Our excursion with Bahía Ballena Kayaks in Costa Rica’s Marino Ballena National Park started out in a relaxed and tranquil fashion. Paddling along a quiet mangrove channel, we spotted herons and sandpipers. We had our knowledgeable and very funny guide, Anner, entirely to ourselves, likely because we visited during shoulder season. But even in the placid mangrove, adventure wasn’t far away. In order to cross the occasional floating log blocking the creek, we charged at them as fast as we could so that the kayak’s momentum would carry us over. Who knew that blasting over logs in a kayak could be such fun?
After returning to the channel’s mouth, we dragged the kayaks for a stretch along the beach — this excursion did require some upper-body strength — and left them near a trailhead leading into a former coconut plantation. Anner collected coconuts and demonstrated how to crack them open using a stake and a stone. The coconut water inside tasted marvelously refreshing.
We walked along the forest-fringed beach back to our kayaks; it was time to try them in the sea. After successfully clearing the break, we paddled in relatively calm water along the famous “Whale’s Tail,” a spit of sand extending from the beach to a line of rocks parallel to the shore, the whole of which did indeed resemble its namesake. Turbid water made snorkeling by the rocks pointless, so we alighted instead on the narrow shaft of the tail, where we had the unusual experience of seeing waves approach us from opposite directions.
In order to reach the main beach, we had to once again pass over the surf zone. Anner had given us some pointers about how to “surf” a wave with our kayaks back to the beach, and I was excited to give it a try. I paddled with gusto as a large wave grew and felt a rush as I caught it and started speeding toward the beach. Unfortunately, my technique left something to be desired, and I watched with surprisingly calm fascination as the bow of my kayak dug ever deeper into the water, eventually flipping end over end. Anner had prepared me for just such an eventuality, however, and I was uninjured. On the contrary, I was thrilled by the experience. My spouse was the one who expressed regrets, lamenting that Anner hadn’t caught my dramatic spill on video.