18 November 2021
As the sun goes down, right at the heart of the Marais Poitevin Regional Natural Park, at Lidon watersports centre, I put on some old trainers and a life jacket. Julien, our guide, gives us a safety briefing: “Kayaking is above-all about holding your paddle correctly and controlling the rotating movement from the waist”. Then we head into the waters to put it into practice. And we set off for an enjoyable 8-km outing, exploring the maze of wild marshland.
Kayaking is the ideal way to explore the Marais Poitevin
The marshland is a peaceful environment, making it the perfect place for this activity. You can experience the joys of gliding along the waters, splashing each other as you paddle. It is a fun and refreshing activity. In a kayak, it’s possible to go much further into the marshland than on a rowing boat, as you can access the narrow passages that are shallower and overgrown with vegetation. It is also possible to go faster and we are completely independent and responsible for our own kayak. This eco-friendly way of exploring the Marais poitevin’s “Green Venice” is also an invitation to embark upon an adventure!
As the sun goes down, the orange shades reflect through the many pollarded ash trees along the water’s edge. It’s difficult to see where the shades of green begin and end, and we feel completely at peace in this little Amazon rainforest of the Vendée. The cows venture over from their pastures to drink from the canals, and observe us. The mischievious mosquitoes take advantage of this break to get up close and personal with us, without being too invasive because in this balanced ecosystem, mosquitoes also have their own predators and the water is not stagnant.
Julien explains that to be able to find your way around the green maze, there are markers along the waterways to define the various sectors, but if you are not used to it, a map and compass might be useful to venture beyond the main waterways. We cross paths with a guided boat trip near Saint-Hilaire-la-Palud, before heading into the narrower waterways, that are less crowded and cannot be accessed by the rowing boats.
Kayak excursion in the Marais poitevin.
Take the time to explore and really listen to the marshland
In the middle of our exploration, Julien gives us the opportunity to see what it feels like to just let ourselves drift along. So I put my paddle away inside the kayak, I listen to the sound of the water and the birds, I watch the little insects on the water and then close my eyes and just feel the fresh air on my skin, the sound of the leaves rustling in the wind… It’s a moment to just let go, let the rippling waters carry you along peacefully, and live for the present moment.
Then we get back to our exploration. As I paddle along, I catch a glimpse of a heron and some coypu crossing quickly in front of us. When I ask our guide what coypu tastes like, he replies “you’ll see later when we have our evening nibbles”! Julien is a guide who is used to survival expeditions in the Arctic and he had some pretty impressive stories to tell us, about bears stealing food from their camp and even a walrus attack on a kayak in the Great North… Our guide is experienced in adventures in the great outdoors and is convinced that this kind of outing in the marshland will make visitors want to go further in their explorations, into the Regional Nature Park and beyond. The adventure begins here.
The Marais pPoitevin, the perfect place for a microadventure!
We explore an even wilder area where the waters are very shallow and the branches are low lying. We sometimes even have to duck right down as we paddle, to get through. Not many people have passed through here before us. We feel as though we’ve made a wrong turn, the multitude of waterways have literally led us into the middle of nowhere, to my utter delight. It’s almost a luxury to dare to go off the beaten track, and just enjoy it. This is when our microadventure takes on its true meaning. Further along, we find ourselves in a passage that leads us along winding waterways that look as if they’ve come out of a fairy-tale. If I caught a glimpse of the legendary Melusine hiding behind a tree, I’m not even sure I’d be surprised…
Guided kayak trip in the heart of the Marais poitevin.
The sun begins to set. I suspect our guide has gotten us lost on purpose, to make the activity all the more memorable and adventurous, to make sure we leave the Marais poitevin with some unforgettable memories. Mission accomplished! Once we find the right way back, we stop off to enjoy a glass of local wine, served with some local products (including coypu pâté!) before picking up our paddle and heading back to the jetty before nightfall. We didn’t get a chance to see the wily otter, who is more likely to venture out early in the morning or late in the evening. Even if it were just for that opportunity, I’d come back and get lost all over again, and paddle off on another adventure through the Marais Poitevin!
To book with Julien, the Natur’all guide: https://www.team-naturall.com/copie-de-multi-activites