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Kayaking in the South West Florida Mangrove Islands

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On: Tue, Jul 13, 2010 at 12:03PM | By: Sherry Christiansen

Most Floridians know that South West Florida is loaded with gorgeous remote beaches, shallow creeks and mangrove islands in the backcountry just waiting to be explored. You can either take your own boat into the shallow waters around the islands and launch your sea kayak, or participate in one of the many guided kayaking tours offered. There are "secret trails and hidden coves in the mangrove forests that invite exploration" which can be experienced only in kayaks.

Sea kayaking is a relatively easy sport. Nowadays kayaks are very safe and easy to maneuver, most have leg-powered pedals, and anyone can learn in a day, even a beginner. It is advisable to take at least one formal class in order to learn the basic safety precautions, such as how to flip your kayak back upright should you accidently tip over in it.

Many of the kayaking tours will take you out in a larger boat with the kayaks attached and launch them in a shallow area. Others have access to these mangrove creeks directly from the marina they are adjacent to.

Many companies offer an all-inclusive backcountry experience: you travel out to open water in a large boat, such as a catamaran, then swim, snorkel, and sea kayak into some fabulous locations. It’s a great way to really get to know the area, or for those vacations when you have left your own boat at home.

If you prefer the privacy of traveling in your own boat, here are some suggested locations to ensure that you will experience a variety of fabulous wild life:

Pine Island Sound—a protected area located behind Captiva Island where you will be able to view many species of birds and aquatic life, such as eagles, water birds, alligators, crocodiles, loggerhead turtles, key deer, and manatees. The tropical flora is amazing. Sheltered with calm waters, the sound is perfect for kayaking. However, winds can pick-up later in the afternoon, so the morning hours are optimal for kayaking, particularly for beginners. The early hours are also the best time to see an abundance of wildlife.

Buck Key—an uninhabited island easily accessible only by kayak from Captiva Island. The island is rich in mangrove forests with aquatic trails and large calm bays perfect for swimming and snorkeling.

The J. N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge—canoe and kayak trails take you into the interior freshwater habitats. There are four other National Wildlife Refuges in the area as well.

If you are new to sea kayaking and just want to give it a whirl the next time you are in South West Florida with your boat, there are some great rental locations. Many of the rental retailers, such as Captiva Kayak Company, offer tips on where to go if you want to see specific wild life, such as dolphins or manatee.


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