Kayaking at Ships Cove

Beautiful: Wilderness Guides tour leader Chris Shaw, left, talks about Ship Cove.
Beautiful: Wilderness Guides tour leader Chris Shaw, left, talks about Ship Cove.

"Quick, come here and look at this map," Wilderness Guides kayaking tour guide Chris Shaw says.

"This is where we're starting, and this is where we're hopefully going," he says pointing to Ship Cove and tracing his finger along the map to the predator-free Motuara Island in the outer Sounds.

"Let's go!"

It's this enthusiasm our guide retained through the whole trip that made it so worthwhile.

It takes about an hour and a half for myself, three others and our guide to reach our start point at Ship Cove on the Beachcomber Cruise which is plenty of time to get to know each other.

As we pass the different islands the skipper tells us of the people and the wildlife that live there.

Ship Cove is a magnificent spot. The lush green grass on a clearing on the foreshore looks like the perfect place for a picnic, while a monument dedicated to Captain Cook in 1913 stands majestically, overlooking the sea.

The Department of Conservation gave the area a makeover in 2006 putting panels up outlining the history of the area.

Chris, who is well schooled in Sounds history and clearly passionate about it, tells us Captain Cook spent more than 100 days in the cove on five visits, returning for its safe harbour and access to food, water and timber.

After safety instructions, we paddle around the cove and over to some wild mussel beds, as Chris tells us stories about the flora and fauna in the area.

We start to move into rough water as we eye up Motuara Island which is known for housing young kiwi.

Our arms got a good workout against the wind and in the end we decide to go to Cannibal Cove for lunch instead of attempting to cross the Queen Charlotte Sound.

Bread rolls and slices from the Picton Bakery were a real treat after the exercise we had done.

To share a New Zealand specialty with two Israelis on the tour, Chris showed us some kina. He cracked one of the spiky-looking shellfish and shared it around. It tasted like slimy ocean, and everyone, bar the guide agreed kina is an acquired taste.

We rode the waves, now working with us, back to Ship Cove. The Beachcomber Mailboat picked us up and we got to see the rest of the Marlborough Sounds as we made our way back to Picton.

All up, it was a very enjoyable and challenging day.

The Marlborough Express