Amidst the branches that frame our view, we slowly progress while ducking our heads with each twist and turn. The mangrove tunnels of Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve were not designed for humans but instead a wilderness for Florida’s panthers, alligators, manatees, and countless species of shorebirds. Immersed in the thicket, we worked together to steer around obstacles, lifting our paddles to pull through. “How long have you been married?” our guide asked as we settled into the open with the tangled beauties now behind us. “Married for two and as a couple for six years,” I replied, as he shook his head. “You two did pretty well back there for a young couple.” Paddling a tandem kayak did take a little teamwork but kayaking together on a sunset tour in the mangroves was nothing short of an unforgettable experience.
We had called Adventure Paddle Tours of Naples, Florida for their sunset kayak trip in the mangroves. The owner, Kyle, took our call on the dock between tours booking us for the very next evening with details sent by email later that day. Kyle followed up with us the day of to change our meeting location from Rookery Bay to the Port of Islands Marina because he had noticed more bird sightings there. We were the only people signed up for the evening so he took just the two of us out on a personal tour.
The Port of Islands has access to the Ten Thousand Islands and the Gulf of Mexico in the backwaters of the Everglades. The brackish water brings in both alligators and manatee so we paddled around the marina looking in the “usual spots” for our friends below before continuing on to the mangroves.
A choppy headwind coming into the marina pushed us to generate more power while we synchronized our strokes for greater strength. As we entered the mangroves, the wind settled down and we slowed our pace to observe the wilderness surrounding us. Our guide knew a lot about the plant and wildlife sharing historical facts about the preserve. Derek spotted a creature knobbing along a branch and Kyle picked up the crab for us to take a closer look.
As the sun went down we waited to watch snowy egrets, ospreys, and herons landing in the treetops. We quietly paddled in the shadows so as not to disturb them as they cackled to each other after their evening meal. The temperature cooled with the evening transition and mosquitos hovered near our ears. Our prepared-for-everything guide tossed over a can of bug spray so that we could stay out longer gazing at the constellations brightening the night sky.
The sunset tour was a little gem because it was such a unique kayaking adventure for us. While we love to kayak, the comfortable easygoing atmosphere of the sunset trip would not have possible without our guide’s expertise if we had instead been out in the waters on our own late at night. For a couple of novice enthusiasts, we had an authentic, interactive experience accessible only by paddling the great outdoors with Adventure Paddle Tours.