(above: A Kayak group outing at Lido Key)
When thinking about packing for the beach don’t forget the Kayak.
Yes, it may seem a little out of the norm to pack a kayak for a beach visit, but when you visit Lido Key Beach just west of Sarasota you certainly have that option.
What are Mangrove Tunnels? Found in Florida only “Mangrove Tunnels” are small waterways under a canopy of mangrove trees that create a tunnel effect. Mangroves serve as nurseries for fish, oysters, crab and shrimp. Snook, mangrove snapper, tarpon, jack, mullet, sheepshead and a large variety of other Florida fish feed on this tropical plant. Its branches and boughs become nesting rookeries for many species of birds and its root system helps prevent erosion and help stabilize the shoreline.
Many of the tunnels were originally ditches dug years ago for mosquito control. The strategy did not work, and the ditches left behind eventually canopied over to become a mangrove arbor. Other mangrove tunnels have formed naturally where tidal waters ebb and flow. Mangrove tunnels are often maintained by parks, conservationists and eco-tour outfitters to give paddlers a unique and enjoyable eco-adventure on the water.
Three mangrove species are found in Florida: the red, black and white mangrove. The red mangrove is the best known, found closest to the water and distinguished by its prop root system. The black mangrove has finger-like projections that are found in shallower water while the white mangrove usually grow upland of the other species and have yellowish green leaves with no visible aerial root systems. Mangroves grow in tidal salty environments and are able to obtain fresh water from salt water.
One of the things I liked most about kayaking the mangroves was the shade of the tunnel trails. They provided a pleasant way to enjoy another outdoor activity while providing some relief of the extreme summer heat.
While on a kayak excursion it’s very likely you will see some of the local marine mammals. Dolphins, manatees, and an assortment of waterfowl are ever present and feed in most of the Florida waterways.
On our visit, we had a Cormorant (diving duck) tag along with us. He would dive directly under our kayaks as we paddled and hunted for food. Our paddles stirred the water and the Cormorant had learned to feed on what we apparently disturbed with our paddles. When we stopped paddling he would pop up and wait for us to paddle again. It was kind of cool to watch him.
Things you will need for a Kayak Trip.
A Kayak of course.
A hat is recommended
A waterproof bag.
( I had one but had taken my phone out and leaned over to far and tipped my kayak over dropping my cell phone into about 2 feet of water. I finally fished it out and got it working again after letting it dry over several days packed in dry rice. If you do tip over most of water in the area is less than two feet deep.
A life vest and a whistle. (It’s a coast guard regulation)
A couple of bottles of water and maybe a protein bar.
You may also want to grab a seat cushion since you will be sitting while you paddle.
Another piece of advice is to check the tide range. During low tide, there’s that lingering aroma of sulfur gases being released from the ground including hydrogen sulfide, which smells like rotten eggs or sewage, and dimethyl sulfide (DMS), which smells like rotting shellfish. If you choose to go during high tide the aroma is almost nonexistent because those areas are covered with sea water.
And if you don’t own a Kayak, you can always rent one from one of the several vendors on site for about $ 35. For a half day. It’s recommended that you call ahead to make sure you have one when you get there to avoid waiting on one to return.
Kayaking is a great family or group activity and a fun way to enjoy the water. Plus, the added benefit of a little exercise. So, put down those cell phones and get the family together and get out and enjoy some real healthy family fun.
Photo credit: Debbie Burns
Contributed by: Martin J. Allred Editor/Photographer
A special “Thanks” to a very special lady, “Debra” for providing the Kayaks and hosting our trip. It was another memorable Florida experience.