When my best friend Damian booked his ticket to spend a weekend with me in western Ireland, we immediately began sorting through our list of possible activities. County Kerry is teeming with outdoor activities and magnificent sights: the infamous Ring of Kerry (even though the Slea Head Drive is better!); camping and hiking in Killarney National Park; exploring the Blasket Islands; surfing off the many beaches or kayaking around the Dingle peninsula – just to name a few. Unlike our time together, our options were endless.
It was going to be his second time in Ireland, but having only visited Dublin I was anxious to show him the “real” Ireland. Being without a car and uninterested in renting one, we decided to spend our time together in Dingle and in my village of Ballyferriter. It doesn’t get much “realer” than a small Irish village!
The Dingle Activity Debate: Bike or Kayak?
As we agreed upon where we would be spending our time, another debate emerged: should we rent bicycles from Paddy’s Bike Shop and bike the Slea Head Drive or do a kayak tour around the Dingle Peninsula with Irish Adventures?
I was pro-bike after my breathtaking day when I explored The Slea Head Drive By Bike earlier in the summer. But Damian, leading the opposition party, was intent on braving the waves though a kayak tour. Unfortunately he is a lawyer and I had little hope of winning this debate. Kayaking it was!
He called ahead to make our reservation with the local tour company, Irish Adventures; initially Damian wanted to do a – in my opinion, terrifying – full day, 9-hour kayak tour. The proposed tour would commence at 9 AM and covered the distance from the small village of Ventry to Dingle town. Once Damian spoke with the office, they said the full day tour was only possible if there were two more (insane) people interested in joining us. Most likely, they said, we should count on doing the half day tour. Darn it...said no one ever!
I was – and am still – not anti-kayak as an afternoon activity, but I was – and now am even more so – anti-9 hour kayak. Knowing that we would be at the pubs and out late the night before our adventure made me all the more wary. Hangovers are bad enough when you’re not fighting an ocean current and the Irish elements at the same time – wouldn’t you agree? If you disagree, then call Damian, he is still looking for a day long kayak buddy….
As Irish luck would have it, we learned Saturday afternoon the only option available to us was the shorter, more humane 3-hour kayak tour of Dingle Bay.
Compromise is a beautiful thing – even when it’s forced upon you by third parties.
My Wave (of) Anxiety
I should point out the origin of my seemingly unnecessary wave fright. Having seen many monstrous waves during my time here, I was under the impression that we would be battling high winds and the wrath of Poseidon during our kayak trip.
These notions were the result of my time on the open water during my trips to Skellig Michael and Great Blasket Island earlier in the summer. Fortunately, my wave of anxiety was the biggest wave we would be met with during our kayak trip.
Getting Sorted before the Excursion
We arrived in the early afternoon at the Irish Adventures office across from the Dingle Marina where the annual Dingle Regatta was taking place. The day was slightly overcast – welcome to Ireland, friends – but the temperature was perfect for an afternoon on the water. Honestly, I was thrilled at how wonderful the weather was for our day. I think that might mean Stockholm Syndrome has set in for me and the Irish weather!
Upon arrival, we met the guides and chatted with three brothers from neighboring County Limerick who had come to Dingle with their father for the afternoon. In Irish fashion, Damian couldn’t understand the father, and the three brothers had us in stitches immediately. As they say in Ireland, they were great craic, or great fun!
After the rest of the groups arrived, the guides welcomed us and gave us basic instructions while we signed in; the group was almost exclusively beginners. We changed into our wetsuits and footies (provided by Irish Adventures and included in our tour price), and then headed down the small lane towards the Dingle Marina.
When we reached the water, the guides asked if anyone wanted a “divorce kayak”, commonly known as a two-seater kayak. Not for all the Guinness in the world, buddy!
We plunked our single-seater plastic vessels to the water while they split the big group into smaller parties, and again, we found ourselves with the three Kelley brothers and their father. We had two guides with our group of six, though their sense of humor, friendliness, and laid-back attitudes made it seem like they were just along for the ride.
We began paddling around the Marina under the watchful gaze of tourists and Regatta-competitors alike. Initially we looked like drunk ducklings trying to follow a mother duck, but in no time we were deemed sufficiently capable and were released into the Dingle Bay!
Out on the Open Ocean
Our afternoon was filled with chatting and taking the piss out, or making fun, of one another; we had a great group and, like all Irish people, the Kelley brothers welcomed us into their family and conversations with open arms and fresh sarcasm – just our kind of people!
As for the physical undertaking, I was pleasantly surprised. The fierce waves which were devouring me in my nightmares leading up to our day trip never made their terrifying appearance.
The most “aggressive” wake came from the boats entering and exiting the harbor on tours of the bay; it was negligible. Although we were technically in the open ocean, I would not describe the physical level as “open ocean kayaking” – or maybe I just needed it redefined in my mind. I was very pleased with the amiable reality of the wave-situation.
At one point, we paddled into a small cove and explored a few limestone caves. Because of the tide pool in the cove, there were certain areas where we were more prone to tip the kayaks. Luckily for us, one of the Kelley brothers tipped his almost immediately and the ruckus of getting him back into his kayak gave us a few crucial minutes for the wind to die down, calming the momentary waves.
Another highlight was seeing the infamous Dingle-native, Fungie the Dolphin, swimming about 60 yards from us. Fungie has been living in the Dingle Bay for many years and is the source of tourist attention. There is even a statue of him in the Dingle Marina.
At first glance this may seem like a marketing ploy, but rest assured that Fungie is completely free to roam the open ocean, yet he continues to choose to call the Dingle Bay home. Apparently, when a dolphin’s partner dies in a particular place, the remaining dolphin never leaves that area. Sadly for Fungie, but great for local tourism, that is how he remains firmly affixed to Dingle. As such, tour boats travel into the bay each day heavy laden with tourists hoping to spot the 15-foot local celebrity, and I’m glad I spotted him before my summer here comes to an end!
The weather was overcast and the wind was minimal for the majority of our time on the water, and it did lightly rain at points during our tour. Luckily it was only a light shower, and it didn’t pose any issues for our safety or impact our experience at all. Water, water everywhere…
All in all, it was a great afternoon and an arguably healthier way to mix and mingle with locals than visiting any of the 52 pubs of Dingle. It was also a great way to burn some kcals and explore the stunning, rugged Irish coastline.
The best part? Because we went with Damian’s activity of choice, yet agreed that 3-hours was a perfect amount of time, we both got to say ‘I told you so’ over our Guinness after our afternoon activity came to a close. And, honestly, who doesn’t love that?
Strongly Recommend Irish Adventures
Irish Adventures was a great company and offered us a stellar experience. From making our reservation to receiving our complimentary thumb drive of pictures from our excursion, the guides were attentive and friendly and the overall experience was a very positive one. I would highly recommend this company to anyone interested in a guided outdoor tour of Kerry or the Dingle Peninsula.
Debatably Useful Information: The Irish Adventures office in Dingle is located across from the Marina on Strand Street and easy to find. The half-day tours leave twice daily from the office at 9:30 AM for the morning tour and at 2:00 PM for the afternoon tour; each tours lasts approximately 3 hours. During high season, they sometimes offer a third tour in the evening. This half-day kayak cost 50 euro/adult, which includes your wetsuit and footies rental. This cost also included a thumb drive of pictures taken by one of the guides.
Though we were only interested in kayaking, their company offers many outdoor activities in Kerry including hiking and cycling tours. Pre-booking is essential. For more information see the Irish Adventures website.