Ecotourism In Florida: What Is An Ecotour?

kayaks used for our kayaking tours

Understanding Ecotourism and Eco Tours

Ecotourism is an environmentally friendly form of sustainable travel with the intent to appreciate your surroundings. More and more tourists choose to give up on artificial island resorts to take part in eco tours at nature reserves and other areas of great ecological significance, passing untouched landscapes with care and humility.

It’s a welcome change from regular mass tourism, which has come to be considered a bane of fragile ecosystems and pristine wildlife. An increasing number of people have started to participate in special eco tours of the most remote and exotic corners of the world, taking in the nature’s wonders untouched by the civilization and supporting the local communities in the process.

Eco Tours in Florida

Map of Florida highlighting Sarasota County
Map of Florida highlighting Sarasota County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ecotourism has also caught on back in United States, where there are hundreds of national parks and natural areas waiting to be explored by responsible tourists who realize the significance of these places for our future.

Eco tours in Florida have recently gained traction due to the unique landscape and ecology found in Sarasota. The city’s near vicinity features abundant opportunities for eco tours, especially while kayaking through Siesta Key and Lido Key Beaches. These tours provide an insight into the local flora and fauna that you wouldn’t encounter elsewhere. They also serve as a smooth introduction to the ideals of ecotourism.

Ecotourism Guidelines

The term “ecotourism” is used very loosely when referring to other forms of travel, so there are several types of tourism that the word might mean to different people. No common regulations are imposed on people who choose to participate in ecotourism, but there are some basic guidelines and principles shared by responsible travelers that preserve the environments that they visit on eco tours.

  • Minimized impact on your surroundings.
  • Cultural and environmental awareness.
  • Positive experience for both visitors and hosts.
  • Financial support for local communities and preserves.
  • Awareness of the political and social climate of your destination.

Not all of these guidelines apply for eco tours in Florida, but it’s still useful to know them in case you decide to participate in ecotourism in any other part of the world. It’s a form of travel ethics that you can apply in any location to reverse your negative impact on the surrounding environment.

Reasons to Participate in Eco Tours

Some of the most important highlights of ecotourism are social responsibility, respect for the environment and personal growth. The primary attractions of eco tour destinations are pristine wildlife, exotic flora and cultural heritage, instead of the entertainment value usually expected on regular tourist tours.

The kayaking adventures of eco tours in Sarasota, FL combine the best from these two worlds by introducing genuinely fun activities to take part in with no risk of harming the surrounding environment.

The hidden treasures of Lido Key and Siesta Key Beaches will welcome participants of all ages, who will spend their time learning important lessons of natural awareness and enjoying unforgettable views of landscapes you wouldn’t expect to see without ever leaving the United States.

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Mangrove Tunnels of South Lido Key

mangrove tunnels of sarasota bay

Mangrove Tunnels of South Lido Key

Adventure Kayaking You Won’t Soon Forget

Sarasota is most notably recognized for its beautiful beaches, warm temperatures and breathtaking sunsets. Vacationers flock to Sarasota in the winter and summer seasons to enjoy all that the community has to offer from our rich, cultural history and exquisite dining to the area’s architectural wonders. However, when it comes to enjoying the great outdoors, nothing says “adventure” like a kayaking trip through the mangrove tunnels of South Lido Key Beach.

What Are Mangroves?

mangrove kayaking tour in sarasotaMangroves are tropical plants that have adapted to the loose, wet soils of our coastline, as well as salt water and tidal surges that frequent Lido Key. There are more than 50 species of mangroves throughout the world, with 3 species that are native Florida:

White Mangroves are the most common species and are easily recognized by their smooth-barked trees with clusters of small orange flowers that are very fragrant. The White Mangrove can grow in excess of 16 feet and produces mangrove fruits that were a common staple of nourishment to the Aboriginal people thousands of years ago. The fruit is highly toxic, but the toxins are easily removed by burying the fruit in mangrove mud for 3-7 days. Once boiled or roasted, the fruit is ready to eat with no worries. Futhermore, mangrove tree branches can be burned to repel sandflies!

Why Are They So Important?

