From a distance, the manatees, dolphins, and bald eagles that populate Estero Island make quite an impression. But the staff at Holiday Water Sports of Fort Myers Beach believes up-close encounters are not only the sole way to determine if the animals can talk, but also the best way to enjoy them. To that end, they guide tours and rent out myriad watercraft, from Yamaha 4 waverunners and 10-passenger pontoon boats to paddle bikes, which resemble oversized tricycles as they surge through nimbuses of sea foam. The staff hoists parasailers over their water-bound peers, letting out up to 1,200 feet of slack and allowing riders to plunge into free falls with houses and piers blurring into a cubist painting beneath them. Captains certified by the United States Coast Guard guide the ships back toward the sun-bleached sands, where the company’s rental umbrellas rustle in the breeze above lounge chairs.
The gentle clap of paddles against the water and the tenor thrumming of jet-ski motors drift from Adventure Water Sports. On waverunners, diminutive sailboats, and kayaks, patrons spread out across the surf and around Estero Island, their eyes peeled for dolphins and other fauna at all times. The shoreline falls back in quiet bays and estuaries, where little fish dart among tangled knots of mangrove roots. Instructors certified by the United States Coast Guard demonstrate the operation of vessels, lead tours, and knock down sand castles lacking proper fire exits.
It only takes a few minutes for FMB FlyBoard's certified instructors to teach beginners how to flyboard, using jetpacks that attach to the feet. Flyboarders can soar as high as 30 feet in the air and dive, dolphin-like, through the water. Groups of up to six depart from the Getaway Marina on San Carlos Boulevard in a private flyboard charter.
Staff Size: 2?10 people
Average Duration of Services: 2?4 hours
Handicap Accessible: Yes
Brands Used: All
Recommended Age Group: All ages
Pro Tip: Be ready for adventure.
Most Popular Attraction/Offering: Manatees, dolphins, and gators.
Jeremy Howard puts his knowledge as a master naturalist to use as a tour guide for Nature Tours and More. To him and his fellow guides, the rivers, lakes, wetlands, and seas of Southwest Florida tell a story about the creatures that live there, and where to find them. The guides lead groups of visitors on kayak-bound tours of local habitats, spotting everything from manatees and dolphins to gators and bats. They visit locations such as splendid mangrove tunnels and lagoons, as well as barrier islands against which the Gulf water splashes.
Because they lead such a varied array of tours, they often launch from different locations, but they accommodate guests by providing shuttle service to and from remote launching points. They also make sure to train guests in how to guide the kayak and outfit them with important safety equipment such as life vests and mosquito forcefields, once they're done being invented.
Gulf Coast Kayak sits on the edge of Matlacha Pass Aquatic Preserve, a scenic sprawl of estuaries, back bays, and mangrove tunnels roofed by the interlaced branches of waterside trees. Their single and tandem kayaks give paddlers a way to drink up this scenery, instead of waiting on the shore, thumbs-outstretched, hoping to catch a ride from a passing mermaid. Alternatively, paddlers can opt for a guided tour, such as the Sunset Birding Tour, which can afford birdwatchers glimpses of osprey, herons, and spoonbills. For those who cannot make it to their storefront, Gulf Coast Kayak is able to deliver kayaks anywhere in Matlacha or Pine Island for a fee.
On Kayak Charters' guided eco tours, participants paddle through waters bustling with aquatic creatures, ranging from manatees to dolphins. The guides helm other scenic kayaking trips, too, along with fly-fishing charters. Kayak Charters complements its tours with classes on a wide array of outdoor skills, such as boating, navigation, and wilderness survival.