geared up, our group gathered by the mud room and took two zodiacs to the location where we would kayak. Our kayaks and paddles were delivered by separate support zodiacs. The outing was exciting before we even got into our kayaks!

Unlike some other cruise lines, Silversea does not use sit-on-top or inflatable kayaks on polar expeditions. Each pair of kayakers paddled a hard-shelled kayak with rubber-skirted seats. The skirts kept us warmer and drier during kayaking. In the unlikely event a kayak would tip over, we were taught how to release our skirts and swim to the surface. According to our guide, that has never happened on a Silversea Expedition.

Each person entered their kayak one by one while crew members steadied the kayak against the zodiac. We were handed our paddles and told to practice paddling in small circles while the rest of the group got ready. The person in the back gets to steer the kayak with foot pedals attached to the rudder. Of course, I volunteered to be the back seat driver.

The awe of the experience of sea kayaking

To experience Greenland by kayak is to delve into Arctic nature, immersed in the wilderness and away from daily distractions. One becomes aware of the flow of the current, the ripples caused by birds or mammals, and the almost silence surrounding you except for the distant sounds of calving glaciers or zodiac motors.

Everything is bigger than it looks and farther away than it seems. What looked like small icebergs were several stories high once we approached as close as the guides would allow. We paddled nonstop for almost two hours, yet the glacier remained miles away. I was grateful that the zodiacs picked us up rather than attempt to paddle back to our starting point. On the zodiac ride back to the ship, everyone shared observations and awe and vowed to sign up for another kayak excursion.

In addition to our fantastic Expedition Team, we have the Thule people to thank for the opportunity to experience sea kayaking. Kayaking is an ancient tradition perfected over a thousand years by the Thule people, the ancestors of modern-day Greenlanders, the Inuit. Today, hunters in northwest Greenland still hunt by kayak, passing on these traditional skills from generation to generation. It’s a sport perfectly designed for the Arctic environment. With gear and guidance provided by Silversea, it is the perfect way to experience the breathtaking beauty of this remote environment.

I felt connected to an ancient tradition, part of a community of explorers, and truly immersed in the moment with my daughter paddling in synch through the Greenlandic Sea.

Plan your expedition to Greenland and explore its majestic coastlines the way they’ve been explored for thousands of years by kayak.

Schedule a complimentary travel consultation here.

Contact us today to learn more about planning your trip.

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