You might think to yourself, “Well, why are mangroves so important? Aren’t they just trees?” Well, yes, they are trees. However, mangroves and mangrove tunnels are extremely important to both humans and marine life for a number of reasons:

  • The distribution of the mangrove community in ...
    The distribution of the mangrove community in Florida is shown in red. Cedar Keys and Ponce de Leon Inlet are the northern limits of the mangrove community. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
  • Provide nursery areas for young fish and crustaceans, safe from deep waters and large predators.
  • Serve as an important source of nutrients for the marine ecosystem.
  • Act as shelter to their inhabitants.
  • Are a barrier to coastal erosion, cyclones, hurricanes, tsunamis and flood waters.
  • Provide us with many benefits such as:
    • Seafood
    • Fruits
    • Medicines
    • Fiber
    • Wood

With so much to offer, Mangroves have been a highly regarded part of Sarasota’s aquatic ecosystem and have played a major role in the conservation of our coastline.

Kayaking the Mangrove Tunnels of Lido Key

Among the many benefits of Mangrove’s, they also offer up a great opportunity for kayakers looking to explore Lido Key from a unique perspective. Lido Key is home to miles of Mangrove forests, twisting and turning to create beautiful, canopied mangrove tunnels, serving as a natural habitat to various plants, birds and marine animals.

When kayaking the mangrove tunnels of Lido Key, you can expect to see:

  • mangrove tunnels in Sarasota on Lido KeyManatees
  • Dolphins
  • Great Blue Herons
  • Mangrove Crabs
  • Sea Stars
  • Sea Urchins
  • Osprey
  • White Egrets
  • Comorants
  • Pelicans

And that’s just to name a few.

The experience itself is worth the trip, giving you an up close and personal look into the heart of Florida’s mangrove forests and the many surprises they hold within.

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Interesting Things About Siesta Key Beach

Facts about Siesta Key Beach

Did You Know This About Siesta Key Beach?

It’s no secret that one of the biggest reasons Sarasota is so popular for tourists are the beautiful, white sandy beaches that make up the majority of Sarasota’s coastal borders. With temperatures reaching 90+ degrees in the summer months and barely dipping below the 70 degree mark in the winter, Sarasota is a truly a year-round paradise. Of all the beaches within Sarasota, none surpass the beauty and exquisite sunsets of Siesta Key Beach. Voted the nation’s #1 beach in 2001, Siesta Key continues to draw more visitors every year. With sugary-white sand that remains cool to the touch, crystal clear blue water and plenty of fun and excitement for the entire family, Siesta Key is a fantastic location to get away from the everyday pressures of life, kick back and relax.

Here are some interesting facts about Siesta Key that you may not know:

siesta key beach

What’s your favorite thing about Siesta Key Beach?

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Ocean Kayak Fishing

Ocean Kayak Fishing – An Exciting and Fun-Filled Sport

The concept of ocean kayak fishing has truly gained a lot of popularity and is being accepted as a fun-filled and adventurous sports activity.  Before you venture out on your first kayak fishing trip, you need to be prepared and have some basic knowledge of fishing from a kayak, as well as the right kayak and gear in order to have a safe and productive trip.

Ask for expert advice before you buy kayak equipment and when you do buy, make your purchase from a professional company.  I do not advise buying a kayak or kayak fishing equipment online.  It is important to know what type of water your will be kayaking in when buying your kayak and gear.  In addition, if you are a beginner, exercise caution when going kayak fishing.  Ask for help from experts and kayak trainers when doing so.

Proper Equipment for your Fishing Adventure 

Some of the basic kayak fishing gear includes a compass, paddle leash, safety gear, spare clothes and, of course, bailers.  A first aid kit is also a must have.  Don’t forget to take your whistle, flares and a torch in case you lose your way.  Other ocean kayak fishing gear includes a rod holder and fish finder.  Make sure to fish in shallow waters when you are a beginner.  Later, when you gain more confidence, you can try out the deep waters.

In the past, kayaks were built for fishing in coastal and inland waters.  Kayaks were known as the hunter’s boat and were built with a simple wooden framework. Later, when the sport became popular, a lot of new technology, additions and alterations were made.  Today, kayaks are made of carbon fiber, fiberglass and even plastic.

Kayaks for Inland Fishing and Coastal Fishing

There are two different types of kayaks specifically used for  fishing.  One style has the fisherman sitting inside the kayak and the other has him/her sitting on top of the kayak.  If you are going to go sea fishing, it is advised to go for the S.O.T. kayaks as the water can be easily exited and the paddler finds it easier and hassle free.  Make sure to get appropriate training before venturing out into the sea so that you know what to expect and know how to respond.  Check out the sea conditions and local weather before venturing out for ocean kayak fishing. Last but not the least; go out in a sturdy kayak with good quality kayak equipment and gear.  It’s worth it for your safety and security Now you’re prepared! Have fun out there and catch some fish!

