Taking on the waves: Black Sea kayaking in Kavarna

When you return to the same place at the same time the very next year, you know there has to be a special reason. And in my case, the reason was that I fell in love with kayaking in the Black Sea. Touring the stunning red cliffs and marvelling at the maritime vistas of Bulgaria’s jagged northern coast is an unforgettable endeavour. Especially when you’re on your own in your kayak, taking on the waves and feeling like a true adventurer!

The guide and the gear

Trip Kavarna's Epic fibreglass kayaks are the cream of the crop

Trip Kavarna’s Epic fibreglass kayaks are the cream of the crop

I went on both sea kayaking tours together with Trip Kavarna, a licensed tour agent, an experienced kayaker and an incredibly calm and friendly guide who speaks English, Russian and Bulgarian. Both times I paddled one of Trip Kavarna’s five high-grade Epic GPX single kayaks with Epic carbon touring paddles. At just 15 kg, this fibreglass boat was easy to carry in and out of the water and a joy to navigate. When paddling, it almost didn’t feel like I was moving any extra weight but my own body.

At the same time, the boat was stable and robust. Keeping my balance wasn’t a challenge in one of the Epic GPX, so no, I never even came close to turning over… and I’ll admit I’ve been able to capsize in an actual full-sized boat in a city lake on another occasion! This time I was equipped with a life jacket and instructed on how to act in such a situation though, so it wouldn’t have been much of an issue anyway.

Getting ready: What to bring

Sportswear and an action camera are highly recommended for your kayaking adventure!

Sportswear and an action camera are highly recommended for your kayaking adventure!

Bringing a waterproofed action camera on board is highly recommended, but I wouldn’t take a phone or a DSLR with me. There’s dry bags to store your gear, but given that your kayak is covered by your sprayskirt at all times, you won’t be really able to easily access your camera. And you should be busy paddling and having fun anyway! Your guide will have an action camera on, so don’t worry, you’re guaranteed to have photographic proof of your kayaking adventure.

Needless to say, this is a serious physical activity so you’d better slip into your activewear or swimsuit. On a sunny day, you’re unlikely to be cold and you won’t get too much water on you thanks to the sprayskirt. But you don’t want cotton clothes keeping you wet in any case! On longer tours, it would be wise to bring a bottle of drinking water (the action and those sea views might quickly make you thirsty), but on my shorter tours in spring, I was just fine without one.

Location and conditions

Few kayaking locations are as scenic as Cape Kaliakra and Bolata

Few kayaking locations are as scenic as Cape Kaliakra and Bolata

The Trip Kavarna kayaking tours all take place in the Kavarna area of the northern Bulgarian Black Sea coast, about an hour north of Varna and 1.5 hours south of Constanța in Romania by car. This corner of the Dobrudzha seaside is an unspoilt subtropical landscape. It’s the place where the southernmost reaches of the Eurasian Steppe meet the towering cliffs and secluded little beaches of the Black Sea. For accommodation, I can highly recommend the homely Levana Guest House in Balgarevo (nested between Kavarna and Cape Kaliakra) and the Guest House Nash Dom in Kavarna itself.

Trip Kavarna’s tours take anywhere from one to eight hours. Depending on your fitness, your preferences and the sea and wind conditions, you can either hop on a quick one-hour learning tour or enjoy a full day at sea. Of course, whether you get a thrilling battle with the waves or a mostly chill boat trip along the coastline depends entirely on the weather, so you’d better be a bit flexible and trust the judgment of your guide.

The prices are more than reasonable for what you get and there’s generous discounts for off-season, low season, groups, regular customers, you name it!

There and back again: The routes

Paddling on during my second kayaking tour from Bolata to Rusalka

Paddling on during my second kayaking tour from Bolata to Rusalka

Starting points for the tours are usually the scenic Bolata beach or Kavarna’s very own town beach next to Cape Chirakman. On both of my sea kayaking days, we used the Bolata cove as our basecamp.

On my first tour, we rounded the magnificent Cape Kaliakra, starting from Bolata and ending at the Zelenka beach on the other side, past seabirds and fishermen’s stake nets. Paddling around Bulgaria’s most famous cape and seeing it high up above me from the water was a memorable experience. The route took about 2.5 hours to complete and though I could feel fatigue creeping in by the end, I can’t say I was totally exhausted.

My second tour with Trip Kavarna went north to the Rusalka resort instead. On this route, I was able to see plenty of cormorants from up close as well as take in the vistas of the Black Sea cliffs that line up the shore. You can even enter a cormorant-inhabited cave midway if the waves allow for that! The tour lasted a little more than an hour, but its full-day version all the way north to the Tyulenovo Rock Arch takes six to seven hours and is one of the longest routes on offer.

All in all, both times I got a nice mix of action and calm, with some decent but not too heavy waves, some pleasant encounters with marine life (if you’re super lucky, you can even paddle alongside dolphins!) and incredible sea vistas all the way. Would I come back to Kavarna for a third kayaking adventure? You bet!

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