Menorca, (or Minorca – you decide) is the least inhabited of the Mediterranean’s Baleariac Islands. With beautiful scenery and wildlife, and a coastline of just 150 km around, it’s a great option for a sea kayaking trip. Freshly back from her own expedition around the island, Sonja Jones gives us her advice and information to help plan your own trip …
How did you get there with your boats?
We drove all the way to Menorca by road and ferry … it was a very long journey but worth it nonetheless.
Is it possible to rent kayaks there?
Yes – you can rent kayaks from Menorca en Kayak in Es Grau where you can either be led by them (which I absolutely recommend if you don’t have experience) or embark on the journey yourself. They are very helpful in explaining where to camp, where the shops are, and where the most notable areas of interest are, no query is too great.
Where did you start?
We started and ended in Es Grau; due to the forecast for the first four days, we headed clockwise around the island.
How many days did it take?
In total it took us ten days due to various weather fronts that crept in, sea sickness in some team members due to the high swell, and overall energy levels of the team.
How much food did you carry? Did you stock up on the way round?
We carried food for dinner every night, and Alpen for breakfast. We tended to break where possible in small towns so we could get something nice to make for lunch, or we would be especially hardcore and have a pizza and a beer (On a Balearic island it would be rude not to embrace the local culture!).
We all also had a range of buoyancy aid snacks to keep up energy levels, particularly high calorie snacks such as Bounce Balls.
The thing we had to be most mindful of was water – you don’t realise how precious water is until you’re out on expedition and the potential for obtaining it becomes, in the case of a stretch of the north side of the island, unobtainable for three days.
Where did you camp?
We ensured that we camped away from residential spots where possible, for our safety, but also, you have to be a little careful where you camp in Menorca as you can get fined if the police find you. As most of the beaches you sleep on are in a national park, it is advised to keep your impact as small as possible so sleep either in just a sleeping bag within a bivvy, or under a tarp.
It is also recommended to pack up your camp as early in the morning as possible to avoid running into trouble – we would wake up at 6:00 am every day, and do the majority of the paddling before the midday sun.
Any navigational hazards, or challenging sections of paddling?
Certainly when the wind picked up, you would naturally have to paddle away from the shore to not find yourself dumped on the cliffs. In particular, the north west to northern side of the island was very choppy. If you are not competent in stronger sea states (4 Star equivalent) or have the backup of a strong team – do not go this trip alone thinking it will be calm throughout. Safety is no accident.
What paddling kit did you take/use? Why?
My Peyto was my absolute essential piece of kit – not only was it my PFD, it had a fantastic space for a drinks reservoir in the back. I was able to take in the vital fluids whenever necessary, no matter how hot the weather or choppy the sea. There is also heaps of space in the pockets for phone or VHF radio, snacks, knife…and any delightful shells I stumbled across.
I wore board shorts on my bottom rather than dry trousers/neoprenes as it was so warm and a technical t-shirt to paddle in which dried easily and protected me from the sun … and let’s not forget a tacky tourist sunhat and some snazzy Dewerstone sunglasses (which float if dropped in the sea).
On bolder days, my Mistral kept me dry in the splash yet cool in the sun.
In terms of safety and standard gear, at all times I had on me my Palm Ocean Pro 10 m towline, folding knife, Fox 40 Micro Whistle, sea kayak bilge pump, paddle float, spray deck, and VE Paddle Explorer (medium blade) Aircore Pro Carbon blades on a glass shaft.
What other non-paddling gear is essential?
For me, my ultimate saviours were my sleeping bag with in built mosquito net to keep the bitey things away from me and my inflatable mat for snoozing – particularly on the rockier of beaches.
Good thermals were essential at night time when sat on the beach, as the temperature would plummet quite suddenly.
My bivvy bag was key to keep the dew away from my sleeping bag … and there’s nothing like a jet boil to get something warm in your belly to eat or drink at lightening speed. It’s these simple things that make the most impact in terms of comfort and happiness for me
What’s the weather like?
The average annual temperature is about 21 ℃ and the island experiences about 300 days of sunshine a year. When we were there in middle-end of May, it was around twenty-three degrees with lows of around eighteen. As you can imagine, the heat will begin to peak in July and August (reaching 40℃) and begins to become much more comfortable in September. November to February is winter where it can be rainy and even snow up on the hills.
Menorca often experiences the notorious ‘Tramuntana’ winds, where high pressure in the Azores and low pressure in central Europe cause a northerly wind through the Western Mediterranean. This brings cooler temperatures and some very windy days Celcius excellent for sailing, windsurfing and even kayak sailing. One night it was so windy we had to hide out on a verandah for for shelter. This also meant paddling out into surf and navigating round some very choppy headlands the following day.
When’s best to go?
If you’re going for a kayak adventure, it’s probably best to avoid peak temperatures for safety and comfort, so spring to early summer (June) and then September through to October is best.