Captain Brent Sheppard, the owner of Razor Fin Fishing Charters, started out fishing largemouth bass. But once he caught a 46-inch redfish at the age of 10, he knew he couldn't go back to just freshwater fish. Nowadays, you'll find him aboard his 18-foot flats boats in Mosquito Lagoon or the Indian River, where at times the water is just 18-inches deep. If you're with Captain Sheppard, you'll be searching the shallows for redfish, tarpon, snook, trout, and Poseidon's footprints. There's no need to bring any licenses, tackle, or bait because they're all included, and the captain adapts to specific styles of fishing, from pros to those who want to see if fish really do exist.
A bald eagle soars above Florida's everglades, its eyes scanning the creatures below—ranging from an alligator to a soft-shell turtle to a large vessel that seems to glide along the water's surface. This is one of Wild Florida's airboats, which journeys deep into Florida's untouched everglades on daytime and evening tours. A Coast Guard–certified captain controls the machine’s massive fan, which propels sightseers across marshes and down rivers, where they search for the 67 threatened species that call the Everglades' 4,200 acres home. As the airboat rounds a bend, its passengers notice a dark-green mass in the water. An alligator peeks it head above the surface, opens its jaws, and reveals rows of powerful teeth that could make any dentist rev a dental drill in excitement.
At the end of the tour, the captain and passengers unload at Wild Florida's 500-foot dock, but their ecological encounters are far from over. At the onsite wildlife park, visitors can hold baby alligators and whisper sweet nothings into their ear openings. It also showcases exotic African creatures, such as zebras, water buffalo, and emu. After a day of exploration, aromas of smoked barbecue lure visitors to the onsite watering hole Pete & Pegs Silver Platter Bar B-Q, which serves everything from pulled pork to gator tails.
The guides from Calypso Kayaking Tours take explorers into native wildlife habitats of the Florida inter-coastal waterway, traversing the shorelines in search of bottle nosed dolphins. The kayaks come within a few feet of the marine mammals, and patrons have an opportunity to wade in shallow waters. Guides also conduct trips to the Port Orange Wildlife Sanctuary, where Brown Pelicans, egrets, and herons play poker in the mudflats.
Manned by a Coast Guard-certified crew, a 65-foot speedboat safely whisks passengers along the beaches of Cape Canaveral during 90-minute dolphin-watching tours. The captain pulls off wave-skirting maneuvers, pausing to point out the playful sea mammals, who enjoy swimming, jumping, and high-fiving in the wake of the boat. Flying fish may whiz by the stern, and sea turtles have been known to lazily approach the hull of the docked watercraft. The captain also discusses Port Canaveral's history as passengers snap photos of military ships and submarines in port.
The educated and certified guides at Ripple Effect Ecotours not only lead ecotours, but educate tour-goers, too. Teaching a Florida Master Naturalist class, guides specialize in informing visitors about the region's coastal ecology. Visitors can experience these coastal habitats, which serve as the homes for many species of wildlife, marine life, and birds. Paddling through the waterways, kayak tours give participants a chance to quietly explore the nature that surrounds them, exploring in groups of up to three.
American Pro Diving Center helps visitors and locals explore the clear, teeming waters of Florida with year-round manatee tours and diving adventures. All-equipment-included manatee snorkel tours in Crystal River or winter expeditions to Homosassa River let snorkelers rub flippers with the rivers' large population of resident sea cows. In-water guides keep the experience safe and fun for both manatees and people, and snorkelers swim in between the gentle creatures, giving them a gentle pat or a canister of whisker wax.
For deeper subterranean adventures, the center offers classes that range from Discover Scuba Diving to full PADI open-water certification, in addition to specialty courses on rescue and wreck diving. Divers can plunge into one of seven diving excursions, including night dives in Rainbow River or mermaid line dancing in the lost city of Atlantis.