Us and our kayaking holidays with Gumotex

My name is Davide de Feo, I’m a 38 years old computer engineer from Genoa (Liguria - Italy) with a passion for caving , climbing and photography. In September 2014 I went on a climbing holiday in Kalymnos, a little island in Greece. Here I tried sea kayaking for the first time and I was fascinated.

In 2015, with my girlfriend Ilaria, I started to consider buying an inflatable kayak. We chose to move towards the inflatable type because hard shells come with high cost for storage and because we needed a means of transport which was easily portable. Liguria, situated between the sea and the mountains, is a perfect place for kayaking. All main destinations are accessible by train and this makes inflatable kayak the best choice to enjoy the sea and save money. Despite this, choosing a kayak was not an easy task because inflatable kayak are not widespread in Italy, then as now.

Figure 1 - Davide and Ilaria in Sardinia - Gulf of Orosei (2018)

Only in 2016, after a year of short kayaking excursions with cheap kayaks, we bought a Gumotex Solar. With it we started to work on a route that is now a classic trip for us: from Santa Margherita Ligure to Genova Quarto. This excursion (around 26 km) is perfect for inflatable kayaks: you can get to Santa Margherita by train, go to the nearest beach and leave from there to the beautiful promontory of Portofino and its gem: the Abbey of San Fruttuoso.

The trip ends in one of the many beaches in Genova Quinto. Here you can rinse your kayak, fold it and return home by public transport.

Figure 2 - A glimpse of Ligurian coast - The Reds, Muzzerone, Palmaria and Tinetto Island

One of the things we enjoy the most of the Solar, since the very first trips, is its high stability. It allows us to bring masks and fins along and jump off easily to snorkel without needing to seek for landings. This option is crucial to fully enjoy the incredible beauty and variety of seabed.

In May, we embarked on a journey that is one of the best you can do along the Ligurian coast: the two-day route from Porto Venere to Monterosso. For this too we moved using public transportation only.

We reached La Spezia by train and from there we took the ferry boat to Porto Venere. In the little beach of this village we set out for Palmaria Island, Tino Island and the small rock Tinetto. These are little islands that are still wild and characterized by amazing limestone walls with attractive caves. It is not uncommon to see dolphins jump when you paddle from an island to another.

Figure 3 - The lighthouse of Tino Island viewed from the sea. In the foreground: the small rock Tinetto

After the tour of the islands we crossed to Porto Venere while admiring the sight of the rugged Ligurian coastline. We spent the night in the hostel of Porto Venere and then we started our long and wonderful ride, close to the towering cliffs of Muzzerone (a paradise for climbers), then along the coast of Cinque Terre, with its vineyards overhanging the sea and its world-famous little fishing villages.

Figure 4 - Porto Venere and the cliffs of Muzzerone in the background

We ended this two-day trip with an excellent fish dinner in Monterosso, where we took the train to return home.

This excursion is now a great classic for us: at least once a year we leave from Porto Venere, we paddle around the beautiful islands and we visit the Cinque Terre, bringing with us a tent and sleeping bags. We often happen to continue until Framura.

Shorter and easier but still worthy trips in Liguria are: Gallinara Island (Albenga), Bergeggi Island (Savona) and the cost of Cape Noli, with a stop in the amazing little bay in Punta Crena, reachable only by sea.

Figure 5 - Exploring Ligurian coast

Our trip along the Ligurian coast was then followed by two long weekends in France. The first one dedicated to the Calanque of Marseille and to the wild islands of Riou. On the second weekend, the first day we left directly from the camp site Tour Fondue to explore the Gienes Peninsula; from there, on the next day, we went to Porquerolles Island and on the third and last day we took a ferry boat to Port Cross. Here we inflated our kayak and made the tour of the island. These two spots are absolutely among the most beautiful places of southern French coast. Even though I had already been in Calanque many times for climbing, seeing them from the kayak and being able to circumnavigate Riou Island has been incredibly exciting.

