The Everglades is a unique eco-system. Spreading over 2 million acres, it’s the only place in the world where alligators and crocodiles coexist. Alligators don’t digest salt, so they live in fresh water, whereas crocodiles thrive in both fresh and salt water. This stunning wetland area is an absolute must-see if you’re visiting Florida and one of the best ways to see it is by kayak. These are just a few of the reasons why you should try kayaking in the Everglades.
An alternative to the theme parks
Who doesn’t love a good theme park, and Florida has more of them than any other area in the world. Yet for adventure-seekers, it is easy to combine a trip there with a visit to the Paradise Coast. This region has many attractions besides the Everglades that we will be sharing with you over the coming weeks.
Kayaks have the advantage of being totally silent and for that reason they’re allowed to venture fully into the Everglades National Park. Air boats are not permitted in most of the park itself, only on the outskirts due to the noise of the motors. Everglades Area Tours are one of the specialists in eco-tours in the area, leading excursions by kayak, bicycle and on foot.
Wildlife in abundance
By choosing an eco-friendly tour, you’re likely to see more wildlife. Our guide, Ronald, is a Florida Master Naturalist, licensed by the US Coast Guard and certified by the National Park. He knows the area like the back of his hand and takes great pleasure in sharing his knowledge with others. The wildlife was in abundance on the day we kayaked but there are no crocodiles in that area of the Everglades, just alligators who are perfectly safe if undisturbed. Check out Paul’s video here…
— Paul Renner (@DealMakerPro) December 21, 2016
Ron pointed out these magnificent specimens perching in the trees.
We also came across a sea-turtle, admiring the scenery like we were 😉
This Great Blue Heron took flight at one point, impressing us with his grace. We also spotted many egrets and an impressive sea eagle.
Perhaps the biggest thrill was getting up close and personal with the alligators…The saying goes, do something that scares you every day, and I have to admit to being a bit apprehensive about kayaking among them. However, I asked Ron beforehand and he reassured us that alligators, unlike crocodiles are safe if left unprovoked.
In the areas where he took us, they were young alligators that were also extremely docile. They hardly moved as we glided by, much to my relief!
Explore the mangroves
The Everglades are home to the largest mangrove forest in North America and on this tour, we had the privilege of kayaking through them. Mangrove trees grow along tidal creeks and provide refuge for many birds and mammals. In parts, the mangrove roots are so omnipresent that you can’t easily paddle. The solution is to use the branches to push through gently with your hands. The canopy overhead provides welcome shade and an eerie sense of stillness.
Whilst kayaking is a great upper body workout, thankfully it’s not too tiring. It’s actually suitable for all ages and fitness levels. The youngest person that our guide has taken kayaking was 2 years old and there have been several participants in their 80s and 90s. We kept stopping to take pictures so didn’t work up too much of a sweat, and Ronald was happy for us to do so – in fact he pointed out many great photo opportunities. Both Paul and I wore a shirt designed to repel mosquitoes and I’d definitely recommend that you do the same. It’s also worth applying insect repellent liberally and wearing a hat to protect you from the sun.
Work as a team
The reason why kayaking in the Everglades is suitable for all ages is that you can go out on tour own or in a 2 person boat. Just be warned that it may take some time before you get in sync with your fellow paddler;-). Our guide was extremely patient, instructing us how to work as a team. A 2 person kayak is more stable though it’s harder to get photos of the other person so next time we’d probably go separately.
Eat stone crab
Did you know that fishing Florida stone crabs is considered to be eco-friendly too? The reason is that only their claws are harvested, with the crab itself being returned to the water and growing new claws. They are only fished between 15 October and 15 May and Everglades City is one of the best places to go and sample them.
Our guide recommended Camellia Street Grill, a colourful place on the Barron River.
We had also heard good things about City Seafood on Begonia Street. Camellia Street Grill has a quirky decor and most importantly, some delicious food. The veggie burgers are a good alternative for those who aren’t keen on seafood.
We tucked into deliciously tasty crab that came away from the shell so easily that you could tell it was at its freshest. For dessert, we savoured a lovely Key Lime Pie, a great end to our adventure, kayaking in the Everglades.
Have you ever been kayaking in the Everglades or elsewhere?
This post was brought to you in association with Visit Florida and Paradise Coast