Top Tips for Tropical Sea Kayaking

For Novice Kayakers from Novice Kayakers…

Last Christmas Verena and I had a wonderful weeks unsupported kayaking round Busuanga Island, Philippines. Beautiful turquoise seas, towering limestone cliffs and deserted beaches to camp overnight. Neither of us are experienced kayakers though, with only a few days experience and a short course prior to our trip, all in rather cold climates!

While there are plenty of websites offering detailed information on what to take and do, here are some of our tips for tropical kayaking, some we sussed before going, some we learned the hard way…


  • Snorkel and mask are essentials – Those deserted coral gardens and tropical fish are stunning and deserve repeat viewing!
  • Take lots of water – We had 50L between us for a week and used almost all of it.
  • Take a few metres of rope each – Not only is it good to get a tow from your partner when they are feeling lazy (*cough* Verena *cough*) but you can stick it round your waist and snorkel away from the coast, kayak in tow
  • You can never have enough drybags – Small-medium bags are best, they fit through the hatches easier.
  • Double bag electronics – Just to be sure…
  • Never underestimate paranoia about hatches… – Expensive camera equipment positioned just beneath hatches make you paranoid about losing it in a capsize! :o
  • A waterproof camera attached by lanyard to the kayak bungee means you’ll never miss a shot and it won’t disappear over the side
  • The best map may be Google Earth. Cut into A5 size, laminate and make a little booklet. Waterproof and informative!
  • Beaches aren’t as common as you may think on tropical islands…Give yourself plenty of time to find one before sunset
  • Use above map to find them – but don’t expect it to be there, the photo may have been taken at low tide, unless you have a floating tent, then don’t worry…
  • Stow it or tie it down – Or be prepared to lose it
  • Verenas Tip: Sunglasses don’t float…
  • Waterproof speakers are great – especially loud ones


  • Wear Sunscreen – Much like the famous song, if I could offer you one tip for the future… Tropical sun and reflection off the water can give you a nice tan, or burn you to a crisp!
  • No matter how much sunscreen you put on your hands they will burn unless covered! The water will see to that…
  • Take a long sleeved thin shirt – great for paddling in the middle of the day. A hat is also essential!
  • Wounds don’t heal in the salt water – especially if they rub against the kayak. Take a First Aid kit and know how to use it
  • Those calm tropical waters aren’t always calm – Large swells from the ocean also cause large waves on the edge of the reef!
  • Sea Urchins hurt when you step on them – crabs hurt when they step on you, just not as much…
  • Don’t be afraid to hiring a local boat if it’s too rough. The villagers will gladly provide you a tow (if there are any)

Above all, enjoy! It’s far more fun than kayaking somewhere that will chill you to the bone if you’re unlucky enough to fall in!

If that’s got your adventurous spirit flowing then see our post on places to kayak for some suggestions! Have we missed any out? Do you have an essential tip? Let us know below.

About The Author

A Geologist by trade, Andrew loves travelling and photography, especially to wild and natural places. He needs to pay for it by working full time so until he and Verena can travel the world full time he has become a specialist in creating as much travelling time as possible from their annual leave.

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