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Saturday, July 24, 2010

Kayaking the Mangroves

One of my favorite things we did in Florida while we were on vacation was a kayak adventure into Sarasota Bay and the mangrove tunnels and bayous.
We started out in single person kayaks(doubles were available).
Our instructor acquainted us with our equipment and shoved us into the great blue yonder.(thank goodness it was only 2 feet deep)

This was a map of our journey.
We paddled out into the bay and headed toward an island.
Circling the island we encounteres an old dredging barge that had sank in 1925 and was left to
start a reef like habitat for the sea life.  Not much was left but the pelicans sure liked it.

In the picture below you will see a Black Cormorant.  They are diving ducks basically.
They hide in the shadows of your kayak and as you paddle stirring up fish they dive under your kayak and grab them.  They followed us the whole time and you could reach out of your boat and touch them as they swam under you.

While circling the island we saw lots of sea life.
There were oyster beds, starfish, fighting conchs, sea cucumbers, crabs, fish and we even glimpsed a manatee though he didn't stick around for a picture.

This is a conch of sorts.  I can't remember all their names but it was a live one.

Close up of a conch.That is our guide- what's his name- it's Indian for I can't remember the guides name.

Momma relaxing in the boat.  They were actually pretty comfortable.  I was quite suprised.

This is spider crab.

Cool little starfish

Our Indian guide, What's his Name, would explain all about the habitat, the wildlife and is also a recent graduate of Michigan State University.  He worked for Mote research and aqaurium and is a Marine Biologist.

Here's me out in the bay kinda kicked back.  You can see the powerboat and all the buildings in the background.  That is Sarasota.  All this unique habitat and wildlife right under the nose of the city.  Most people down here on vacation or even living here for that matter don't even realize it.

The next set of picture are from the mangrove tunnels.  These tunnels were dug back in the 50's (if I remember right).  Perhaps even earlier.  Their purpose was to allow water flow back into the lagoons and bayous to keep the water moving.  I imagine it was a combination of mosquito control and also the elimination of stinky stagnant water that the vacationing populus was not very affectionate towards.
Whatever the case they have grown back in over the years creating these tunnels.  There are still dirt mounds scattered here and there from the excavation. The tide flows in and out of these lagoons and bayous through these tunnels.  It creates a sort of stream like effect.  The current carries the kayak into the bayou but you have to paddle your way out.  Kinda cool.

It was low tide so all the mangrove roots were exposed.  These are one of the only trees in the world to grow in salt water

Thses two trees crossed the tunnel so you had to go under them.

Sorry about the finger but I wanted a close up of the root system of the mangroves.  Virtually impenetrable.
The trees are also home to small black mangrove crabs.  There are thousands of little black crabs clinging to the roots.  I tried to get a pic but everytime I got close they would move to the other side of the root.

The entrance to brushy bayou via mangrove tunnel.  There is no other way in or out so this is virgin water to motorboats.  I am sitting in the bayou already and this is the guide emerging from the tunnel.

Brushy Bayou

This is one of the dirt mounds left by excavation.  It has some normal trees and even some cactus growing on it.

Another dirt mound that a crane or egret has taken up lodging on.  He had an injury to his neck so this was a good place to hole up while it healed.  No predators in here. 

Leaving the tunnels.
This was a great time and I encourage anyone in that area to try it.  Next time we will rent the kayak for the day and pack a lunch.  There are some nice sandbars to beach on out in the bay and you could make a day trip out of this really easy.   I hope you enjoyed the pics.  It is a disposable waterproof camera so the pics are not that great but click on them to enlargen and enjoy.  Next blog is the botanical gardens in Sarasota.  If your a plant lover you'll like that one.

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