Where Are the Best Places to Kayak?

5 Best Places to Kayak

Kayaking is an exciting sport and recreational activity for all ages. It offers tons of fun in the sun and provides a great full-body workout. Moreover, every kayaker gets to enjoy the the surrounding natural environment as close as possible.

Although there are many great and exciting places to kayak across the world, we’ve narrowed down the Top 5 best spots for kayaking around the world in this article. Here are some of the most sought after spots and what you can expect should you decide to take a trip:

Mekong River

Flowing through Southeast Asia, the Mekong River is surrounded by remote forests, thick jungle streams and picturesque wetlands. With one of the most diverse fisheries in the world, kayaking this river as exotic fish and dolphins swim just below you is an incredible experience.

Gauley River

The Gauley River, located in West Virginia, is one of the best places in the world to kayak. With more than 100 major rapids, this place is just right for the adventure junkies.  Go ahead and get your adrenalin pumping while kayaking on this river.

Dead Tree Valley

Don’t let the name discourage you!  Situated in Chile, Dead Tree Valley is another highly sought after destination among kayak enthusiasts.  The bird and animal-watching opportunities in this area are unparalleled.

Phra Nang

A plethora of tropical fish, crystal clear water and limestone cliffs, make Phra Nang one of the best places to kayak in the world.  Located in Thailand, this is just the place you were looking for if you love to kayak in a beautiful tropical atmosphere.  Go kayaking in the early hours to avoid the rush.

 

English: Seabirds (Sterna maxima, Leucophaeus ...
English: Seabirds (Sterna maxima, Leucophaeus atricilla). Location: Florida, Siesta Key Beach (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Sarasota 

The 5th best place in the world to kayak is definitely Sarasota.  Kayak in glowing water amidst lush scenery. Experience nature and the open waters of Sarasota in a pollution free environment.  You will love the dolphin encounters and up-close views of underwater marine life among blue waters and white sandy beaches.

The bird and animal watching is unsurpassed with Egrets, Pelicans, Sea Stars, Sea Urchins, Turkeys, Turtles, Alligators, Hawks and much more to see.   This will be a vacation that is not to be missed!

I highly recommend kayaking in any of the above places in the world. You will yearn to go there again and again every year.

Do you have a hot spot where you like to go kayaking? Let us know by leaving your comments below!

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Manatees in Florida – Facts About Manatees

Facts About Manatees in Florida

Manatees, also nicknamed ‘sea cows’, are gentle, plant-eating herbivores. They are closely related to elephants, aardvarks and hyraxes with have thick skin without any hair and streamlined bodies, with limbs that have been modified into flippers. Their tail is horizontally flattened and enlarged.

manatees in floridaToday, Manatees are rare. Manatees in Florida comprise most of the dwindling population. With just about 2500 left inAmerica, they need to be preserved and can be considered an endangered species. They have been mistaken for sirens or mermaids by sailors, owing to their long tails. These gentle animals spend most of their time resting, traveling and feeding. They keep to canals, shallow salt water bays, coastal waters, moving rivers, and estuaries. With their well-adapted tail and flippers they can be quite agile creatures. They are capable of swimming vertically as well as upside down and use an up-and-down movement of their tail for forward propulsion. They are talented at performing aquatic somersaults and doing rolls. They can stay suspended at and below the surface of the water due to their extra bone density.

Manatees are known to grow more than 13 feet lengthwise and a weigh up to 3500 pounds. The average length is 10 to 12 feet and average weight is 1000 to 1500 pounds for adults. Despite their size, they do not have much fat,  making them susceptible to the cold. They have sharp eyesight although their eyes are small, with a nictating membrane for extra protection. Hearing is also quite good, with large ear bones.

Manatees consume more than 60 varied plant varieties, both aquatic and semi-aquatic. Their diet is comprised of manatee grass, algae, water hyacinths, turtle grass and mangrove leaves. Around 10% of their body weight is consumed by them in vegetation on a daily basis. Their digestive system facilitates breakdown of cellulose by bacteria that reside in their hind gut. The intestines of these creatures are up to 150 feet long to accommodate the huge amount high-fibre food that they eat.

