Kayak guide missing, presumed dead after crocodile attack

South African river guide Hendrik Coetzee is missing, and presumed dead, after he was attacked by a crocodile while paddling a remote river in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Tuesday. The experienced guide, who has led expeditions all across Africa, was taking a team of kayakers down the Lukuga River at the time.

Coetzee, along with American paddlers Ben Stookesberry and Chris Korbulic, has been exploring the river as part of an expedition sponsored by First Ascent, a gear company that is owned by Eddie Bauer. They have been paddling rivers near Congo, Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda, while spreading the word about the lack of clean water across the continent. The team had been making dispatches to the First Ascent blog along the way, and that is where news first broke about this tragic event.

While the exact details of the events are a bit hazy, it seems that the three men were paddling the Lukuga when a large crocodile sprang up from the water and pulled Coetzee from his kayak. His two companions witnessed the attack, but saw no sign of their guide afterwards. They immediately paddled to shore and called for help from the International Rescue Committee, who quickly dispatched a team to retreive them, and search for Coetzee. That search turned up no trace of the South African.

This story is a sobering reminder of just how dangerous some of the places we travel to can be. Reading it reminded me of a trip to Africa that I took a few years back, during which our guide warned us not to get to close to the river, which was crawling with hippos at the time. My companions and I nodded and acknowledged the large beasts, which are recognized as one of the most dangerous in Africa. Our guide simply smiled and told us it wasn’t the hippos we had to watch out for, but the crocs which lay just below the surface, waiting for us to stray too close. Needless to say, we gave the shoreline a wide berth from then on.

[Photo credit: Sarah Mccans via WikiMedia]

Woman begins canoe trip from Seattle to San Diego

Margo Pellagrino describes herself as “a stay-at-home mom who doesn’t do a very good job at staying home.” That seems an apt description considering she has just set off on a epic canoe trip that will see her paddling from Seattle to San Diego over the next couple of months, while raising awareness about the health of the world’s oceans.

Margo started her journey on July 3rd, and over the past few days she has paddled across Puget Sound, down the Juan De Fuca Strait, and out into the Pacific Ocean. From there, she’ll turn south, with the intention of paddling her outrigger canoe all the way to San Diego, a distance of more than 2500 miles. Along the way, she’ll make planned stops in a number of cities and towns, where she hopes to spread the word about the importance of the oceans to the overall health of the planet, and how we can all do small things on a day-to-day basis that will help protect them.

This isn’t the first long distance paddle for Margo. Back in 2007 she made the journey from Miami, Florida to Camden, Maine, a distance of over 2000 miles, by canoe. She followed up that adventure in 2008 with another journey, this time along the Gulf Coast, going from Miami to New Orleans. Those trips helped to reinforce her love of the oceans, and her desire to help raise awareness about how their health can effect the rest of the planet.

You can follow Margo’s progress by reading her latest entries to her blog and tracking her via GPS. She’ll be making regular updates along the way, sharing her adventure, and message, with the rest of us.

[Photo credit: Margo Pellagrino]

Undiscovered New York: Kayaking the Big Apple

Picture yourself in a kayak. A sleek and brightly-hued orange plastic vessel, bobbing placidly in the calm surf. As your paddle rhythmically dips in and out of the water, you are surrounded by calm: the only sound the rise and fall of breath and distant cry of shrieking seabirds. You pause for a moment, letting the wind whistle past your ears. Behind you, you begin to detect an insistent mechanical whine, slowly building in volume. You turn to look, craning your head only to gaze at the shadow of a huge 747 rumbling overhead. Onshore, a Saturday morning barbecue is in full swing, billowing clouds of smoke shifting in the ocean breeze.

Welcome to kayaking in New York City. Kayaking is not an outdoor sport you might expect to find in an industrial, bustling metropolis like the Big Apple, but it is nonetheless an activity that is thriving among both hardcore paddlers and visitors alike. As we pointed out earlier this Spring, kayakers can rent out boats for 20 minute rides along the Hudson River. But as we recently discovered, Hudson kayaks are only one of several fantastic paddling options in the greater NYC area geared towards both newbies and veterans alike.

