Florida is full of beaches, amusement parks, and shopping. But, when was the last time you went into the wild and saw a different side of Florida? When was the last time you experienced something that left you in total amazement? My family and I had the privilege to do both this past weekend on a 3 hour kayaking tour in the everglades. I will show you how you can do this too and give yourself and/or your family a wild adventure to remember.
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How to get to the Everglades
You have several options to see the Everglades. You can go to the Southern Entrance in Florida City. Or you can head to the Northern Entrances of either Shark Valley or Everglades City. We chose to drive 1 ½ hours North to Everglades City to see the area on the southern Gulf Coast near Naples. An area known best for what it does not have. No high-rises, no malls, no traffic lights and no beaches.
So what is there to do or see here you ask?
You get to see the real Florida. Mangroves, swamp, gators, birds, hiking trails, and all around the perfect water and nature centric playground. Welcome to the real Florida – or so the welcome sign at Everglades City reads.
How to see the Everglades
You have many ways to enjoy the Everglades. You can hike the trails. Or take a speed air-boat. Or you can do as we did and paddle your way through it on a 3 hour Mangrove tour.
We chose Shurr Adventures to guide us on this unforgettable trip through the Everglades. And we are so glad that we did. Alli (the owner) booked the tour for us and took the time to go over the different options and help me select the perfect one for our family. She kept in contact via email and phone to provide important information. Advising on where to meet, what to bring and who our guide would be. She even provided suggestions on accommodations and restaurants in the area. And once our tour date approached she kept us informed on the weather.
Another thing I loved about Shurr Adventures is they only do small group tours which makes this a very personalized experience. Our guide Jason was exceptional. He provided a great wealth of information about the Everglades and the creatures and plants around us. And made it fun and entertaining for our girls. His passion for the area and what he does is very apparent and this made the trip even more enjoyable.
We met our guide Jason at the Everglades City Chamber of Commerce. After getting acquainted with him and a lovely couple that would be on the tour with us we were transported by van to the launching point.
Jason got our kayaks set up, outfitted us in life jackets, and provided some simple kayaking instructions. Then we launched from a small beach area into the dark waters of the Everglades.
Here is a short video at the beginning of the day
It was not long before we saw the alligators swimming around us. It is quite a thrill to see these creatures out in the wild swimming right along the kayaks. We kept our distance but just knowing we were in the same vicinity as these creatures was quite an experience.
However, my poor older daughter did not share in my excitement. She was so scared I thought she would not enjoy the trip at all. But Jason reassured her and after she realized the gators wanted nothing to do with our Kayaks she calmed down enough to enjoy the rest of the scenery around her.
The tour has a nice leisurely pace which was perfect for a family, or those who simply want to enjoy their surroundings while kayaking. You really do not need much experience to enjoy it and we never felt rushed.
We made several stops along the way to learn about the animals we saw, the vegetation, and the wonder that is the Everglades and the surrounding area.
The Mangrove Tunnels
During the tour we navigated our Kayaks through three different Mangrove tunnels each varying in level of difficulty. We learned the difference between the three types of Mangroves and were able to see two different varieties of them during our tour.
Being inside the Mangrove is a very neat experience. It is pretty tight quarters in some of them and we had to concentrate on not getting stuck. But with a 9 year old copilot I seemed to be playing bumper kayaks quite often. And if those poor mangroves could talk they were probably yelling insults at us.
Inside the Mangroves we only encountered one alligator (which scared my eldest to death) and we very slowly maneuvered our way around it without incident (much to my youngest dismay).
The tour is round trip and we navigated back to the starting point the same way we went out. During the entire trip Alli (the owner) had been in contact with Jason (our tour guide) regarding a system that was brewing and heading our way. So we headed back a bit early to try to beat the rain.
Nature is truly unpredictable and the rain that was supposed to arrive after sunset came right before it. It was a refreshing shower that blessed our return trip with a beautiful rainbow on one side. While on the other side the sky lit up in orange from the setting sun. It was a beautiful sight to see and all during our return paddle you could hear and see the many birds flying back to their nests for the night.
Have I convinced you to visit the Everglades? Are you ready to Kayak amongst the alligators? Then here are some important things you may want to know.
When to Go
December through April is considered dry season. Although rain showers can happen. During this time you also have mild weather and most importantly less mosquitoes. Wildlife is also at its peak. And aside from Alligators you will have the opportunity to see many birds that have migrated from the north.
What to Bring
No matter the season two essentials are bug spray and sunblock. Other good to have items are sunglasses, hats, poncho, light breathable clothing (I prefer to wear long sleeves and long pants to help keep the sun off and protect from insect bites) and comfortable shoes and/or water shoes. And do not forget your camera.
Where to Eat
A few places that were recommended to us by Ally and some other locals are:
- Havana Cafe – for Cuban sandwiches, coffee and some seafood plates.
- Island Cafe – for burgers, pizza and seafood.
- Triad Seafood Market – seafood baskets, sandwiches, salads and stone crabs (this was our choice place for lunch)
- Everglades City Seafood – wraps and baskets
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