Tropical Winter Kayaking Options

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Uganda. Photo: Ben Marr

Well, winter is swooping in at full stride. I pulled my drysuit out of the closet in the middle of November, and haven’t paddled without it since then. The past few weeks have been one big paddling party with the huge storm cells that have been rolling through the Southeast, but it’s definitely getting colder out there!

As the mercury drops, and the non-diehards pack their gear away for the winter, there are still options.  If you have the desire and the funds to book a plane ticket and experience world-class whitewater in warmer climates, here are a few options that I can personally vouch for…

White Nile, Uganda

This is an incredible river and truly a one-of-a-kind experience. The river is divided into two sections, with different lodging options for both. The day one section can be made as difficult as you could possibly want, with multiple channel options, and rapids with names like Bujagali Falls, Widowmaker, The Dead Dutchman, Silverback, and Itanda. Day two is a more mellow section of river that starts out with a bang at the two legendary put-in options, Kalagala Falls or Hypoxia. This section also ends at The Hairy Lemon island resort, which means that you can surf the incredible Nile Special wave as long as you could possibly want right next to your tent or cabin. Also check out the Murchison Falls National Park eight hours’ drive north of the White Nile to go on safari and round out your African experience.

Lodging: Eden Rock Resort and The Hairy Lemon
Season: All year long!  You are on the equator.
Fly into: Entebbe. Talk to NRE or the Hairy Lemon owners for shuttle
Don’t forget: Your malaria meds and sunscreen.

Futaleufu, Chile

This was actually my first international kayaking trip at the age of 15, and I’ve been dying to go back ever since. This river is one of the most stunning places that you can find yourself as a kayaker. It is comprised of the crystal-clear runoff of the northern end of the Patagonia mountain range, and gives up everything from class II to V whitewater throughout its 50 miles or more of runnable whitewater sections. Class IV paddlers or higher… absolutely do not miss staying in “Cave Camp” next to the ferocious Zeta Rapid at the bottom of the Inferno Canyon section. Bring a playboat or river runner to experience the intricacies of this amazing place.

Lodging: Get in touch with Expediciones Chile for food, lodging, and guides
Season: December-February
Fly into: Puerto Montt, then take a ferry down to Chaiten for the inland journey
Don’t forget: Your drytop.  You are in the mountains and the weather can change quickly!

New Zealand

Do yourself a favor and put New Zealand near the top of your paddling bucket list. From the moment that you land in Auckland, you will have countless options available for playboating, river running, creeking, and ocean surfing. New Zealand is a great destination due to the fact that everyone speaks English, and if you are there for more than three weeks, you can pretty much break even on transportation by simply purchasing an old car, and then selling it at the end of the trip. Destinations to check out include the legendary Kaituna River in Rotorua, as well as the Taupo area, both of which are great class III-IV North Island destinations. The South Island is creekers’ paradise, and it’s best to head straight to the town of Hokitika on the West Coast. The Mahinapua Pub, and its’ adjoining campground are the epicenter for the most incredible class V helicopter kayaking trips in the world. Don’t miss the Arahura, Upper Perth, and the Styx and Upper Crooked hike-ins.

Lodging: Mahinapua Campground in Hokitika, many options at Kaituna
Season: December-February
Fly into: Auckland (cheapest) or Christchurch
Don’t forget: Your game face… South Island rivers are beautiful but challenging.

Honorable Mentions

(Only because I haven’t been there)

Costa Rica
This is definitely one of the best destinations for class II, III and IV paddlers who want to experience a unique culture and beautiful jungle rivers. Ladies, check out Anna Levesque’s Girls At Play week-long trips for an awesome instructional river experience with other women. Additional information on the area can be found on the Costa Rica Rios website.

Pucon, Chile
This is the recent hot destination for class IV-V paddlers who want to run perfect waterfalls. The media that has come out of the Palguin, Nevados, and other rivers in the area is just incredible, and I cannot wait to check that place out. If you’re planning on going, Rodrigo Tuschner from Kayak Pucon can definitely help you out.

I hope everyone is having a great holiday season and getting outside as much as possible!

Good Lines.

 

 

 

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