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How to Have a Splash (While Staying Safe and Dry!) on a Zodiac Excursion

© Martin Lipman

Although onboard life is delightful—with amazing entertainment, meals, camaraderie, and learning—it’s when we leave the ship that the true adventure begins. Here’s a handy guide to get you excited and prepared for Zodiac travel. (Don’t worry—we’ll walk you through these procedures many more times on your journey!)
Zodiac cruise Skye Scotland

© Dennis Minty

Be Weather Wise

Almost everywhere Adventure Canada travels, conditions can be, well—invigorating! Before joining us, you’ll receive a list of recommended and required warm and wet-weather clothing to bring along. Once you’re aboard the ship, we’ll issue you appropriately sized rubber boots and a lifejacket. Then, before each daily excursion, we’ll update you on the weather and suggest how you might want to dress.

Cameras and binoculars in the Zodiac

© Martin Lipman

Get Geared Up

While you can certainly keep your outerwear in your cabin, most guests avoid the clutter by utilizing our warm, well-ventilated mudroom where you’ll have your own locker. You can gear up there before each excursion, and afterwards you can hang your stuff to dry. To avoid crowding, we’ll call you to the mudroom by your pre-assigned colour group—yellows first today, greens first tomorrow, and so on. Don’t forget your camera, binoculars, and cabin key card!

Zodiac drivers wave hello

© Peter Croal

Gangway!

Once you’re booted and suited, head for the gangway to transfer into the waiting Zodiacs. At the adjacent computer station, scan out with your cabin key card so we know you’re off the ship (and be sure to scan in when you come back aboard!). Mind the friendly expedition team members at the gangway, who will check your lifejacket and let you know when you can safely board the Zodiac.

Zodiac boarding from gangway

© Martin Lipman

Zodiac Boarding

Zodiacs are inflatable landing crafts powered by an outboard motor. Accommodating up to ten guests and piloted by a trained driver, the crafts are safe, durable, and maneuverable. But they do take some getting used to. The first step is getting from the ship into the Zodiac, which requires care, especially in wavy conditions.

When instructed, descend the gangway, gripping the railings. Your Zodiac driver will extend a hand and the two of you will do the “sailor’s grip,” locking wrist-to-wrist. When you get the OK, step into the Zodiac. Sit as quickly as possible on the pontoon. Finally, while still seated, slide to the position the driver suggests.

Zodiac driver holding rope

© Victoria Polsoni

Setting Off

When your Zodiac is fully loaded, your driver will cast off from the ship. A quick safety lecture will follow the first few times you disembark. You’ll learn the whereabouts of the craft’s safety equipment: the paddles, emergency beacon, spare fuel tank, and so forth. You’ll be reminded to never stand up in the boat unless you have the driver’s permission.

It's best to keep your backpack at your feet, to be sure nothing is dangling over the side, and to keep any water-sensitive equipment safe from the waves and spray. You can always hang on to the ropes for extra comfort and security. Now you can enjoy the Zodiac adventure—exploring remarkable geology, scenery, and animal life!

Kangerluluk east Greenland Zodiac cruise

© Jessie Brinkman Evans

Play Nice with Ice

Ice cruising is among the coolest activities to do in a Zodiac. When glaciers or icebergs are around, we’ll often load up the Zodiacs and take you for a spin, gliding among the dazzling floes or witnessing thunderous glacial calvings. Caution is essential.

Your driver will keep a safe distance from the ice, just in case it decides to topple. (Remember that we only see 10% of an iceberg’s true size above the surface!) They will also maintain an escape route by which to beat a hasty retreat. That way, if a big splash is approaching, you can focus on getting great video and not on preparing to swim.

Zodiac with humpback whale

© Dennis Minty

Have a Whale of a Time

If you’ve never seen seals play hide-and-seek in the pack ice, or been startled by the eerie blow of a bowhead, or watched a humpback leap and frolic, you haven’t fully lived. Marine mammal encounters are a highlight of Zodiac excursions. For the sake of these remarkable animals, we follow strict protocols.

Your driver will never approach closer than one hundred meters from a whale, will make sure it never feels surrounded, and will leave the motor running so it can always hear where the Zodiac is. If it approaches us, well, that’s OK—you’ll have the encounter of a lifetime!

Fingals cave Scotland Zodiac cruise

© Dennis Minty

See Soaring Sights

Almost everywhere we travel, seabirds abound—gobbling fish in ecologically rich waters, circling above the ship, or gathering at breeding colonies by the hundreds of thousands. Many of these colonies occur at geologically fascinating caves, cliffs, and rock formations.

We’ll often have a chance to tour these by Zodiac, marvelling at the cacophony of sights, sounds, and smells. (Hey, it’s all part of the experience!) As with whale encounters, we always follow the rules: keep a respectful distance, go slow, and stay as quiet as possible so as not to spook the parents off their nests.

High Arctic landing site

© Martin Lipman

From Boat to Shore

There are two kinds of Zodiac landings: dry and wet. Dry landings are at a convenient jetty; wet means there’s no dock available. On wet landings, your driver will nose the Zodiac as near to shore as possible—but almost inevitably, you’ll be disembarking into shallow water. Hence the rubber boots and waterproof pants!

When instructed, slide forward to the Zodiac’s bow, then rotate your feet back toward the motor and swing them out over the water. Next, having locked wrists with a member of the Adventure Canada shore team, step through the surf to dry land. To re-board the Zodiac, you’ll do the same procedure in reverse.

Embarking from Zodiac Eclipse Channel Labrador

© Jen Derbach

Back to the Ship

Once our outdoor fun is done, we’ll get you back aboard the ship—safe, smiling, and full of tales to tell. As your driver nudges the Zodiac up to the ship’s gangway, be sure to keep your body and possessions well inside. Crew from the ship will catch the Zodiac. Stay seated—there could be a bit of a bump. Once the Zodiac is tied off, your driver will begin unloading, slowly and steadily, one guest at a time.

When your time comes, do the sailor’s grip with the driver and crew members. At their order, step from the Zodiac to the gangway, then proceed carefully back inside. Be sure to scan back in with your key card! Then ditch your outerwear in the mudroom, grab a hot cocoa (or a Scotch), and celebrate a day well lived.