Sam Dalton – Great Lakes Kayak

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A new and exciting way of experiencing some of our local natural beauty has been launched – the Great Lakes Kayaking Company. We caught up with Senior Instructor Sam Dalton to learn more …

What are some of the key features of Wallis Lake that people aren’t aware of?

Anyone who’s had the pleasure of driving across the Forster-Tuncurry Bridge has seen the maze of islands, sandbars and crystal clear waters that form Wallis Lake; although I’m not sure how many people actually know it’s one of the most environmentally and economically significant natural resources in the state.

The lake is a barrier lagoon with a complex system of lakes, rivers and interconnecting channels that covers an area of about 100 square kilometres; so, it makes sense that it’s a popular spot for all sorts of water enthusiasts.

It’s also incredibly rich in marine life and is the third most productive estuarine fishery in NSW, with important fish species, prawns, octopus, and squid, and of course the famous Wallis Lake oysters. Yum!

That’s not the only drawcard, though. The network of islands are nature reserves and support massive rainforest and saltmarsh communities, home to several rare and endangered bird species, and you can view resident Osprey and Pelicans any time you get on the water. I regularly see pods of dolphins, and I guess that’s because kayaking is much less intrusive than a motorboat.

The cultural history is also very unique, as the Lake was an important hunting and gathering resource for the local Aboriginal community, and I can recite countless anecdotes of settlers, convicts and cedar getters exploring the area. In short, it’s an area rich in history, and kayaking is the most fun, healthy and relaxing avenue for exploring it. At least … it is in my opinion!

Sammy loves the Great Lakes!

Sammy loves the Great Lakes!

> What sort of tours are available?

The most popular trips are definitely the half day scenic and interpretive tours. We operate from the heart of town and paddle the network of sandy beaches, quiet bays and mangroves that are most prevalent in the northern reaches of the lake. The intertidal mangroves and drainage creeks that flow into that region are important feeding and nursery areas for juvenile fish as well as a few other ‘locals’, so there’s always plenty to look at and talk about.

The multitude of islands and bays offers protection from most prevailing winds, so there’s always a quiet little cove to beach on for morning or afternoon tea, and it enables us to operate pretty well all year round.

I also offer some longer day tours for the more adventurous and conditioned paddlers, and we land or launch from the property Tiona at Pacific Palms. It’s worth a visit on its own, but paddling in with one of the picture perfect sunsets across the lake is simply spectacular.

Because kayaking is such a great leisure activity, I wanted to introduce something different for larger special interest groups. We now provide more boutique tours, eg gourmet oyster shucking tours, where you can buy your own Sydney Rock oysters fresh off the lake. We’ll even open them for you!

> Do you have to be fit to enjoy the tours?

You don’t have to be Guy Leach, but it’s a good idea to have a general level of fitness. The beauty of Wallis Lake is that we can more or less pick and change our route depending on the group. Realistically though, most people can paddle comfortably for a few casual hours, and there are plenty of stops along the way.

Kayaking is also a very enjoyable and therapeutic way to get active, and you’ll be constantly under the supervision of experienced and accredited instructors so we can tweak your skills and make your trip a lot more enjoyable.

> Sam, you’re the Senior Instructor at the Great Lakes Kayaking Company. What’s your background in the industry?

I’ve been on the water for as long as I can remember. My parents were real water people, and like most people I started with pretty archaic watercraft – anything we could get our hands on that would float. Of course … they didn’t always float!

I’ve been guiding for well over a decade and have had plenty of time to paddle a variety of different craft around the world. Nowadays I alternate between all the kayaking disciplines, from ocean to whitewater, but the safe protected waters of Wallis and the rest of the Myall Lakes systems have been a popular playground for me for several years.

Exploring the more protected and remote regions of the waterways has been a major motivator in choosing my career. The idea of paddling undisturbed on crystal clear waters surrounded by nature is a humbling experience, and I expect I’ll keep doing it for as long as I’m physically able.

As I mentioned earlier, the area is also home to bountiful wildlife. Kayaking is such a passive mode of exploring, so you can view the local wildlife – including eagles and dolphins or pelican rookeries and rare and endangered little terns – without encroaching on their privacy. I can’t think of a single reason not to go kayaking.

> How does kayaking on the Wallis Lake compare to kayaking anywhere else in the world?

Simply put – tough question. Seriously though, I have paddled places like Italy and Borneo that were unbelievably spectacular. But while we are not the oldest country in terms of European history, we are arguably one of wildest countries left. And if you’re after an easy and ‘real’ nature experience, I believe it would be pretty hard to top.

That said, there are a million and one places around the world still on my list, but in terms of accessibility and uniqueness, the whole of the Great Lakes Region really is awesome! I can think of an infinite number of people who would argue the Great Lakes is among the most pristine and impressive estuarine systems on the planet.

Don’t believe me; come for a paddle!

> Thank you Sam.

For more information or to book a Kayaking tour call Sam on 0427 324 009.

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