Figure 6 - Calanque of Marseille view from islands of Riou

June 2016 marked an important turning point for us: we made our first trip with nautical bivouac. For this experience we chose Elba Island, the biggest island of the Tuscan archipelago and one of the few places in Italy in which kayaking is considered a tourist attraction. Indeed, many local tour operators offer one-week packages that include kayaking all around the island and sleeping in bivouac under the stars. We chose to travel on our own to fully enjoy the appeal of wild bays and because we only had 4 days to travel for 110 km of coast.

We left our car in Piombino and we got on the ferry, bringing with us waterproof bags for the kayak and equipment.

Once we got to Portoferraio, we bought water and supplies and we headed towards the beach of Le Ghiaie, from where we started our counterclockwise tour of the island. Those 4 days and 3 nights have been physically rough but unforgettable; those were days where, besides the beauty of the coast and the beaches, we enjoyed sunrises, sunsets and starry skies. It was the final confirmation of our love for sea kayaking and this has resulted in the decision of spending our next holidays doing nautical treks.

Figure 7 - Dawn's first light woke us up in Luisi D'Angelo beach

The following summer was indeed marked by two treks, both one week long. For the first trip we took a ferry from Genoa to Olbia (Sardinia Island); then we took a bus to the near Pittulongu beach and from there we started our journey heading north. For 5 days we paddled in crystal-clear waters and we stopped on breathtaking beaches. We travelled 140 km without interruptions for 5 days, passing by Golfo Aranci, Costa Smeralda and the main islands of Maddalena Archipelago. Only the strong winds coming from the strait of Bonifacio stopped us from reaching Santa Teresa di Gallura, which was the final destination in our plan. We decided instead to stop in Palau from where we returned back to Olbia by bus.

Figure 8 - Clear waters in Maddalena Archipelago (Sardinia)

Despite the high season, the tourist crowd and the extremely high number of vessels and maxi yachts, our kayak allowed us to peacefully enjoy the beauty of the Sardinian coast, keeping us away from chaos and mayhem and allowing us to reach isolated beautiful bays.

The second one-week trip took place in Corse. Here too we boarded the ferry straight from Genoa. Once we arrived in Bastia, we took a bus to Saint Florent from where we started paddling. We went along the wild Agriate Desert, slept in bays far enough from streets and villages to see some of the most beautiful starred skies we had ever seen. We had two wonderful magical nights, far away from everything, nights in which the only living beings close to us within miles were the funny Corsican cows. We then continued to Ile Rousse and Calvì and finally to the Nature Reserve of Scandola and Piana calanque: wild places we could explore in every nook and cranny thanks to our kayak. The last day we were lucky enough to paddle in absolute silence, only broken by a pair of ospreys busy diving to catch food, just a few meters away from our kayak.

Figure 9 - Gulf of Porto (Ota, Corse, France)

The most interesting nautical trek of 2017 was the one to Aeolian Islands (Sicily). We left from Genoa on an overnight train, we put all the equipment in our wide berth and we woke up the next morning when we were already in South Italy. The train brought us to Messina from where we took a ferry to Vulcano Island. We paddled around the island, we went along the rugged and beautiful western coast of Lipari and finally we crossed to Salina, where we spent the night in the little village of Rinella. The next day we completed the tour of Salina. After we rinsed and folded our kayak, we took a ferry boat to visit the other islands and to enjoy the unique experience of a night hike on Stromboli volcano, where we admired its eruptive activity.

Figure 10 - The stacks of Lipari. Filicudi and Alicudi in the background

In 2018 we took our first trips loading our kayak on a plane. The small size of Gumotex kayaks allowed us to check-in our bag as a standard hold baggage, without having to pay additional costs. So, we went to Mykonos (Greece) and Mallorca (Spain). Unfortunately, the inclement weather, in both cases, stopped us from completing the tour of the islands, but we made long daily treks anyway, exploring beautiful and remote cliffs.

