5 Places to go Cave-Canoeing

Of all the places that you can’t reach on foot, sea caves are amongst the most fascinating. Some are home to rays and sharks, others are open to the sky, and yet others glow with bioluminescent plankton. So plonk yourself in a canoe or a kayak, and grab an oar. You’ll get a good workout, the chance to experience something new—and it’s eco-friendly to boot.

PHANG NGA BAY, PHUKET Characterised by its towering limestone cliffs, this bay is situated between Phuket and the southern coast of Thailand. Dotted with islands of various sizes, the bay is full of secret places called hongs, which are formed when parts of the island collapse. These parts subsequently fill with water and form lakes, many of which are only accessible through caves. While the hongs are beautiful by day, a combination of bioluminescence and starlight makes them stunning at night. How to do it: Phang-Nga Exploration offers a day trip starting from THB2,900 (Rs5,716) per person that includes hotel transfers, all the equipment, a traditional Thai lunch and a trip to Lawa Island for swimming or relaxing on the beach. John Gray’s Sea Canoe offers a Hong By Starlight tour starting from THB3,950 (Rs7,786) per person that includes all the same things, except that it starts in the afternoon and ends beyond midnight, serving dinner instead of lunch. Apart from the views, the highlight of the tour is making your own Chinese lantern, called a kratong, and launching it into the sky.

LA JOLLA SEA CAVES, SAN DIEGO These seven sister caves were once a secret haven for pirates, only instead of hiding gold and silver, they were used to smuggle human beings. Today however the only occupants of the caves are of the non human variety – seals and sea lions that will bark and moan at you, while pelicans and cormorants fly overhead and leopard sharks, bat rays and garibaldi swim underwater. How to do it: The La Jolla Sea Caves Kayaks have a guided tour starting from $60 (Rs3,704) per person and $80 (Rs4,939) for two people, which includes all the necessary equipment. The 90-minute tour is conducted as many times during daylight hours as conditions permit, from Tuesdays to Sundays.

PONTA DA PIEDADE, LAGOS Just to the west of this Portuguese town is Ponta da Piedade, a stretch of coastline that is as famous for its remarkable bird population as it is for its unusual rock formations. The elements have eroded the cliffs over the years to form all sorts of caves, grottoes and arches, which have been given names like Camel, Sphinx and Kissing Couple. Though you can walk to the rock formations by descending the steps from the lighthouse perched at the top of the cliff, kayaking there gives you a chance to wind your way through the rock pillars and grottos. How to do it: Outdoor-Tours has a three-hour kayak, snorkel, swim and deserted beach package starting from €25 (Rs2,097) per person that requires people to have a moderate level of fitness, doing some sporting activity at least once a week. AxessExtreme has a half-day tour for the same price that includes all equipment and transfers from a point in Lagos.

KEAUHOU BAY, HAWAII With Hawaii’s spectacular beaches and clear waters, you can’t really go wrong with any water sport here. Though surfing generally attracts the most attention, the island also sees a number of people canoeing or kayaking around the sea caves that dot its coast, many of which are formed due to the cooling of volcanic lava. Take a deep breath and gather your courage, because trips to the sea caves usually end with people diving off into the water. It’s a scary prospect—but it might just turn out to be the highlight of your trip. How to do it: Ocean Safaris offer a three-and-a-half hour tour for $64 (Rs3,951) per person that takes you from Keauhou Bay to Kuamoo Bay, stopping at various sea caves in between. The tour includes snorkelling as well, giving you enough time to explore the marine life, coral gardens and underwater lava tubes. The Aloha Kayak Co. has two-hour tours (only of the sea caves) that start from $75 (Rs4,630) per person and three-and-a-half hour sea cave and snorkelling tours that start from $99 (Rs6,112) per person.

RAPID BAY, ADELAIDE Nestled between towering cliffs, this bay is approximately 100km south of Adelaide, in southern Australia. A popular destination for fishing, surfing, scuba diving and snorkelling, Rapid Bay offers you a chance to try your hand (and arms) at kayaking as well. While you’re out paddling over the water, look out for the leafy seadragon, a funny looking fish that resembles a cross between a seahorse and a leafy plant. How to do it: Adventure Kayaking SA has guided tours that include all the equipment, lunch and non alcoholic beverages starting from AUD160 (Rs9,358) per person. Earth Adventure  offers a Basic Skills Kayak Course for beginners, starting from AUD94 (Rs5,497), which is conducted on Sundays from November to April and the Intro Sea Kayaking course, which is conducted on certain weekends during spring and summer.

- Sanjana Gupta


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