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Kayak Safety and Precautions

Kayak Safety: 5 Things You Need to Know

Kayaking is a rewarding experience. If you have adequate navigational and paddling skills, as well as loads of common sense, you can go ahead and enjoy this sport to your heart’s content.  However, no matter how experienced you may be a comprehensive review on kayak safety and precautions is always a great way to start your kayaking ventures. In this article, we’ve listed the 5 most important kayak safety tips and precautions to keep in mind while on a kayak holiday.

1.) The Kayak Equipment
Before you even plan for a kayaking trip, check if your kayak is in good condition and your paddles are sturdy. The skirt should fit you and your kayak. There should be plenty of secure buoyancy and don’t forget to bring your life-jacket, the most important part of kayak safety. Your clothing should be suitable according to the weather conditions of the place where you intend to go as well as the water temperatures. You should also have signaling devices, flares, a bilge pump and self-rescue aids. Remember to bring a compass, water bottle, maps and charts.

2.) Learn About Hypothermia
Hypothermia is one of the biggest dangers for sea kayakers. Therefore, read about the conditions in the area you plan on kayaking before you go. You should be wearing appropriate clothing and sufficient insulating garments when kayaking in cold water. You need to dress according to the water temperature.

3.) Wind and Currents
One should avoid paddling on windy days, as a strong wind can create fatigue very quickly.  People don’t realize, but a little headwind can separate two kayakers in seconds.  It can also slow you down and make it difficult for you to turn.  Avoid kayaking in foggy conditions as well as it can lead to complete disorientation.  Likewise, you need to be careful about the currents.  Strong currents can also quickly take you off course, but are harder to notice than wind. Make sure you read the weather forecast before you go out.

4.) Avoid Going Alone
It is always advisable to go in a group or at least let your family and friends know exactly where you pan to go kayaking.  Always carry kayak safety equipment and a waterproof bag.

5.) Watch Out for Crowds
Don’t assume that you can be easily seen by other ships, powerboats, tugboats or float planes. It is important to make yourself visible. Cross those shipping lanes fast and only at right angles. Don’t underestimate the speed of bigger ships.

Keep the above kayak safety tips and precautions in mind before you go kayaking or plan your next adventure. It’s better to be prepared with the necessary items and knowledge that even the most advanced kayakers require, ensuring a great time and plenty of fun with safety as the number one priority. Happy kayaking!

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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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How to Paddle Board

how to paddle board in sarasota

Paddle Boarding Fun in the Sun!

If kayaking isn’t quite your forte, paddle boarding is fun and easy. If you are just getting started, select a location with calm waters. There should be no currents or wind if this is your first time. It will be much easier to learn this way and that will help raise your confidence on the paddle board. Many beginners are a bit skeptical, but it is relatively easy to get started. If you are comfortable in the water and can maintain a basic balance, you will learn how to paddle board with just a little practice and time.

Learning How to Paddle Board

how to paddle board in sarasota

To get started, all you need to do is just place your board in the water and place yourself on the board. Hold the paddle and try to propel yourself carefully, so as to get used to the feeling. Avoid falling in the water. Now you can raise yourself onto your knees and paddle some more. If you are not too tired, try standing up and keep paddling and getting more practice.

The best part about learning how to paddle board is the worst thing that can happen is you lose your balance and fall in the water. But don’t worry, this is all part of the fun. Just get back up and keep paddling. As long as you maintain your focus and a strong will to learn, you will soon become an expert in paddle boarding.

Paddeboarding is a great workout, as you are moving every part of your body and making use of almost all of your muscles. After some serious paddling, you will feel the burn. This is a great fun way to lose all that extra flab and get into shape.

You can learn how to paddle board in just about any location. You can paddleboard in streams, lakes, rivers, wetlands, ponds, lagoons, oceans, reservoirs, bays, gulfs and even salt flats. You can paddleboard on any water surface! Paddle boards are especially useful while navigating shallow areas. If you ever get the chance for paddle boarding, don’t miss out!

