Kayaking The Glacial Waters Of Lake Wanaka
The wind whips my hair into my eyes as I stare out across the mass of undulating waves.
I stand and contemplate the scene before me.
This morning I’m joining the crew of Wanaka Kayaks, SUP & Sail and the thought of paddling through the white horses which are covering the lake does not appeal.
I’m adventurous yes, but my upper body strength is lacking and I’m not sure how I’ll fair against the commanding forces of Mother Nature.
Our guide begins to brief us on the itinerary for the day.
Wearing mirrored blue sunglasses, board shorts and an enviable golden tan her team chat pumps some life into the otherwise chilly paddlers who are waiting by the shore.
With the wind forecast to stick around for another few hours, the decision is made to launch from a more shelter spot close by. Quick as a flash the kayaks are loaded onto the trailer and we head out in search of calmer water.
Kayaking On Lake Wanaka
My neoprene skirt in place, my lifejacket fastened and a paddle in my hand, I’m launched onto the lake.
Sheltered by the indomitable peaks of Mount Aspiring National Park, Glendu Bay is in a state of calm.
The water appears as though a glinting mirror, a stark contrast to the turbulent display I witnessed just a few kilometers further along the shore.
My paddle breaks the surface and I begin to propel myself forward.
Other than the sound of water droplets falling into the lake, all is silent. Behind me the Treble Cone ski field looms large and in front a patchwork of green hues and shades of blue reflect so that there’s almost no definition between water and sky.
I’m transported into a parallel world, the landscape above duplicated in the glacial waters of the lake below.
Glacial Waters, Mountains and Sky
The fourth largest of New Zealand’s lakes, the glacial waters of Lake Wanaka are estimated to be around 300m deep.
Like so much of the south island’s iconic scenery, glacial ice forged much of the landscape seen today. At 42km in length and almost 10km in width the lake harbors numerous small islands, some of which have been designated ecological reserves protecting endemic species such as the flightless Weka.
As I find my rhythm I begin to glide towards the opening of the bay, rounding the point the true scale of the lake becomes apparent.
In front the water disappears into another valley where adventurous hikers can explore Mou Waho Island. A unique remnant of the last ice age it hides a secret from those on the waters of the lake, for within the island itself is another lake, and in the lake…another island.
The Perfect Eco Adventure
As time slips past I loose myself in my surroundings.
Cat, our guide, chats away about her adventures on the many rivers which pulse like veins through the region of Central Otago and inspires within me, the desire to further explore the glacial waterways of this striking landscape.
Pausing for a moment I notice that the wind has picked up and is now assisting each stroke I make, propelling me forward ever so slightly further than before.
We’re heading for Ruby Island, a remnant of glacial rock carried into situ by an archaic glacier it is home to native mountain geckos and giant ground wetas, and offers the perfect respite for a little lunch.
Approaching the island, the shore rises from the depths beneath me and I catch sight of an underwater heaven through the crystal clear water.
In no time at all cat has prepared a gourmet lunch of Angus beef burgers, hoki fish, delicious bread rolls and a fresh salad.
A welcome opportunity to refuel after the morning’s activities.
Kayak, SUP & Sail
Back on the water, and the wind has picked up again. However this time it’s working in our favor and Cat suggests we harness it to carry us home.
Pulling a large yellow sail from the depths of her kayak, we raft together and set about the task of capitalizing on the favorable weather.
The sail fills and we float towards the mainland picking up speed each time a gust passes by.
While I was quite content to paddle myself, this is much more relaxing way to kayak.
I soon find myself drifting into a hazy stupor, thanks to the delicious lunch lining my tummy and the warmth of the afternoon sun.
All too soon we’re back on the shore and I’m sad my eco adventure on Lake Wanaka is over.
I highly recommend a visit to Queenstown’s lesser known glacial compadre Wanaka.
Wanaka Sup & Sail offer the perfect escape from the humdrum of tourist activities which line the shores of this spectacular region, and provide a sustainable way to sample the scenic landscape of one of the country’s most captivating lakes.
If you’re in the area for more than just a few hours check out their popular SUP yoga classes or head out on a guided day excursion, and if the images in this article have yet to inspire you to shun that jet boat tour check out the Wanaka Sup Facebook page for a little eco inspiration.
Disclaimer: My trip was made possible by Wanaka SUP & Sail, but all opinions expressed are my own.