It’s always wonderful to visit family in Florida, but there is only so many theme parks one can explore before it becomes tiresome – for the adults and kids. That was why this Holiday Season, I decided to change things up and treat the entire family (ranging in ages from seven to 67 years young) on a kayaking trip through Everglades National Park. Throughout the entire four-hour experience, my seven-year-old son kept mouthing the word “sweet!”, indicating that he was having a blast.
It was no wonder how “sweet” it was as we were all treated to a spectacle of birds, dolphins, manatees, fish and the circle of life!
Our small group of five met our guide, Drew, at the Calusa Island Marina (near Marco Island/Naples) and boarded a flat-bottomed boat outfitted with comfortable, swiveling seats (as well as single and double kayaks). By luck, just as we were making our way from one bay to another, we saw an osprey instantly grab a fish out of the water, twist it around, and land on a perch to acknowledge its breakfast before devouring it. Our luck set the tone for the rest of the morning!
While Drew told us stories about other birds trying to build nests, attract mates and catch prey, I couldn’t help but take in the peacefulness of Everglades National Park. Save just a few solitary fishermen we saw along the way, it felt like we were the only people there. We saw dolphins working together to catch mullet, a manatee mom teaching her calf, and many different types of birds. You needed a quick eye to see everything and an even speedier camera, but it was exciting for everyone.
After about an hour of initial exploration, Drew then settled on a kayaking spot for us and we each boarded our kayaks directly from the boat. For the next few hours, we took in the scenery, discovered stone crabs, got a great workout and labored against the tide through the mangroves to get back to the boat.
Making our way back to Calusa Island Marina in a rather good clip, we all just took in the sites and were happy to share this great experience as a family.
A few tips if you are considering the Everglades kayaking, birding, or walking tours:
- water is supplied, but you may want to bring a snack
- wear additional layers and a hat
- bring sunscreen and a camera
If you have taken this trip before, please let us know about your experience.