Kayaking from Cairns to Kuta paddle

By Tom Lawrie 8 March 2012
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With the help of the AG Society, Alaina and Justin Keniger finished sea kayaking from Cairns to Kuta, backwards

AS KAYAKING EXPEDITIONS GO, Cairns to Kuta is a route fraught with danger in the form of crocodiles, sharks, tides, currents, malarial mosquitoes, exposed stretches – and dangerous crossings of up to 50km. But, adventurer Justin Keniger, along with partner Alaina, was eager to test his Australian spirit.

“We expected isolation, salt sores, dehydration, exhaustion and handfuls of blisters, but we hoped to show that with a bit of Australian spirit we can push the limits of kayak adventures in Australia,” he says.

And Australian spirit is what these two intrepid paddlers have by the bucket load. They have travelled, trekked, climbed, explored and lived in countries across the globe, but this new expedition was their “opportunity to truly explore parts of the world where there are no guidebooks, and to experience cultures that are virtually devoid of the influence of tourism.”

Paddling in shark- and pirate-infested seas

The going wasn’t easy from the beginning. At one point, completely out of sight of any land, a large shark bit into the stern of Justin’s kayak, thrusting all 250kg of it (and Justin) clear of the water.

Then, after paddling from Cairns to Thursday Island a problem they hadn’t anticipated presented itself – pirates. After a series of talks with locals it was decided that without a guard or weapon, the expedition would be safer and have a high chance of success paddled in the opposite direction: from Bali to Cairns.

Further setbacks, this time red tape in Indonesia, limited the expedition’s time frame and they had to re-adjust their end point to a closer local, but at the end of July 2011 the two adventurers set off again from eastern Java toward the Alor Islands east of Flores, roughly 2000km away.

On their rough journey they often took to paddling at night to avoid “the brutal headwinds and crushing heat that began at dawn,” and spent nights in camping spots that included islands, rocky beaches, mangrove forests and even a cave.

Sea kayaking: the joys of a long stretch

But it wasn’t all doom and gloom. Blue whales, dolphins and false killer whales sometimes took to playfully swimming with the kayakers; the couple saw a myriad of aquatic life, from the huge reclusive sun fish to huge sheets of manta rays.

Sponsorship from the AG Society allowed the couple to invest in critical communications and safety equipment that made it possible for Justin and Alaina to remain safe during the expedition.

In total, they paddled over 2500km in 243 days, finally concluding the expedition at the end of November. “We were fortunate enough to compare the incredible, rugged beauty of the waters of North Queensland with the equally beautiful and remote coast of Nusa Tenggara,” Justin says.

“Our expedition may not have followed the path we had originally chosen but we both feel that we have achieved a successful outcome, and made the most of the obstacles that rose out of the path before us.”