As you travel the fjords of Aysén, pause and imagine how they might have appeared during previous ice ages when they were giant frozen estuaries! The ice receded away hundreds of thousands of years ago, forming the long, narrow, submerged glacial valleys and high towering walls that surround you during your trip. These fjords are one of only eight fjordal systems in the world; the others are located in Canada, Greenland, New Zealand, Norway, and the Pacific Northwest of the United States.
The winds and water movements that are typical of fjords produce the conditions for extensive nutrient upwelling, producing a plethora of alga and zooplankton that form an incredible productive base for the aquatic food chain. That is why the fjords and channels of Aysén are incredible natural reserves for unique and interesting fauna ranging from microscopic algae and corals to sea anemones and fish, and many cetaceans, including the austral dolphin and several varieties of whales. The Aysén fjords have been complemented by tectonic forces which have fractured the coastal mountain range into a thousand of parts forming islands, islets and channels. And each island is a small bio-diverse paradise, with hundreds of species of flora and fauna.
Ferries and charters navigate these waters providing various options for travelers, and there are also several options for kayaking, which places you at the water’s level. It’s an incredible perspective that allows you to connect with this magnificent area at a very physical level, propelling yourself through the water in complete silence, surrounded by the mysteries and marvels of the sea and shores.
There are several kayaking options within the fjords and channels of Aysén.
To access the coastal towns and ports, you can travel the Cordillera Route with Naviera Austral, which circulates between Puerto Chacabuco and Quellón, stopping at all the intermediate ports and docks. If you have your own boat, you can arrange to porter it on the ferry and if not, you can lease equipment in Puerto Cisnes, Raúl Marín or Caleta Andrade.
Some Routes and tours
We suggest heading to Puerto Gaviota to explore the 6.4 kilometer stretch between Puerto Gaviota and Puerto Amparo, a paddle that takes you along beautiful areas of the peninsula and does not require previous experience. It is ideal for paddlers of all levels; the winds are not usually a limiting factor, since both ports are protected, and the nature along the route is impressive.
You can make a side trip to visit the mysterious cave of San Andrés, which is presumed to have been a refuge for ancient nomadic canoe peoples. To reach the cave, you will enter the Puyuhuapi Channel where the winds are less predictable, therefore we recommend this route only for more experienced paddlers. If you are exploring this area independently, consider traveling with a support boat; there are several captains in Puerto Gaviota who can be contracted for logistical and safety support.
In Puerto Cisnes, Patagoni-K Mate & Expediciones offers guided two-day tours to the Escondida Lagoon, and other excursions in the Cisnes River Delta and the Lago las Torres National Reserve. Excursions include kayaks and gear, transport, guide, safety equipment and box lunches. You can also rent kayaks by the hour, including all needed safety equipment.
Pachanca Kayak offers tours of the small channels between the Huichas Islands, which allow close up viewing of friendly bottle-nose dolphins and lots of seabirds. Their shop is located along the waterfront in Caleta Andrade.
Interested in developing you kayak skills? Try one of these expedition style experiential courses.
The Aysén based branch of the American wilderness leadership school, NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School), offers two week adventure courses, where you travel through the fjords and channels, learning paddling techniques, expedition planning and behavior, risk management and rescue techniques, and wilderness living skills. The course also will teach you to interpret and read nautical charts, understand tides and currents, and study how weather and wind affects your plans and decisions. At the end, you will be prepared to plan and carry out kayak trips within many remote areas of the world.
Aguahielo Expeditions, located in Puerto Aysén, also offers options for experiential kayak courses that provide shorter and more economic options for learning and perfecting your skills. Rolando Toledo, ACA instructor and regional kayak guide offers several itineraries including expeditions to the San Rafael Lagoon National Park and a descent of the Baker River to its delta, near Caleta Tortel. The courses offer great adventure and many of the same learning opportunities as the NOLs options; including paddling techniques, wilderness survival skills, nautical chart reading, minimum impact camping, emergency response procedures, and lots more.