Although I have lived on Lido Key (only ten blocks from the launch) for two years, I have never taken the initiative to call one of the several companies that launch kayaks from the area—until now. A class assignment I was given in my "Creative Process" course at Eckerd College charged me to give myself a “beginner experience,” and that is just what I did. With the help our our tour guide, Dan Supuppo, the tour group launched our twelve kayaks together from Sarasota County-owned South Lido Nature Park. Our Adventure Kayak Outfitters' group would quickly discover that the wind and water current are not always our friends, and we worked at our own pace.
Sapuppo, a native Floridian, was responsible for training our group to kayak and educate us on the names and information of the multitude of ecological sights that made up our tour. We were first introduced to paddling: forward, right then left, stop, and reverse the direction of the kayak. For the basic paddle stroke, we were told to sit with good posture and pull the paddle blade alongside the length of the kayak, from our knees to our hips.
We kayaked around Otter Key, just west of Bird Key and south of the Ringling Bridge. Medium-sized black birds called cumerants accompanied us around the bay, flanking our kayaks and dunking themselves into the water for their lunch. This cumerants escort was just the show of acceptance our intrusion needed to welcome us into their natural surroundings.
The first leg of the three-mile journey began around Otter Key. We saw the remains of a barge that famed circus magnate John Ringling used during the early 1920s as he developed Lido and St. Armands Keys. After which, we made our way to the mangrove tunnels of South Lido Key. Our tour guide, Dan, informed us that the Army Corps of Engineers originally dug the tunnels as a way to keep the water from becoming stagnant, mitigating the issue of mosquitos.
Finally, we were enwrapped by three different mangrove tunnels. The importance of these red, white, and black mangroves cannot be overstated, especially since they will probably grow together over the next thirty years, according to Dan the Tour Guide. Crawling with fiddler crabs, these “walking trees” are home to nests of birds and nurseries to fish like the redfish. Dan carefully picked out a conch shell, pointing out that they are actually meat-eaters, dining on clams and the like. The mangroves are protected by law and serve as the beginning of the cycle of life that leads to our seafood dinners.
As we headed back we were tired from rowing, and I got the prize for having the most water in any of the kayaks. I was just happy I was never dunked. The day after, I feel like I have tightened my upper body muscles as well as strengthened my core, but it did not feel like work! Each two and a half to three hour tour is $55.00, but you can get a coupon for $5.00 if your visit their website at www.adventurekayakoutfitters.com or call (941) 779-7426. The last thing I shared with Dan the Tour Guide was this: “You will see me again soon!”