The reproductive rate of manatees is slow. Twins are very rare, with one calf being born every two to five years. New-born calves are around three to four feet long and weight about 60 to 70 pounds. They swim to the water surface to breathe, guided by their mothers. A couple of hours after birth, they begin suckling underwater.

Manatees in Florida are adapted to freshwater and saltwater habitats, being migratory animals. They are found naturally in Alabama, The Carolina’s and Virginian summers and off the west coast of Florida in the winters. You can catch manatee sightings on one of our Sarasota kayaking tours as well!

Sarasota Sea-Life From our Kayaking Adventure

Sarasota Sea-Life

Sarasota Bay is rich with plants and animals. The clear water attracts dolphins, manateers, cormorants, ospreys, all sorts of fish. You can also see smaller examples of sea-life like urchins. Most people, when they think of urchins think of the big black ones with the long spines that can sting you.  Well, I used to work at the Mote Aquarium, so I can show my kayakers a safer kind of urchin.

As we were kayaking through Sarasota Bay I found a full sized variegated sea urchin.  In order to find them you have to look for a collection of white shells on the bottom of the bay.  The urchins will throw a collection of shells on top of their spines to protect themselves.  This type of urchin does not sting and it has a nice, pretty purple color to it.

Sea urchins are members of the same animal family as starfish.  It’s true!  Sometimes I stump my groups with that question but this time one of my kayakers knew the answer right away.  And he was a landlubber from Kansas City!

When I picked up the urchin it had a bunch of shells on top of it and it let go.  If it had wanted to it could have held on to those shells because, if you look closely, you can see that sea urchins’ spines end in little suction cups, like the arms of starfish.  The spines are always moving.  When you touch one spine, all the others move towards the point of contact.  Sea urchins can move freely around the seabed.

After explaining more about sea urchins and warning my kayakers not to pick up just any old sea urchin they see, I passed the one I found around.  The kids had a good time making faces at the urchin for a while.  Then I returned him to the water.

Sarasota Kayaking Adventure Video: Pt 1

Watch my video of the cormorants we saw the other day.  You might even see one catching a fish!

Check out my earlier post on the cormorants we saw that day.

Cormorants are really cool birds.  The word “Cormorant” is a contraction probably derived from Latin corvus marinus, “sea raven.”  People thought that cormorants and ravens were related for a long time, but this is not the case.

Cormorants are medium-to-large seabirds. They range in size from the Pygmy Cormorant (12 oz), to the Flightless Cormorant (11 lb).  Most cormorants have mainly dark feathers, but some are black and white, and a few are very colorful.  Many species have areas of colored skin on the face which can be bright blue, orange, red or yellow, typically becoming more brightly coloured in the breeding season. Their bill is long, thin, with a sharp hook at the end for catching fish.

They are coastal rather than oceanic birds, and some have colonised inland waters.  They can be found all around the world, except for the central Pacific islands.

All cormorants are are fish-eaters.  They can also eat eels and some water-snakes.  To catch fish they dive from the surface of the water.  Under water they propel themselves with their feet.  Some cormorant species have been found, using depth gauges, to dive to depths of as much as 100 ft.

After fishing, cormorants go ashore, and are frequently seen holding their wings out in the sun.

Cormorants are colonial nesters, using trees, rocky islets, or cliffs.  Their eggs are a chalky-blue colour.  There is usually one brood a year.  When the eggs hatch the parents will fish for their young, then regurgitate the food for them.

Coolest fact about cormorants: The cormorant served as the hood ornament for the Packard automobile brand.

 

Saturday Kayaking Adventure Continued: Mangrove Tunnels

mangrove tunnels in Sarasota on Lido Key

In addition to seeing cormorants we also went kayaking through mangrove tunnels on last Saturday’s adventure!

The mangrove tunnels are always a highlight of the kayaking trip.  Everyone loves gliding into the mangrove forests that are part of South Lido County Park and easing through the small channels that connect Sarasota Bay with a small lagoon in the park.  Its doubly nice because we get to explore these beautiful forests and we get a break from the sun.  It was hot on Saturday!

