The waves were lapping up against the shoreline in that comforting rhythmic fashion that coastal living brings. The sun had already dipped below the horizon and had left a perfectly clear night sky glowing in pinkish orange and midnight blue.
“It’s going to be a great night for star gazing, “ Jim said as he pulled the kayak off of the van.
I hadn’t even considered the stars until now, as I originally signed up for this unusual night kayak trip in West Cork to see the bioluminescence in the water. I love kayaking, but kayaking at night in the chilly Atlantic waters gave me a little trepidation.
It had been a long day of driving so there was a part of me that would have rather just sat in my room at the Inchydoney Spa & Hotel and relaxed. But the adventurous part of me was excited to go out at night on the waters which I had been flirting with all day driving along the Wild Atlantic Way .
A Chatty Kayaking Guide
Then there was Jim Kennedy, who met me in the little village near our put-in point and immediately wowed me with his laid back attitude. But don’t confuse laid back with quiet – Jim was a talker and we immediately hit it off. A world champion kayaker who competed, and now trains guides and runs a tourism business – Jim had fascinating stories to tell.
Learning to Paddle More Efficiently
Outfitted in all the proper gear for a chilly night of kayaking Ireland, we slipped into the water and immediately the calm washed over me. There’s something about gliding so close to the water that is poetic to me. Jim showed me how to paddle in a simple motion – I felt like I barely did a thing, but we were moving along at a nice pace. His whole goal was to keep me dry, so he showed me how to take relaxed strokes and not bring the paddle up high and have water dripping down on me making me cold.
Jim was the perfect coach thanks to his years of experience on the water. He not only takes you out on kayak tours, but he will also coach you on kayaking if you want to improve your stroke.
Gear to bring With you on a Kayak Tour
Of course most all kayak tours will furnish a kayak, paddles, and wetsuit (if needed). But you are normally left to bring a few other essentials I would recommend:
- Sunhat – It’ll keep the sun and water off of you. I love this Aquahat from Wallaroo. Plus you can get a 20% discount by using OTTSWORLD20 at checkout because I’m a Wallaroo Ambassador!
- Drybag to keep your valuables dry if you flip it.
- Sunglasses if you are doing a daytime kayak
- Gopro Video Camera (it’s waterproof!) for capturing video and photos
- Water shoes – I love these Chacos for kayaking
- Kayaking gloves – If it’s cold, or if you get blisters like me, then bringing kayaking gloves is a great idea. Plus these also offer sun protection!
- Reusable water bottle by Contigo
- carabiners to clip in your water bottle or other valuables
Why Kayak in Ireland in the Dark?
Kayaking is a great way to see the Ireland landscape. So why in the world would you want to go out kayaking in Ireland in the dark? Surprisingly, this night kayak was my favorite kayaking experience that I did in Ireland.
Being in the dark seemed to trigger all of my other senses. Jim led us through little narrow cliffs and keyholes as the sky turned darker and darker and my eyes adjusted to the night.
That’s when I first started to see the sparkling – not of bioluminescence, but of the stars in a perfectly clear Irish night sky. Jim seemed to switch into zen mode as we talked about life, romance, and happiness. He pointed out the international space station in the sky moving along at a steady clip. This was a first for me and for some reason was incredibly moving. I couldn’t help but think about those lucky astronauts orbiting up there looking down on us and our little red kayak on this big blue marble. I stared at it afraid to blink as it moved across the sky. I found myself daydreaming about their lives in orbit. “I want to go to space,” I said to Jim.
The Milky Way slowly showed up, a seal swam by, and little by little the bioluminescence started to appear. It was so subtle that I thought it was my brain playing light tricks on me. Long forgotten memories of ecstasy filled nights at dance clubs floated through my brain like the seal that glided through the water.
Hear Beyond the Waves
“Stop paddling and close your eyes, “Jim directed. I was intrigued and followed his instructions. “Now, just listen. Really listen. See if you can hear beyond the waves, “ he continued. With my eyes tightly closed I just bobbed along in the kayak – listening; something I seldom take the time to do.
Then he told me to imagine the busiest part of New York City, what it looked like and sounded like. I was transported to Times Square with all of the light pollution and people bustling around dodging each other, pushy vendors, and traffic. I thought of the deafening 72nd Street subway with the stagnant air in August.
Then he asked me to open my eyes. I slowly flickered them open as my brain engaged with the present moment again and all I could see was darkness and stillness. I could see a vague black outline of an island. It was then I realized what I was actually looking at – quiet.
I SAW quiet. Thank you Jim. Thank you, thank you.
Kayaking Through Bioluminescence
As we started to paddle back towards the shore, the stars above and the twinkling bioluminescence below entranced me. I felt dizzy letting my imagination run wild thinking about how the sparks in the water were like twinkling stars up above. I fantasized that someone had turned our landscape upside down for a bit. My mind wandered into places that it hadn’t visited for a while. Childhood memories, feelings, thoughts, heartache, and love all seemed to be represented out there on the Atlantic under the stars.
As the waves washed up on shore the bioluminescent sparks lingered on the pebbles and rocks. You don’t get many magical nights like this I thought. And unlike the disappearing glow of the bioluminescence on the shore, this experience wouldn’t soon fade away.
More Information on Kayaking Ireland:
Jim runs day and night kayaking trips in West Cork and he’ll teach you the most relaxed paddle stroke around!
Atlantic Sea Kayaking Website
Kayaking West Cork Day Tour
Since we were kayaking in the dark, I sadly couldn’t take many photos, however I went kayaking with Jim the next day (because he’s awesome) and he runs a bunch of different day tours. On that excursion I took plenty of photos on our sunny day so you could see what the landscape looked like.
Jim continued to work on my stroke with me and we continued to have some great philosophical conversations about life and business. We had a picture perfect Ireland day for kayaking in the inlet for bird watching, and seeing various sights.
However, as great as the day kayaking was, I will never forget the joy and awe of seeing quiet.