Kayaking in Franz Josef, New Zealand


I got to Franz Josef on April 7 with no plans. I wasn’t paying the $379 to go ice climbing on the glacier, so I figured I’d use the down time as a rest day to get caught up on a few photos and blog posts. Once I got checked into the lodge, plans developed. My roommate, one of the few Americans I’ve come across here in New Zealand, was going kayaking, and their group needed one more person to make the trip happen. The company wouldn’t go out with less than three people.

The only time I’d gone kayaking before this was off the coast of Maine back home, more than a decade ago. Ocean kayaking and lake kayaking are similar, but have their differences. Most importantly, you aren’t constantly fighting the tide in a lake. I paid $100 NZD for the three hour adventure, mostly with hopes I’d get some unique photos of the glacier and surrounding mountains from the water. I got that, and one of the most impressive sunsets I’ve seen, maybe ever.


The four of us paddled, in all, about 8 km. We went out to a little creek in the middle of the lake, which you couldn’t actually see until you were upon it. It looked as if you were paddling into the shore, and more than a few times, the oxygen grass growing up from the bottom of the lake was even with the top of the water, which made paddling interesting. Further back in the creek, it got a bit misty, which made for a neat rainforest feeling.


I took my GoPro along for the adventure (after I /finally/ got it working), so once I get back to the States, I’ll upload it and add it to this post. I don’t have any video editing software installed on this new computer (stupid rookie mistake, Mike).

It was a quite cloudy this day, but we got lucky and didn’t have any rain. From the water, the views were incredible in every direction. The Franz Josef glacier was off in the distance behind us as we started off, so the entire time coming back was spent staring straight at it. Our guide, Tom, was a hilarious fellow and oddly enough, originally from the U.S. He came down a couple years ago on a working visa and just never went home.


As we paddled back to shore, the sun was going down. We made it back to land just in time to enjoy a truly amazing sunset over the water. I took this photo freehand because I’d left my tripod back at the lodge (for obvious reasons), and it turned out so beautiful, I didn’t even both putting it through Photoshop for the usual tweaks. This is the RAW file straight out of the camera. Tom said it was easily the best one he’s seen in at least the previous six months.


If you find yourself in Franz Josef and feel like doing some kayaking, I highly recommend the crew at Glacier Country Kayaks. From within New Zealand, their number is 03 752 0230. You can also visit their website, www.glacierkayaks.com, or their Facebook page.

About Mike Beauchamp

After a divorce, losing his job, selling his house, a tumultuous relationship and subsequent breakup, Mike sold 80% of his belongings, put another 18% in storage, and packed the remaining 2% into a backpack and hit the road. Mike is currently a vagabond of sorts, traveling the world with only what he can carry on his back. He has two objectives in all of this: to photograph the most beautiful places on Earth and to finally take the time to get to know himself. You can follow Mike on Twitter (@mbchp) for more frequent updates.

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