As I explained to our adventurers, these mangrove tunnels are man-made.  Back in the 50’s the residents of Lido Key had a terrible mosquito problem.  They brought in the Army Corps of Engineers to assess the problem.  What they found was a large freshwater lagoon in what is now South Lido County Park.  This fresh water lagoon was a perfect breeding ground for mosquitos.  Then the Army Corps of Engineers came up with a really cool solution.  They cut narrow, winding channels between the bay and the lagoon.  The salt water from the bay filled the lagoon and since mosquitos can’t lay eggs in salt water, the mosquito problem was over!  Not only was the problem solved but the residents of Sarasota got these beautiful mangrove tunnels to explore and to show to visitors.

There are many channels to explore through the mangroves.  We went through three of them in our kayaks.

Two Visitors Kayaking through mangrove tunnels

There are tons of examples of wildlife that you can see in the mangroves.  Mangrove Crabs look like big black spiders but don’t be afraid, they won’t jump on you ;)  They live on the mangroves and eat some of the plant life that collects on their roots.  We saw two different starfish.  One was a baby, it was tiny.  We also saw a full grown one.  Both were yellow and pretty easy to pick out on the bottom of the channels.  Did you know that starfish can eat shellfish?  How is that possible – you ask?  What happens is they climb on top of the shellfish and apply pressure until the muscle holding the shell together gets tired and relaxes.  Once there is a crack in the shell the starfish exudes its own stomach and inserts it into the clam or muscle’s shell and eats it!  It’s a crazy way to get a meal but it’s worked for the starfish for a long time.

A lot of people ask me how I can tell the different mangroves apart.  I look at their leaves.  There are three types of mangroves; red, white, and black.  The red mangroves have big, long, pointy leaves that are a little bit yellow on the bottom.  The white mangroves’ leaves are round and have little black dots in them.  Those dots are pretty cool because that’s one way the tree uses to release the salt it picks up from the water it lives in.  The black mangroves’ leaves are small and narrow and are usually lighter on the bottom, almost like olive leaves.

We love kayaking through the mangroves in Florida.  More on mangroves and kayaking to come!

Saturday Kayaking Adventure

Saturday Kayaking Adventure with Cormorants!

On Saturday I went kayaking with a group of 7 people.  2 families.  4 adults and 3 children.  It was a beautiful day!  We couldn’t have asked for better weather after all the rain here last week :(

We went kayaking around Sarasota Bay, Lido Key to be exact.  We launched from South Lido County Park and kayaked around Otter Key.

One of our first wild visitors was a cormorant.  These amazing birds have evolved into better swimmers than fliers.  They have undeveloped oil glands which mean their feathers becomes saturated in water and they can glide through the water more easily.

looking out over the water of lido key
Lido Key Launch Site

They love to swim all around our kayaks because when we are in shallow water our oars scare fish that live in the sea grasses that are only 1 or 2 feet below us.  When we scare the fish out of the grass the cormorants zip underwater to catch the fish.  It’s really cool to watch actually because they swim all around, under, and in between our kayaks looking for fish.  When they catch one they come to the surface, flip the fish around, and swallow it whole!

Cormorants can dive up to 100 feet.  They are present in most parts of the world and they are expert fishermen.

After some of the cormorants swimming around us had caught their fill, they flew into some nearby norfolk pines where we could hear them feeding their young.  It was really cool to see Nature at work.

Stay posted for the best part of our Saturday kayaking adventure coming up next!

 

Manatee Sighting in Sarasota Bay

front of boat on myakka river kayaking tour

It’s A Manatee!

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g0ZosBoI_SE[/youtube]

Manatees sightings were above average in Sarasota Bay last week.  Mantees enjoy the warm water and the plentiful seagrass when they come here.

They spend half their day sleeping in the water, surfacing every 20 minutes or so for air.  The rest of the day they spend grazing.  Not a bad life huh?  They are mostly solitary animals except for when males are pursuing a female or a mother is caring for her calf.  Manatees take it slow.  They average about 5 miles/hr when they’re swimming but have been known to get up to 20 miles/hr in short bursts!

They are curious creatures and will often  come right up to your kayak.

Unfortunately their curious nature often gets them in to trouble when they get too close to propeller-driven watercraft.  Many manatees die each year from injuries sustained from contact with motorboats.  Fortunately many still survive and it’s important that we can see and interact with this wonderful, though endangered, animal.

For more videos from our tours, tune into our Bay and Gulf Adventures YouTube Channel.