Want to paddle a boat towards the Statue of Liberty in New York’s famous harbor? What about a paddling expedition to explore the wildlife of Jamaica Bay? Maybe a FREE kayak ride is more your style? This week, Undiscovered New York investigates the city’s surprisingly good kayak options. Grab a paddle and get ready to be pleasantly surprised.
First-Time Kayakers

As we’ve discovered on recent kayaking expeditions, it can take a little bit of time to get used to paddling and maintaining balance in a wobbly water-going vessel like a kayak. Fortunately for less experienced kayakers, New York is actually the perfect low-cost place to “get your feet wet.” As we mentioned in our earlier look at New York sporting culture, the New York Department of Parks and Recreation rents out free kayaks every weekend at three piers along the Hudson River. It’s a great way to try out the sport and see if you like it before investing in a longer or more expensive outing. Fabulous views of the Manhattan skyline come free with signup.

If you’re ready for something sligthly more adventurous, head to Brooklyn for free kayaking on Jamaica Bay launched by the National Park Service. The bay, which is within the Gateway National Recreation Area, harbors a refreshingly diverse assortment of wildlife and unspoiled views. It’s easy to forget you’re still in the city until a huge jumbo jet roars overhead on its way to nearby JFK Airport. Groups like the Sebago Canoe Club sponsor Jamaica Bay wildlife expeditions for when you’re ready for a higher level of difficulty.

NYC for Kayaking Pros
Kayaking can be frustrating for first timers who don’t know how to paddle or accidentally tip their boat, but as you get more experienced, it can be a tremendously rewarding sport. This is especially true in New York City, where a little persistence can reward paddlers with some awesome views of the city and a totally unique perspective on its waterways and harbor.

Groups like the Manhattan Kayak Company specialize in trips for intermediate and advanced kayakers, taking them up close and personal with some of New York’s most famous sites. For around $100-200, paddlers can arrange specialized tours of the Statue of Liberty, the New Jersey Palisades and circumnavigation of Manhattan. These trips, typically lasting around 4 hours, are test of stamina and skill, but not without their rewards. It can be a surprising revelation to experience the city from this vantage point, slowly paddling through New York Harbor as you’re passed by huge cargo ships, the Manhattan skyline beyond as your backdrop.

New Peter Island wants to help make a new you

Peter Island Resort & Spa is celebrating a new look with a fresh deal. The largest private island resort in the British Virgin Islands has refurbished its 32 ocean-facing rooms and 20 beachfront junior suites and wants to show off the new look. Hey, if you just got a makeover, wouldn’t you? So, the property is offering up the “New Us, New You” package, which runs through October 31, 2009.

Remember, this is Peter Island, so you’re going to have to put out some cash, but you’ll get plenty for it. For $2,780 (or $4,020 for a junior suite), you’ll get five nights and only pay for four. On top of that, the resort is throwing in three meals a day and access to resort activities, including windsurfing, kayaking and the like. The best part – in my mind, at least – is the 75-minute Ayurvedic Abhyanga massage. The private yoga class for two doesn’t do much for me, but if you’re into yoga, I imagine you’d like it.

While you’re in the 10,000-sqft spa, check out some of the other treatments, as well. There are 13 types of facial available, with everything from collagen to caviar to botanical extracts.

If you need a reason to go relax on a private island that keeps even its own guests to a minimum, this is probably it.

“Sip and Stay” at Peter Island

When times are tough, $590 a night probably doesn’t sound like a bargain. But, when you consider that this gets you a night at the Peter Island Resort & Spa – on the largest private island in the British Virgin Islands – your thinking will probably begin to change. Add to this the fact that complementary beverages are included in the deal, not to mention three meals a day and an afternoon tea, it really does become an absolute bargain.

The new “Sip and Stay” program at Peter Island includes non-alcoholic beverages and house wine and beer … as much as you like (unless the bartender shuts you off). Of course, you’ll probably want to be somewhat judicious when ordering that next glass of beer, as you’ll want to take advantage of the windsurfing, snorkeling, kayaking and mountain biking offered at the resort.

Peter Island Resort & Spa has 52 guestrooms and three villas that sit on 1,800 acres of property, along with five beaches, tennis courts and a private yacht. So, this really is good living … made better by the free beer goggles you’re likely to don.

To take advantage of the “Sip and Stay” deal, book your stay by April 30, 2009 for trafel from May 1 through October 30.