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“We’re trying to establish ourselves in the area, we don’t want to just take what we want then scram. We want to connect with people so that when the kids grow up, they’ll look back on their time with us as a fond childhood memory” : Benjamin Guignet and Réuel Cincotta, founders of Bayou Canoë, in Sérignan.
They tell you with a smile about how they bumped into a “tiddly” winemaker friend at Palermo Airport. He suggested they start a canoe business on the Orb in his homeland, the Sérignan area.
“The idea began at the airport, developed during the flight and was a done deal by the time we landed” says Réuel.
“Our canoe rides are guaranteed to be rapid-free”, which is what sets their business apart. On top of that, the rides start in the river and end at sea : peace and quiet on the calm water…“it appeals to a different demographic : young families with children or people who have been put off canoeing and are giving it another go with us.”
Ben and Réuel had to summon all their courage and “stratospheric” optimism (which lockdown didn’t dampen) to launch Bayou Canoë in spring 2020 ! “The first season was encouraging in spite of everything,” says Ben. “We feel like we’re now in the right place at the right time”. How about 2021 ? “Positive overall” says Réuel, “The season started later but lasted longer. It’s all good”.
“We feel like we’re now in the right place at the right time”.
So they’re back in spring 2022 with their fleet of thirty canoes. “We’re not buying any more because we want to help protect the river and its surroundings” says Ben. “We never let more than 16 people or 8 boats set off from the same place”. That way the canoeists have time “to get to grips with the area. You can see the vines from the Orb, the pumps that supply the water, the nature reserve, you see how important it is to protect the Orpellières, wildlife and ancient plane trees. That’s what matters…” say the duo. “Basically, we don’t want to stick tourists on a bit of plastic and leave them there” hammers home Réuel.
This year, they explored upstream as far as the Moulins de Saint-Pierre mills (south of Béziers), to design a new route : “rowing through this area is amazing. The mill is an original Visigoth building and a hidden gem : you can only see it from the river”. So, happy on this slice of the coastline ? “What we love about it here is crossing the Orpellières at nightfall : seeing the Pyrenees, the water mirroring the land, the fishing boats on the Orb. The whole vibe here, it’s always magical. Just talking about it gives me the chills” smiles Ben. Réuel adds ”it’s also one of few strips of Languedoc coastline that is still unspoilt”. Benjamin loves “the atmosphere I remember from my childhood when we’d go to the Aresquiers. I love it !”
“What we love about it here is crossing the Orpellières at nightfall: seeing the Pyrenees, the water mirroring the land, the fishing boats on the Orb…“
It’s no coincidence : they both hail from Montpellier, Ben lives in Anduze off-season, Réuel in Villeneuvette but their home is Sérignan from March to September. They regularly take part in clean-ups at the beaches and river, “we both knew it would work, we went into it with self-belief, in a region that appeals to us, where we have real connections and where there are things to do” ends Réuel.