Kayaking is one of the most popular attractions of the Turks and Caicos because much of the archipelago’s most beautiful sites are only accessible by kayaks or paddleboards. Not only is it the best way to navigate mangrove channels and explore the natural reserves, kayaking can be enjoyed by nearly anyone—no matter their age, weight, physical activity level, or whether or not they know how to swim.
However, because it is such an accessible activity, there are things new kayakers or visitors to the islands might not know when they first take up the paddle on their Turks and Caicos excursion.
Here are five things you shouldn’t do while kayaking in the Turks and Caicos.
5) Get Too Close to Wildlife
Kayaking is great for the environment! It’s slow, clean, and quiet, allowing you to approach wildlife better than a loud boat. However, you should still keep your distance.
Many animals make their homes and nurseries around the islands and surrounding coasts, including iguanas, birds, and countless fish and sea animals. While you should always appreciate the natural beauty of the wilderness, it’s important to keep a respectful distance so you don’t create any disturbances.
Keep in mind that this respectful distance also applies to coral reefs. Corals are marine invertebrates and can be quite delicate. Be cognizant of where you are going and the direction of the current to avoid running your kayak or digging your paddle into a reef.
Always remember that while a kayak is quiet enough to let you get close to wildlife, let your camera do the rest of the work!
4) Forget You’re Carrying Electronics
Speaking of cameras, you probably don’t want to get them—or your phone—dunked in saltwater. While kayaking around the Turks and Caicos is one of the safest ways to get around the island, there’s always a chance of getting splashed or even rolling into the water while you maneuver or leaning to get a nice angle for a picture.
If you’re going on a water adventure with your phone or camera, make sure they are encased in a waterproof container. This can be individual waterproof casings for your phone or camera, or you can also get a drybag.
Drybags are a great option because they can also be large enough to fit a change of clothes, shoes, keys, and wallet. And if leave a pocket of air in the drybag, they’ll float if it happens to fall out of the kayak.
You can order drybags on Amazon starting from $10.
3) Ignore Your Guide
Kayaking is such a safe and accessible activity that it’s easy to just jump right in and paddle off into the sunset. However, a guided tour can be an invaluable way to explore and understand the islands. You’ll get information of the local areas and sites and can ask questions whenever you think of them.
Kayak guides are also knowledgeable about touring regulations, local sea and marine rules, and local sea conditions. That means they can tell you which animals are protected and require additional space, where strong currents are, and how to stay safe in your kayak as you weave through a mangrove forest.
Generally, the Turks and Caicos kayak excursions take place on well-travelled routes where you don’t have to fight the current. However, currents can be tough to spot if you are new and don’t know what to look for. Turks and Caicos kayak guides usually have years of experience as a kayaker and can identify problem areas for you.
2) Get Dehydrated
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! While kayaking is easy, it’s always important to keep yourself hydrated, especially if you’re in the sun and doing a physical activity. Even if you’re only kayaking for an hour, it never hurts to have a bottle of water with you. On some longer kayak tours, you can be kayaking for as much as three hours, so you definitely want to bring water.
Also remember: you’re on the open sea or in the middle of an exposed mangrove channel. There won’t be too much shade. When you plan a kayaking trip, don’t forget to wear a hat and sunglasses. It won’t be a bad idea to have a light and loose long sleeve to keep the sun off of you.
1) Forget the Sunscreen
You probably decided to come to the Turks and Caicos because you wanted to experience a sunny Caribbean island. Well, you’re going to get plenty of sun when you’re kayaking. Depending on your complexion, you can get sunburned by spending as little as 15 minutes in the Caribbean sun.
Apply sunscreen before you begin your trip. Experts advise using a sunscreen with a water resistant, broad-spectrum (against both UVA and UVB rays) protection with an SPF of at least 30. Higher SPF blocks more rays, but does not mean it lasts longer. High-number SPFs last the same amount of time as low-number SPFs. A high-number SPF does not allow you to spend additional time outdoors without reapplication.
Which leads us to: reapply! Follow the directions of your sunscreen bottle and reapply as often as needed. Be mindful that you may sweat and get splashed, which means you may have to reapply more often.
Few things can ruin a vacation on a tropical island than getting sunburned and needing to stay indoors the rest of the time.