I want to paddle to Papua New Guinea

Hi Guys.

From flicking through here it looks as though this is largely an American community. So, (at the risk of this becoming TLDR) I’ll provide a bit of background; I’m right into camping and 4wheel driving, I’ve been planning a trip to Cape York ever since I heard of the place. (Actually, since even before that). Cape York is the northernmost point on the Australian mainland, and it’s kind of the ‘holy grail’ of 4wd trips.

More recently, I’ve been finding myself casually kayaking around Lake Macquarie (it’s a lake/estuary about 2 hours north of Sydney), and rather enjoying myself. I only ever go for an hour or 2 at a time, and I really don’t know how fast I’m moving or what kind of distance I’m covering - Which is part of my question. I’m really something of a newb.

So, Papua New Guinea. That’s the new goal. It seems ambitious to the point of ridiculous, but even so, I want to do it. The ultimate trip - 4wd to Cape York, and kayak to another freaking country.

Do you think this is possible? I’ve been looking at the maps around Cape York and Papua New Guinea, and from what I can gather it’s a relatively small distance, about 150km (93 miles) between the 2 mainlands (as the crow flies) - it’s not all open seas though. The longest stretch that I can see that doesn’t have any sort of camp-able land is about 26km (16 miles), and by the time you wind through all the little islands it looks like it’d be a little over 220km (136 miles) total distance. So the trip would be broken up over multiple days with camping in between. I’m guessing that the more days trip, the more stuff you need (food wise etc), and carrying capacity on a kayak is obviously less than that of my long wheel base Nissan Patrol.

So the main thing I’m hoping to find out is, how much distance could you reasonably cover in a day? Assuming that we’d be travelling for about 6-10 hours of the day, is it reasonable to assume we can cover the longest stretch of 26km? And furthermore, is it reasonable to assume we could cover the 220km before we run out of food/drinking water?

This idea might sound crazy… Or it might not. Maybe people paddle to Papua New Guinea all the time! But it seems insane to me. Hoping that someone who knows a bit about long haul paddling will be able to tell me exactly how insane it is, and whether or not I should abandon the idea entirely.


Freya Hoffmeister…

– Last Updated: Jan-22-13 9:49 PM EST –

...did a direct crossing of the 590 km wide mouth of the Gulf of Carpentaria solo and unassisted during her circumnavigation of OZ...eight days at sea...your mileage may vary...lol... {:>))

Lots of variables
Lots of variables - your skills and strength being a major one, as are your choice of gear. But these daily distances don’t seem out of line. I usually figure 10-15 miles a day as an average for my trips.

Keep in mind that many of these islands you are planning to go to likely don’t have water, so expect to carry a lot of gear.

Also I would suspect there are many dangers to that stretch, from currents to ships to wildlife to other things I am not even thinking of.

tons of variables
I would try very hard to search for local info.

On flat, light wind, no current days. 30+ miles is easy for anyone in decent shape, so on the surface your goal seems straight foward, but there could be issues.

Btw, I’m very jealous of your Patrol.

Ryan L.

Talk to some boat people.
Find out about the tides and currents around the islands you are paddling near. Bad currents could be a major problem.

No one has said it yet, so I will

– Last Updated: Jan-22-13 12:21 PM EST –

The fact that you are asking whether these distances are reasonable makes me suspect that being able to recover after a capsize is probably a skill you still need to work on. Naturally the best method is a roll, but even re-entry should be practiced. Naturally you don't want to find yourself unable to get back in the boat when miles from shore. Also, it doesn't always take much wind to make a partially swamped boat move pretty fast, so you should have the experience that helps insure that you not let go of it in such a case. You don't want to let go of the boat and then notice two or three seconds too late that the wind is taking it away faster than you can swim. Of course, you'll be carrying a load of gear (making a wind-blown boat slower), but then, the wind may end up being stronger than you wish as well. The kayakers here (I'm not one) can say more about these and other safety issues.

Watch out fer dem thaar headhunters

warm up trip
after getting the required skills, do a warm up trip along a coast. There is lots more cushion just following a coastline than crossing between islands. But it gives you time to work out all those things like what to have handy on long crossings, how much water and food you consume and what your average speed is for a day.

40-50km a day is not unreasonable if you are in good paddling shape and have a fast boat. It takes a while to build up that kind of endurance, not just shoulders and back but your hands and seat need toughening up too.

Agree 100% with Above
I would suggest having Papau New Guinea as a long-term goal, and build up to it.

I suspect at this point you’re not even aware of all the skills you’ll need to take on such an ambitious trip. Shorter trips will help hone your skills, figure out your systems and equipment, find your physical limits, practice skills, etc.

As mentioned above, do you know what you’d do if you capsize? Do you know how to land and launch in surf? What would you do if you need assistance? Can you read tide charts? Just a few of the things you’d need to figure out.

There’s an Australian-based kayak forum, maybe someone there has paddled the area:


Also, aren’t there a lot of salt water crocs in that area?

Good luck

’d build up to it.

Expedition paddling is 90% mental,

Spend a month camping out with your boat.

Lots of warm water where you are at so a 16-mile crossing is not that bad.

During Verlen Krugers epic 21,000 mile paddle from N. Canada to the tip of S. America he paddled from Florida to S. America via island hopping the entire great and lesser antillies chain of islands. I think his biggest crossing there was only 150 miles but was done during a hurricane.

One travels according TO the weather…so your question of “how far can i go with x… amount of hours”…is a newb question.

If you have good weather for 20 hours…and a big crossing…one would most likely paddle 20 hours. I.e you go when its good and your stop when its not. Take advantage of good weather…that twenty hours of paddling MAY be the only time you will paddle in 3-weeks due to weather…so that adds up to about an hour a day of paddling for three weeks.

I island hopped a trip from thailand to malaysia a few ago…you just keep moving or chill out. not a lot of big crossing for me however. stay hydrated and cool. it can be dehydrating in 100 degree temps sitting in a god aweful hot crammped sea kayak.

Nothing wrong with thinking big. I have paddled salt water in the San Juan Islands and was amazed at the currents and tidal rips that can appear out of nowhere and get to be 4 feet.

Cetaceans (whales) can be an issue.

Maybe a radar reflector on a pole would help avoid ships.

I never liked long crossings in a sea kayak but most of your trip sounds like island hopping which is good. Lots of refuge in bad weather.

You would be in warm conditions but within the area of typhoons and other serious tropical squalls. The time of year and advance weather reports would be really important in making such a trip.

I love the Aussies and Kiwis because you are always coming up with this crazy stuff. Good on ya and best of luck.

Google a bit …
It’s been done many times …

for example


Find some folks in Oz who have done the trip and train and get skills for a year or so before you go.

Big issues will be currents, tides and heavy swells in shallow waters. It could be a pleasant trip or it could be very challenging taking the wrong path at the wrong time of the year. My Uncle was in the USN during world war II and spent a lot of time in that area, before moving to islands north of there. Lots of stories of tiger sharks and japanese snipers and people who were far removed from the 20th century. Probably is full of Starbucks and internet cafes by now.