“We’re all goin’ ta Zante, we’re all goin’ to Zante, la la lar la! Oi! La la lar la! Oi!”
Hearing this wall of noise, while waiting for our departure to Zakynthos, was a bit of a drain to say the least. Necking beers and spirits at 5am is all well and good, if you’re on a lads stag do, but when you’ve had a rough night’s sleep and you’re filled with anxious thoughts about your imminent trip, this kind of ‘oi oi’ behaviour doesn’t do anything to steady the nerves.
Choosing to head to Zante for a watersports holiday was always going to be a bit of punt, I just hoped, for both mine and the wife’s sake, that it delivered…
Zakynthos (more commonly referred to as Zante by us Brits) has been a Greek ‘go to’ destination, for holiday makers seeking fun, frolics and fun in the sun for years.
The Laganas strip is where you’ll find a plethora of bars, fast food outlets and nightclubs, with touts all vying for your attention, offering all manner of liquid concoctions to tempt you into their hedonistic dens.
A wide sandy beach is where you’ll find most hangovers being slept off during the day but with sun loungers packed as tightly as sardines in a can, a fleeting visit was enough for us. Fi and I were searching for a different side of Zante – one that we’d heard reports about but were still unsure existed.
The other side
After one of the most relaxing EasyJet flights we’ve ever been on, a smooth baggage reclaim and effortless hire car pick up, we wound our way along the mountain road towards our final destination. With olive groves and citrus fruit trees on one side and the amazingly blue coloured Southern Ionian Sea on the right, our stresses slowly began to evaporate. The hot Greek sun beat down on our pasty white bodies and a sense of calm enveloped the two of us as we gazed northwards towards Cephalonia.
Following a rough set of directions we traversed the narrow Zakynthos roads all the way to the port of Agios Nikolaos. About a mile or so before you hit the town (more a village) we spotted a make shift sign pointing to our final destination – the Peligoni Club.
The Peligoni Club is a luxury watersports club nestling at the bottom of a steep hill. To the north is Cephalonia and Agio Nikolaos port while out in front and to the right is miles of stunning Zante coastline.
As we parked our hire car, the mercury was already registering 35 plus and without a puff of wind the heat felt aggressive.
We found our way to the focal point of our holiday, the beach shack, which houses a variety of watersport equipment – including sit on kayaks. In no time at all we were made to feel extremely welcome and after 20 minutes or so we were out on the water, having a whale of a time and loving life in Zante.
The north eastern tip of Zakynthos is perfect for watersports lovers. Each morning we awoke to stunning views, warm sunshine and mirror flat water just beginning you to dive straight in.
After an ample breakfast of freshly ground coffee, locally produced Greek yoghurt, homemade honey, morning baked bread and on site reared chicken eggs, Fi and I would make our way down to the water for a spot of paddling action.
To the left of the Peligoni Club is an Italian owned clump of rock that masquerades as an island. This was perfect for ‘doing laps’ and offered plenty of bird and marine life to spot and keep us entertained during our exploits.
Around mid-afternoon, the infamous Meltemi thermal breeze would start to fill in which signalled an end to paddling. The day was then usually rounded off with a few hours of full power windsurfing action.
Every day was a carbon copy of the previous meaning all types of water baby will be well served by a trip to Zante and Peligoni.
As the sun disappeared behind the island, a few glasses of Mythos (Greek beer) were quaffed to quench our parched lips and give us a lead into the evening’s entertainment. This may have been the wrong type of liquid to be taking on after dehydrating ourselves under the strong Mediterranean sun, but hey, we were on holiday after all.
There are a healthy number of local restaurants in the area that serve typical Greek cuisine including grilled meats, fresh salads, vegetables and local wines. For those looking for yet more fun and games, Peligoni Club hosts a number of party nights which sees guests and staff alike letting their hair down, while the Laganas strip is a relatively short taxi ride away for those seeking shape throwing activities.
‘Little Italy’, as the offshore island is affectionately nicknamed, makes an interesting kayaking and stand up paddling point of interest. Having something close by to aim for gives a sense of purpose to short paddling sessions.
Heading north you’ll find the well-publicised Blue Caves which are weather beaten indentations, caverns and archways drilled out of the coast by years of southerly storms and erosion.
This is a great spot for exploration paddling and gives some amazing photographs. Care would be needed though as the Blue Caves are busy with boating traffic and Greek helmsmen are notorious for not giving way to anything!
Further afield is the stunning Shipwreck Bay which is only accessible from the water. It’s a bit of jaunt to get to by paddle craft but we were fortunate to have a RIB ride round by Peligoni centre manager Chris Haysey – thanks for that Chris.
With enough prior planning and preparation you could paddle to Shipwreck Bay, but care would need to taken as there aren’t many landing points along this part of Zante’s coast if things should go awry.
A fantastic location
Zakynthos is indeed a beautiful place and from a kayakers point of view offers a wide and varied choice of paddling locations. We actually managed to explore a large portion of the island and there are plenty of put in points all over.
The Peligoni Club is a fantastic base for any kind of watersports holiday – the hospitality, friendly and approachable nature of all the staff was refreshing.
If you’re looking for a picturesque location for your next paddling holiday then Zante could fit the bill. Try it, you might like it!
Thanks to Ben Shearer, Chris Haysey, Snoop (dog), Bibby, Charlie, Charlie, Scott, ‘Big’, Lee, Marie, Bronya, Andrew and Rachael – these guys really helped make our stay an amazing one!