Renting or Buying a Paddle Board

Once you’ve enjoyed paddle boarding once you are going to want to do it again. I recommend renting paddleboards for a few times in order to really master the sport. Then you might want to think of buying your own! More on that later. In the meantime, be sure to check out our kayak rentals.

Different Types of Kayaks

sea kayaks

Understanding the Different Types of Kayaks

If you are a water person, then you probably love kayaking and might even be thinking of buying a kayak. Before you do so, there are some things you should know. Buying or renting a suitable, quality kayak is not like picking groceries off the shelves of a store. There are different types of kayaks to suit different needs. Here are 3 different types of kayaks so help you with your buying decisions.

Recreational Kayaks

recreational kayaks

There is the recreational kayak, which is best suited for a vacation. This type of kayak is best for a quiet, relaxing cruise on the water. It is usually used in calm waters, but can be taken out into the ocean. People use this type of kayak for fishing, photography or simply to enjoy the water with family. These kayaks are made of polythene and have a large exit and entry with limited storage capacity. They are the most common type of kayak and the cheapest. Of all the different types of kayaks, a recreational kayak is a great way to get acquainted with the sport.

Sea Kayaks

sea kayaks

The sea kayak is another variety of kayak and it is more suitable for the vast ocean. It can be made for one, two or even three paddlers! This kayak is more suited for those who are a bit more adventurous and love to explore the sea. They are made of a number of different materials but polythene is the main material, as it is lightweight and durable. When you are on the sea you need something to stabilize the kayak against the waves, so this kayak also comes with rudders. The sea kayak is mostly used for touring purposes.

Surf Kayaks

surf kayaks

Then there is the surf kayak. As the name suggests this kayak is best suited for surfing through the water. It has a flat bottom and hard edges to help keep it smoothly cutting through the water. There are many places where surf kayaking is very popular and these types of kayaks can be used in these places. They are made of light, yet sturdy materials to help withstand all the cuts and bruises they take from the surf.

And that’s not all. There are many different types of kayaks for different purposes, such as kayak tours. So, what are your kayaking goals?

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!

How to Paddle a Kayak

proper kayak paddling technique

How To Paddle a Kayak with Proper Technique

Is not knowing how to paddle a kayak keeping you from enjoying the water? Considering the wide variety of kayak lengths and styles that are available, many people make the assumption that the only way to have an enjoyable kayaking experience is by making the right choice of kayak. While it is true that the kayak shape, length and style are significant, it is also essential to learn the right paddling techniques for your situation. Controlling the kayak comes with the application of the right stroke at the right time and in the right direction. Making the right choice of technique can be helpful in reducing fatigue and allowing you to be able to travel more efficiently.

How to Paddle a Kayak Using the Whitewater Technique:

whitewater kayak paddlingThis technique, as the name rightly suggests, is for use in uncertain, choppy waters and involves inserting the paddle blades at angles of almost 90 degrees to the water surface and then pulling it out once the shaft reaches the level of your torso. It should be kept in mind here that the blade shouldn’t be allowed to slip behind you. The whitewater technique is generally used with short paddles as long paddles would make the kayak turn at every stroke, thereby making it hard to move along a straight line. This technique is used often by professionals.

How to Paddle a Kayak Using the Touring Technique:

proper kayak paddling techniqueThis technique is generally used in calm waters for traveling long distances. Here, the blade is to be inserted into the water at an angle that is shallow and nearly horizontal. The strokes stop right behind your torso. This technique is effective in covering long distances without much physical exertion. Long strokes are a better technique for touring the waters in and around Sarasota Bay.

Long kayaks may also be used or even those that have a built-in way of maintaining directional stability, for example, a rudder or keel would be a good choice to make for this technique.

How to Paddle a Kayak Using the Pushing Technique:

how to paddle a kayak properlyRemember, that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. That means that lifting the non-paddling arm and pushing it forward is just as important as dipping and pulling with the paddling arm. The pushing technique can be a great way of reducing fatigue while increasing the efficiency of paddling. While pulling back on the paddle end that is inserted in the water, you will have to push forward using the hand that is on the opposite paddle end that remains in the air. This way, the push exerted by your torso will produce about %75 of  the force behind each paddle, leaving the arms to provide only %25. That way it is easier to move forward without too much physical exertion. I recommend that everyone on my kayak tours use this technique. It is highly effective.

Do you have paddling techniques of your own? Let us know how you paddle by leaving your comment below.