The Top Ten Kayaks for Touring and Wildlife Watching


Paddleyak Swift and Cobra Expedition Sit-on-top Kayaks (and a couple of Loons)

Are you ready to embark on an exhilarating adventure? If you enjoy flatwater touring, coastal cruising, and wildlife watching, then you need the perfect kayak to accompany you on your journey. In this guide, I will introduce you to the top ten kayaks that have amazed me throughout my paddling experiences. From conventional sea kayaks to inflatables and sleek SOTs (Sit-on-tops), there’s something for everyone. So, let’s dive in!

10. The SIPRE Millenium Sea Kayak

I want to start off by showing my appreciation for a conventional Sit-in sea kayak, the SIPRE Millenium. Although I have a soft spot for Sit-on-tops, this craft caught my attention when I was involved in competition sea kayaking. It proved to be fast and perfect for coastal touring. However, I admit that the gnawing concern of capsizing overshadowed my enjoyment. Ultimately, its speed couldn’t outweigh the desire for a worry-free paddle, something more forgiving and stable. So, it was time to let go.

9. The Gumotex Seawave Inflatable Double Kayak

Now, before you dismiss an inflatable kayak from a review of serious kayaks, hear me out. Quality inflatables are surprisingly waterworthy and should not be underestimated. The Gumotex Seawave, for instance, defies expectations. Its lightweight nature and comfortable design make it a joy to paddle in various environments. Equipped with a tracking fin, it maintains stability against the wind. Yet, I have to admit that its length and inflation time can be a bit tedious, and it lacks drainage holes, requiring periodic scooping. Nevertheless, it remains an excellent choice for comfortable outings and solo camping trips.

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Gumotex Seawave Inflatable Kayak. It makes you grin.

8. The Paddleyak Swift

South Africans truly know what it takes to brave the lively sea. That’s why the Paddleyak Swift from Cape Town caught my attention. This stylish hybrid SOT kayak, with its coaming for a spray deck, is surprisingly fast for its narrow width of 23 inches. The lack of a comfortable seat and limited back support may be its drawbacks, but its exceptional aesthetics can compensate for these minor inconveniences. I cherished my time paddling this beauty, using it for adventurous sea trips, including a memorable 36-mile paddle along Chesil Bank.


Paddleyak Swift

7. The Ocean Kayak Scupper Pro

Let’s move on to the Ocean Kayak Scupper Pro, one of the pioneering plastic Sit-on-tops. With its impressive speed and narrower width of 26 inches, this kayak stands out from its counterparts. It offers ample storage space with a large front hatch and a tankwell behind the seat. However, the low seating position means you’re in for a wet ride, sitting in a puddle of water. While this is a common issue among SOTs, other kayaks have tackled it with raised seats or drainage channels. In my personal experience, I even managed to damage my Scupper Pro, which affected my confidence in its durability. Nevertheless, this kayak remains an excellent choice for those seeking a fast-paced adventure.


Ocean Kayak Scupper Pro

6. The Wilderness Tarpon 160

If you’re in search of a sturdy kayak designed for fishing or carrying heavy loads, the Wilderness Tarpon 160 is worth considering. With its comfortable seat, excellent backrest, and 16-foot length, it allows for generous storage. However, its major drawback lies in its weight. Moving this behemoth onto a roof rack feels akin to a weightlifting session. As someone who enjoys solo kayaking, I needed a lighter alternative that I could handle without risking my physical well-being.

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Tope in Tarpon

5. The RTM Disco

Finally, a kayak that stole my heart – the RTM Disco. Sleek, narrow (26 inches), and lightweight (23 kgs), this kayak became my companion during my adventures in Spain. I paddled it for miles, surpassing the 30-mile mark daily. Its only caveat lies in its size restrictions. Taller paddlers may find their feet pressed against the footwell bulkhead, and heavier individuals might experience balance issues due to its delicacy. While it may not be as comfortable as some other options, the RTM Disco’s aesthetics and satisfactory speed make it a desirable choice.


RTM Disco Kayak

4. The Ocean Kayak Malibu 2

Let’s take a trip down memory lane with my first SOT kayak, the Ocean Kayak Malibu 2. This vessel opened my eyes to the joy of kayaking. It may be wider and slower, but its lightness and versatility overshadow these factors. Swimming, fishing, and family fun were all on the menu with this kayak. It introduced countless loved ones to the wonders of kayaking. Sadly, it was retired due to a worn-out keel, but the memories created with the Malibu 2 will always hold a special place in my heart.


Ocean Kayak Malibu 2

3. The Gumotex Safari Inflatable Kayak

Prepare to be amazed by the Gumotex Safari! Despite its unconventional appearance, this inflatable kayak’s performance defies logic. Its exceptional comfort, thanks to the inflatable seat and footrest, allows for optimal paddling efficiency. Clocking over 2,000 miles of paddling, including a 32-mile open coast paddle around Land’s End, the Gumotex Safari has proven its worth. Its self-draining design, tracking fin, and lightweight nature make it an excellent choice for versatile trips. However, the kayak may feel a bit unstable for paddlers on the heavier side.


Gumotex Safari

2. The Cobra Expedition

Are you looking for an expedition sea kayak with SOT capabilities? The Cobra Expedition might be exactly what you need. Made from durable plastic, this narrow (less than 23 inches) and lightweight (less than 23 kgs) kayak fulfills its mission. While it may be challenging to find one in the UK due to low demand, its unique characteristics make it a gem for SOT enthusiasts. Its low seating position may result in a wet ride, but the rudder system compensates for any drawbacks, allowing you to focus on your paddling rhythm. Be warned, though – its hatches may leak, so plan accordingly for your offshore adventures.

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Cobra Expedition fully laden for camping

1. The Ocean Kayak Prowler 13

Finally, we come to the king of kayaks – the legendary Ocean Kayak Prowler 13. This kayak set the standard for recreational SOTs and still holds its ground as one of the best. Its versatility is its selling point, making it suitable for beginners and experienced kayakers alike. With a width of 28 inches and a length of 13 or 15 feet, the Prowler 13 strikes a perfect balance between speed and stability. Its comfortable seating, ample storage space, and moderate weight make it an absolute pleasure to paddle. Trust me when I say that this kayak will not disappoint.


Prowler 13 in epic conditions at Scilly

In Conclusion

Now that we’ve explored the top ten kayaks for touring and wildlife watching, you have a clearer idea of what to look for in your next adventure companion. Keep in mind that weight plays a crucial role in deciding which kayak suits you best. Opting for a Sit-on-top kayak over 12 feet long and approximately 28 inches wide strikes the perfect balance between speed and stability. So, why wait? Take the plunge, find your perfect kayak, and unlock countless thrilling experiences.

For more information on kayaks and accessories, please visit UpStreamPaddle.