We arrived at Dean Hiscox’s boatshed and collected wetsuits, life jackets, paddles and kayaks and set forth. The weather was perfect for a kayak expedition to North Bay, and despite a few nerves from those who hadn’t paddled much before, we headed straight for the inside of the reef. You see, local knowledge and a guide go along way – while the lagoon had a reasonable southerly breeze, the inside of the reef provided shelter and the water was almost glassy. The best bit, though, was that the gentle wind swell pushed us from south to north, all the way to North Bay. It was so easy that our sorest muscles were the ones we were sitting on.
When you talk to sailors about why they take risks and cross oceans in small boats without power, they often say things like “the quiet”, “the isolation”, or “the serenity”. Kayaking is similar (although the people who kayak across oceans, like our mate Scott Donaldson, are a bit, shall we say, different). Kayaking on the Lord Howe Island Lagoon is all about quiet, isolation and serenity. The only noise you hear is the sound of your paddle flowing through the water, the breeze, and the occasional inquisitive sea bird that hovers above your head. People have an affinity with water, whether it be a creek, river, harbour, beach, ocean – or more often in the city – a pool or backyard ‘water feature’. If you’ve ever sat next to ‘the water’ and drifted off into daydreams, then you’ll know what to expect from kayaking. At times, you’re very much in the present, concentrating on what you’re doing, and then you drift away into an almost meditative state. Not a bad feeling when you’re on holiday.
Our ‘drift kayak’ along the outer reef was a revelation for people who wanted to learn about marine life. Dean runs snorkelling and coral viewing trips every day, and is probably the most knowledgeable scientist on the island. He talked about different types of coral and fish, and how they interact. He talked about tides, ocean currents and wind patterns. He talked about climate change and coral bleaching (you’ll be happy to know that Lord Howe remains very resilient to the types of changes that have damaged the Great Barrier Reef), and he talked about sea birds. Somehow, it all seemed more relevant from the quiet exposure of a kayak.