See and feel a different perspective from a kayak

There are wilderness trips then there are wilderness trips in a kayaking. People come from all over the world to marvel at Turku’s archipelago. One of the best ways to be amazed is floating through the landscapes in a canoe.

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First training

With paddle in hand, raise your hands straight in front shoulder high and begin to turn to make a pivoting movement. Your hands keep the aluminium paddle in the same position all the time but always relaxed and comfortable. The effort does not come from the muscles in the hands but through the sides and core of the body.

These are the first steps when learning to kayak. The guide demonstrates the method, to be then repeated by the group of novices, like little ducklings learning to swim. ​​​​​​​

“Are there any questions?”


Well, of course not, Finns never dare ask questions. There are things we’re left wondering but you can always ask questions later, when others cannot hear.

The enclosed plastic tubes lie side by side on the slippery sandy beach. Next, everyone’s kayak must be modified to fit, by correctly adjusting the benches and footrests. Squeezing into the kayak causes plenty of grunting, puffing and laughter. Some might have even tried the wrong way round. Fortunately, we are still on dry land.

Then to the water

“OK, here we go. There’s really no other choice that to just start canoeing.”

The guide begins pushing his disciples into the water without taking questions. Every push into the Archipelago Sea is accompanied by spontaneous cries of excitement:

“Hey, it’s rocking!”

The kayak is stable and unsteady all at the same time, like trying to sit cross-legged on a round stone.

In the shallows you practice turning and finding your balance. The body is stiff from head to toe, which is completely normal for first timers – apparently. The kayak moves best just as the guide has described, the power coming from your core middle body and not the hands.

The kayak glides in the water with ease, with a couple of strokes propelling you tens of metres. Naturally, after a few minutes you get the confidence to move a bit quicker. The experience almost proves to be ill-fated, as water starts to fill from the side. If the seat opening is not properly protected by the cockpit cover (for layman read sealing bag), you’ll now have about three cups of water sloshing around next to your bum.

*Tip! Make sure you bring a second pair of clothes or go kayaking without trousers. The compartments of the kayak can fit a backpack and a few other items.

Finland’s best aquatic landscapes

Now it’s time to set out on our journey. At the beach, the guide showed from the map the route we would take but everything looks different from the water. The distance to the destination is a five kilometre round trip, which will take about an hour, if nobody falls in that is. After a bit of messing around, the journey settles into an easy and relaxing pace. As the endorphins at last start to kick in, a nice sensation flows through the body, like a glass of sparkling wine. The feeling is almost euphoric. ​​​​​​​

We weave our way through the small islets, admiring the rocks carved out by the ice age. The smooth rocks of the rolling cliffs are covered with different coloured lichen. Soaring overhead are many types of seagull and circling in the reeds are water birds of the Antitdae variety, which these ‘city-slickers’ simply refer to as ‘ducks’. Seals have also reportedly been spotted in these parts.

We go beyond the shallows and squeeze through the narrow straits. Suddenly, something brushes the base under the back of the kayak. The last time I was this shocked was when I touched an electric fence. This time it was just a rock close to the surface of the water. However, when something touches your bum in the middle of the sea, it’s easy to overreact.

​​​​​​​*Tip! Polaroid sunglasses help you see better under water.

Excitement and adrenaline

After the straits there is just open sea ahead. From the surface of the water the boundary of the horizon disappears from time to time below the waves. The narrow straits were calm but now there are waves before us. A small burst of adrenaline flows through the body and sharpens the senses. The guide points out with his wooden paddle an island looming on the horizon:

“That’s where we’re going. The crossing here is a little rough, where the waves are quite strong, but you can all do it.”

The encouragement gives a little boost but the body is also driven forward by excitement. There is a water bottle secured to the side of the kayak. Everybody takes a swallow.