In Mykonos, the most unforgettable excursion brought us to sail along the coast of the uninhabited island of Tragonisi; this island is characterized by long lava tubes accessible only by kayak.

Figure 11 - One of the biggest lava tube in Tragonisi (Mykonos, Greece)

In Mallorca the most challenging one-day excursion was from Port de Pollenca to Cala Sant Vicent. It was challenging because of the few possible landings and because of the rough sea. We parked the car in Port de Pollenca, we moved to Formentor beach by bus and there we started our 30 km excursion. We passed by the soaring cliffs of Cap Formentor to finally get to Cala Sant Vicent where we returned to the car after a short walk.

Figure 12 - The vertical cliffs of Cap Formentor (Mallorca, Spain)

The excursion next to the southern cliffs of the island was equally beautiful. The cliffs are certainly less impressive and wild than the northern ones, but they are enhanced by hundreds of caves rich of concretions, in which we paddled for tens of meters inside the heart of the island.

Figure 13 - The sea caves in Southern coast (Mallorca, Spain)

The same year we went back to Sardinia again. This time we arrived in Olbia and we took a bus to Saline Beach from where we headed south, not before sharing beers and toasts with the many onlookers who asked us about the many bottles of water and supplies we were loading on our kayak.

We kayaked the entire marine area of Tavolara and Punta Coda Cavallo, going around Tavolara and Molara Island too; then we went down to the eastern coast, switching between wonderful glimpses and wild long beaches; we also enjoyed a funny variant in Posada, bringing the kayak from the beach to the channels behind; channels that we paddled long and wide the next day, after spending the night in the quiet Ermosa Camping.

Figure 14 - Posada village viewed from the channels of the homonymous river

The best part of our holiday started in Cala Gonone: the area between Cala Gonone and Santa Maria Navarrese is indeed completely uninhabited and without any road. The views given by the limestone walls carved by caves and canyons are among the best in the world and, once the last tourist boat was gone we, we found ourselves in a heaven on Earth.

Figure 15 - One of the many caves in Gulf of Orosei (Sardinia)

This part of Sardinia is so beautiful that we decided without hesitation to change our travel plans in order to stay there one more day paddling in its clear water. Our presence did not go unnoticed by the several sailors that brought tourists to the beaches (accessible only by boat). Soon enough we found us approached by boats and rafts, full of curious people asking us about our trip; when they found out that we started from Olbia and we were now headed to Arbatax, they were astonished. Right in Arbatax we ended our trip and there we took the ferry that brought us back home.

Figure 16 - The last stop of Sardinia trekking, Pedra Longa in the background

2019 started with some tests on new high-pressure inflatable (drop stitch) kayaks of other brands. Those tests made us give up on this kind of crafts, because, though faster, they don’t offer a comparable stability in rough sea, plus, it is not so easy to get back in the kayak after a dive and, above all, they take up much space once folded, so that transportation is impossible in most cases. So, we opted to buy the top model by Gumotex: the Seawave. From the very beginning we had a unique feeling with it: we found the same strengths of the Solar (stability, ease of transport, endurance) combined with higher speed and an increased resistance to rough sea and wind.

We brought the Seawave with us for the first time when we went to Capraia Island. The second time we went to Lampedusa (by plane): in both cases we made the complete tour of the islands.

After that we started to dedicate ourselves to a completely new activity for us: kayaking in freshwater. After a trek in Bolsena Lake, including the tour of the little islands of Bisentina and Martana, we went to Orta Lake where we visited the wonderful San Giulio island; the next destination was Como Lake. The complete tour of it and Mezzola Lake (reached through Mera River) took four intense and fulfilling days.

Figure 17 - One of the many swans who welcomed us in Mezzola Lake

Future plans

We always keep analyzing the European coasts and studying for trip plans but, often because of our few vacation days, not always our plans comes quickly.

Our dreams for 2020 are: the tour of Minorca, a new trip to Corsica (to explore the western coast from Piana to Bonifacio), the Amalfitan coast and finally the Gargano (Apulia).