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Reducing our environmental impact when kayaking

10 ways to minimise the impact of your kayak adventure on the environmentRoaring 40s Kayaking blog - 10 ways to minimise the impact of kayaking on the environment

Meandering on a kayak is a blissful way for any traveller to be in touch with nature but the fact is that kayakers can upset the environment if not aware of how to minimise their impact.

Yakima has put together some handy hints that are well worth considering before embarking on your next kayaking adventure and we’ve added some extra tips here and there.

1. Before Paddling

Plan your route and choose landing and camping sites carefully, avoiding sensitive areas. Pack smart, taking suitable equipment to reduce your reliance on the environment – carry a fuel stove, a trowel to bury human waste, a suitable tent and sufficient food and clothing.

2. Don’t transport pest species

Sea kayakers may unwittingly transport plant and animal pest species. You can avoid this by:

  • Washing all soil from pegs and boots.
  • Clean your kayak between trips, including getting rid of any spiders, insects or other freeloaders.
  • Wash any mud or plant fragments from yourself, kayaks and gear before moving from one campsite to another.

3. CampingRoaring 40s Kayaking blog - 10 ways to minimise the impact of kayaking on the environment - fuel stoves

Much unintentional impact occurs when ashore, so use existing campsite and tracks whenever possible.

Using fuel stoves for cooking is recommended, although wild camping with a fire is a romantic way to spend an evening after a long day of paddling. Fires are not allowed in most National Parks in Australia so check the regulations. If they are allowed, ensure you only have fires in the designated area and check local guidelines, especially in dry conditions.

When you do have a campfire make sure it is friendly to yourself and the surrounding fauna by limiting dioxins. This means no plastics!

4. Reducing Waste

Take home all your rubbish, including empty packaging, food scraps (check the campsite before you leave for spilled food) and sanitary products. Also take home rubbish left by others if it is possible.

As far as human sanitation is concerned, research before the trip to find out if and where toilets are located, so as not to disturb sensitive ecosystems. If toilets are not available, at a minimum bury waste and toilet paper in holes 15-20cm deep at least 100m from water, camps and tracks. Also consider disposal in the ocean (a distance from shore) or carrying it out of areas where disposal is difficult.

This advice seems obvious, but it is critical that it is taken seriously. A lake on Queensland’s Fraser Island was the subject of national attention because of the water conditions. Regional manager at the time, Rob Allen, reported ‘about 35,000 people visit tiny Basin Lake each year and it has been damaged by high levels of sunscreen and urine in the water.’

This story highlights the need for an understanding of the environment in which one passes through.

5. Fishing

Readily available food sources abound along our coastlines and are a great way to supplement camping tucker. Reduce your impact by being self-contained and follow these suggestions:

  • Obtain appropriate fishing licences.
  • Ensure you know and observe any “no-take” zones and regulations.
  • Do not take undersized fish.
  • Only keep enough to satisfy your immediate needs.

6. Off-Peak Journeys

As the Fraser Island example attests to with large numbers of tourists, tourism can harm environments. To combat this, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has recommended to ‘go on holiday during the off-peak period to prevent overstraining resources – and you'll also avoid the crowds.’  Of course, you must always be aware of any changing weather conditions in the off-peak seasons that may impact your safety.

7. Kayak Launch

Be careful where you launch your kayak from – riverbanks, for example can be brittle and may damage easily. In sensitive areas look for a ‘robust’ section of the bank and if possible carry, rather than drag, the kayak.

8. Meeting the LocalsRoaring 40s Kayaking blog - 10 ways to minimise the impact of kayaking on the environment - distance from wildlife

Sea kayaks are the perfect vessels to view coastal wildlife. To reduce your impact while still enjoying the wildlife close up:

  • Maintain a respectful distance both on the water and land – 100m is a rough guide.
  • Do not disturb breeding wildlife. Check maps, avoid landing on breeding islands and camp away from breeding sites.
  • Learn about the wildlife to help you appreciate their behaviour and modify your own to minimise impact.

Also store food and rubbish securely to discourage wildlife from finding it around campsites.

9. Be considerate

Australia has many protected sites of Indigenous rock and cave art and other sites of cultural significance. Respect these sites and observe but do not touch. Leave rocks, plants and other natural objects as you find them.

Respect the wishes and regulations of all hosts (eg Aboriginal, pastoral, land managers and locals) and only visit places you have obtained permission for.

Let natural sounds prevail and protect the quality of the experience for everyone.

10. Smart Travel 

Minimal impact is the best policy. Most websites and government agencies will confirm that simple measures by all can lead to an ethical appreciation of the outdoors for all.

Whether it be snapping off tree branches for fires, or equipping yourself with a storage container for food waste, a kayaker can keep the rivers and marine life as pristine as they found them.


What do you do to minimise your impact? Send us your ideas and suggestions.


For further information and maps for protected areas in Tasmania, see the Minimal Impact Sea Kayaking guidelines.


Authors: Emma from Yakima and Jenny from Roaring 40s Kayaking

Date: November 2018