May 08, 2013

Lido Key Mangrove Tunnel
I was the best man for my good friends wedding down in Florida so I wanted to make sure I could sneak in something fun before flying back to Chicago.  The wedding was held on Sanibel Island just off shore of the Fort Myers mainland which was a nice quiet place with lots of shells on the beach.   It was also nice to see some of my old friends that I have not seen in a very long time so we spent the first two nights catching up and doing what we do best.  At the end of our madness, we went to the beach to swim in the water where we got to see all of our true colors including bioluminescent plankton that would light up when touched which triggered other planktons to light up.  It was a suprise to see as I did not think florida had that.  
The day after teh wedding we woke up eager to get out to Sarasota for our kayak trip through the Mangrove Tunnels so we packed up, checked out, and headed out to Sarasota Florida.  We got to the location and it was great to see our kayaks all ready to go, with life vests, paddles, and a map of the area.  We got into our kayaks and headed out into the mangroves.
We went through the glades and made it to our first trail of mangroves.  We entered the mangroves and right away we were surrounded by this network of roots anchored into the swamp mud. 
Mangrove tunnels

This water trail lead us through the mangroves without difficulty which also helped when people were passing by us like a two lane road. We exited one mangrove trail and entered another trail that had some twisting and turning to get through.  There was also sections of the trail that would intersect with other pathways but some of those would lead to dead ends.
Dead end section
We would meander through these tunnels and watch the birds fly, fish jump, and observe the black crabs run up and down the roots.  We even found a rogue black crab hitch hiking on our kayaks bow. After meandering in and out of some of the glades, we came across a beautiful Great White Egret standing tall and proud like a statue overlooking the waterways for a fresh catch of fish.
Great Egret
As we made our final exit from the tunnel system we got to a small beach so we got out of our kayaks  to stretch our legs and take a break.
Beach Break

After our break we got back in and decided to grab some afternoon refreshments so we completed the circuit back where we began.  As we were make a B line to the starting point, we noticed Cormorants flying towards us and landing in the water just a few feet from our boat. These birds have undeveloped oil glands which means that their feathers become saturated in water which allows them to glide underwater. They loved swimming around our kayaks in the shallow water because our oars would scare fish that live in the sea grasses and the Cormorants would zip underwater to catch a fresh bite of fish.  It’s really cool to watch 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.  After doing more research on Cormorants I found out that they can dive up to 100 feet and they are present all around the world acting as expert fishermen.

                                                      Cormorants fishing under our kayak

We got back into the water after taking another break and meeting the local raccoon to hear that there are Bottle Nose Dolphins out in the bay hunting fish.  We made our way out there and found what appeared to be a family of dolphins training their young Dolphin how to catch fish.  The large Dolphin would be off to the side, the medium and small Dolphin seem to stay close together.  The mother Dolphin would throw a fish up and the air and the baby Dolphin would go after it. It was so beautiful to see!!!

  Bottle Nose Dolphins.

After that we made a loop around beaver key to look at the amazing houses on the shoreline, we came back to the start of the trip. We met up with Matt and went to Myakka River State Park for a night of camping and a morning stroll through the Palm Tree Woodlands, Prairies, and Wetlands inside this 57 square mile state park.

Myakka River State Park
Our last location inside the park rewarded us with around 10 Alligators that appear to congregate in a pond but unfortunatly my pictures didnt turn out the way I wanted them to but I have fixed the problem now for the next trip!!  

Alligators swimming towards the open pond section.

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