We begin to paddle against the oncoming waves. Under the right elbow is a lever that controls the rudder at the back. When heading straight the rudder should be up above the water, due to the centre of gravity and the wind – you’ll need to ask a professional exactly why – then the kayak turns automatically towards the waves. When paddling side-on to the waves, you’re advised to keep it down. However, if you want to experiment and are enthusiastic to test the rudder and the power of the waves, the rudder might get stuck in the upright position making the return journey a lot harder.

Over halfway across we begin to paddle with a tail wind. For about twenty minutes the guide explains about the Norwegian Sea and how kayaks can even surf on large waves. Well then, let’s give it a try. With a couple of quick paddles, the kayak rushes on the surf quite easily for a couple of seconds. However, greed deceives even the wise man. Again from the same place to the right butt-cheek, water comes pouring in, this time several litres. Literally, this poured cold water all of my burgeoning confidence, right in the middle of a shipping lane.

*Tip! Don’t struggle with the rudder in vain and recognise your level of skill.

The highest island in the archipelago

Eventually, we reach a secluded cover in the national park. On the left edge of the cove is an outcrop, with sheep roaming the brush. The guide gives instructions for landing:

“Pick up speed and just before the beach lean back and let the kayak slide up the sand.”

The grazing sheep critique our performance. We are already hanging up our wet life jackets to dry. For now, the canoeing is over.

Högland is an island preserved in its natural state. The sheep are actually brought to the island just to graze and keep the terrain’s original authenticity. The sea produces a lot of weed known as Bladder Wrack – a demonstration of its purity. Högland is just one of the destinations to which kayaking trips are organised, but also one of the most impressive. A hundred years ago, the island was inhabited by a lighthouse keeper and his family, who apparently lived isolated on the island throughout the year. Remnants of their home are still there.

The evening starts to draw in. Our guide to get food on the go in the touring kitchen and the last group leaves to set up the tents. The wilderness spirit bounces constantly across the eye. The ground is teaming spectacularly with blueberry-like droppings and our backpacks lie only inches from what our friends the sheep have left behind. Ankle-high grass now grows in the former lighthouse keeper’s garden, which feels like rough carpet under bare feet. Everything is perfectly down-to-earth. You couldn’t ask for a more authentic wilderness.


  • The highest island in the Archipelago Sea.
  • ​​​​​​​On the island are ruins of two separate dwellings.
  • Information boards, which tell about the island’s crofting history and nature.
  • Camping area and campfire site.
  • ​​​​​​​Approximately an hour by kayak from the mainland.

Insta-sexy landscapes and other unforgettable sights

For starters we have archipelago-style salmon sandwiches. For the main course is pesto-avocado-tomato pasta, followed by lime cheesecake for desert. The next culinary pleasure is from another world. In addition to the food, there is a positively extraordinary atmosphere. Salmon sandwiches for the mouth, sunset for the eyes and silence for the ears, broken only occasionally by some quacking from the ducks. Marks out of ten? Ten plus one!

The darkening archipelago evening is difficult to describe in a single word. As a phenomenon, it’s in the same enchanting category as the northern lights, the summer solstice or the changing of the autumn leaves.

When the darkness arrives, it’s truly dark. The urban light of the city cannot reach this far, so the stars and planets are clearly traced with a finger. The Milky Way is easily picked up by a camera. The warm sleeping bag is comfortable, whilst the gentle lapping of the waves only serves to compliment the silent beauty.

Morning and other memorable souvenirs

Songs and poems often rejoice the coming of the morning, but until you’ve awoken up in a place like this, you’ve yet to understand what that really means. Even with just a couple of friends and a few sheep, there is someone with whom to share the moment.

So far the whole experience has been idyllic. Of course, we cannot ignore the benefit of perfect weather and the attraction of novelty. However, it’s hard to think that one could ever get tired of this. Quite the contrary really – this adventurer remains hooked.


Text by Juuso Suominen. Images and videos Kim Allen-Mersh.
In cooperation with Parainen and Kemiönsaari.

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