Kayaking with Gray Whales on the Southern Coast of Oregon

This is part five in our continuing series on Traveling the Pacific Coast Highway.

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A Blue Heron near Port Orford, Oregon. Photo by South Coast Tours, LLC
A Blue Heron near Port Orford, Oregon. Photo by South Coast Tours, LLC

Port Orford, Oregon

Day six will begin early as we are off to Port Orford to kayak. When I first heard that we might be sea kayaking, I thought, “fun!” But that quickly changed to “Wait! What? Kayak? In the ocean!?”

I’ve kayaked in Lake Logan Martin in Alabama in JULY. In Lake Logan Martin in July, the water is about 88 degrees. There are no sharks, no crashing waves. But Oregon? In the ocean? The air is cold and the water is about 55 degrees. I will be sitting in a kayak inches above the water and could tip over.

This is out of my comfort zone for sure. But I tell myself, I can do this. (Of course, my husband is looking forward to it.)

Kayaking with Gray Whales in Oregon

Though sitting in bed with a cup of coffee sounds so much better at six in the morning, I get myself out of bed that next day. We meet Dave Lacey with South Coast Tours at the dock at 7:30 am. He cheerfully greets each one of us. After signing forms, he hands us wet suits, footies and life jackets.

I have brought along my jacket and my ear covers, afraid I’m going to be cold. Tyson, one of our guides, politely offers to keep my jacket in a dry bag, just in case I need it.

Sea kayaking with South Coast Tours LLC in Port Orford, OR. Photo by South Coast Tours
Sea kayaking with South Coast Tours LLC in Port Orford, OR. Photo by South Coast Tours

Our group consists of 10 kayakers plus two guides. When Dave hears of my hesitancy, he quickly suggests a tandem kayak, which eases my nerves. South Coast Tours offers all levels of kayaking and even SUP (stand up paddling).

Our kayaks are down on the beach in an area with no crashing waves to fight through.  After a quick lesson, into the water we go.

Wow! Much to my surprise, the kayaks are incredibly stable and I never once feel that we will tip over. Dave and Tyson make sure we all feel comfortable and off we go. The water is full of bull kelp, which he says is edible.

Within minutes of being in the water, gray whales begin surfacing around us. I see two adult gray whales and a juvenile. How exciting! I am not even afraid!

Dave and Tyson are very knowledgeable about and respectful of the whales. We stop a distance away from the whales to watch them surface again and again. It is mesmerizing and I could watch for hours.

Kayaking with gray whales in Oregon. Photo by South Coast Tours, LLC
Gray whale in Port Orford, Photo by South Coast Tours, LLC

As we continue on, we see a harbor seal sunning himself. Next is an oyster catcher and a blue heron. I can’t believe I am down here on the water experiencing all this, instead of drinking coffee in the hotel and watching it on TV. It is without a doubt, one of the most amazing encounters with nature I have ever had.

I am so happy that I did not allow my fear to keep me from this opportunity. South Coast Tours, thank you for helping me to truly experience life on the southern coast of Oregon. Would I go again? Absolutely!

Tips: Be willing to go outside of your comfort zone! For more ideas on places to go, lodging and culinary delights on the Oregon coast visit: http://visittheoregoncoast.com/

This is part five in our continuing series on Traveling the Pacific Coast Highway