Tunneling Florida’s Mangroves
I purchased my first kayak years ago and have discovered a new Authentic Florida. The relaxing and enjoyable sensation of paddling in a kayak is like no other. It’s like riding your bike on water. You get an up-close-and-personal experience with our beautiful waterways and Florida coast.
When I was new to the sport, I decided to go with a local kayaking veteran by the name of John Sarkozy of Quiet Waters Kayaking (at 941.966.7308). He does a wonderful job of introducing kayaking through local discoveries of area waterways. I have kayaked through Lido Key, Sarasota Bay, Blackburn Point near Casey Key, Emerson Point Preserve in Bradenton, Oscar Scherer State Park in Osprey, Cockroach Bay in Terra Ceia/Hillsborough County, Sanibel Island’s Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge and Shell Key in Pinellas County.
Many of these trips included kayaking through mangrove tunnels. To me, mangroves symbolize Authentic Florida. Its ecosystem supports many creatures that make Florida so unique. Mangroves serve as nurseries for fish, crustaceans and mollusks. Snook, mangrove snapper, tarpon, jack, sheepshead and a large variety of Florida fish feed on this tropical plant and it is said that 75% of the game fish and 90% of commercial fish in South Florida depend on the mangrove habitat. The branches serve as rookeries for the birding wildlife – brown pelicans, roseate spoonbills, cormorants, great white and blue herons, ospreys, snowy egrets are just a handful that thrive in the mangrove. Even in the mangrove root system, crabs, spiders and snails find refuge and below the water – oysters, mussels, lobster and sea grasses propagate.
Some of the kayak tunnels were originally dug 50-60 years ago for mosquito control to attract the pesky insects and keep them away from humans. But it didn’t work well and what is left for us to enjoy are the meandering tunnels – ranging five – ten feet or more in width to navigate.
The experience is quiet, the light is subdued and the wildlife is abundant. In the mangroves, you have entered a sacred authentic Florida space. It’s like no other experience. Be sure to take your time and enjoy all the beauty of this unique experience and let your paddle do the work. Signage will help you if you are not with a group but I recommend going with others the first time. Serenity awaits you!
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