A review from Paul Leitch
My partner and I are just back from a 10 day self guided trip on Crete’s south coast (I am 4 star BCU Sea and my partner has her 3 star).
We arranged everything through Stelios (https://www.enjoy-crete.com). Here is some info on what we thought about our trip, in case you are considering going.
Our arrangements through Stelios were excellent and he really couldn’t be more helpful. He made sure we had boats which suited us (he has a great selection of sea kayaks, including North Shore, Valley and P&H). He is first and foremost an experienced sea kayaker (BCU trained) and he is clearly passionate about kayaking and made sure we got the most from our trip. The service we got was definitely above and beyond what we were expecting and all the gear was first class.
We have paddled in many places around the Med and Crete is definitely one of the best places we have been to. It is big – over 1000 km of coastline, so there is no way you will see everything it has to offer in one trip (unless you have the time to circumnavigate!). It has all the key ingredients, cliffs, caves, stunning beaches etc and we just saw a small section of it (150km). The south coast is also reasonably quiet. You do see folk around at many of the beaches but there is a lack of the usual small boats which you normally see buzzing around the med (probably due to the risk of katabatic winds!). So you do get more of a sense of being away from it all.
Bear in mind though that the paddling can be reasonably challenging. On our 10 day trip, although we did have several days of idyllic conditions, we also experienced sea state 4/5 and strong katabatic winds (F7 for 3 days when conditions were too dangerous to paddle). Fortunately Stelios was in contact with us during our trip (he gave us a mobile phone) and we had daily updates on conditions from him based on forecasts and his local knowledge.
If you are kayaking independently you will need to be experienced. If on the other hand you go with Stelios, then from the time we spent talking with him, it seemed clear that as well as ensuring you had a safe trip he would also help to improve your skills. I also think Crete would be an excellent place to go to practice and be coached in more challenging conditions, if you are working through the BCU system for example. If you are interested in this, then it would definitely be worth getting in touch to discuss this with him.
The other thing worth mentioning is that Crete has an awful lot more than just a great coastline for paddling. We spent some time during our trip walking its fabulous gorges and visiting its mountain villages. It would be a good place to go if you had a non paddling partner for example (part of the E4 walking route follows the coastline and it would be possible to have a group where some walk and some kayak). Everywhere the people were genuinely friendly and proud of their island. Then of course there is the food and the Tavernas which will encourage most folk (if you are like us ) to take a more leisurely pace to your trip than you may have originally planned. We will definitely be going back for more!