When a family of five wanted to go on a kayak tour, they assumed their daughter with Down's syndrome couldn't come along. But Shan-T co-owner Michelle Thorpe assured them she could, and invited her along in her own tandem kayak. Once on the water, the girl immediately took charge, joyfully taking over paddling. Michelle and her husband Mark had always searched for a way to conduct fun, physical, outdoor activities that would accommodate people with special needs, including their daughter with Asperger's and their niece who is autistic. Taking advantage of the therapeutic nature of the area's calm waters, Shan-T provides a way for just about everyone to commune with nature. The couple operates their tours intimately, using no more than 15 boats per group so that wilderness smells and the sounds of lapping waves are prevalent throughout their adventures.
The pair leads their tours through secluded, often shallow waterways and wildlife-rich areas aboard ocean-style kayaks with open tops for easy boarding and egress. They sometimes allow participants to use the boats as standup paddleboards on which participants can stretch their legs or reach up to scratch head itches with overhanging branches. On each tour, guides stress the fragility of the local ecosystem, highlighting issues such as baby fish growing up inside discarded soda cans and dolphins consuming floating plastic bags. In response, participants often pick up any refuse they see, with tours in the past becoming scavenger hunts to help clean the secluded waterways and to see who can find the most Gene Simmons solo albums. On many of these trips, kayakers have encountered manatees up close, sometimes when they brush up against the boats to scratch their backs and bellies.
The crew at Kayak Valet has one mission: to get more people out and enjoying the local waterways and scenery via kayaks or paddleboards. Since storing, hauling, unloading, reloading, and potty training their own kayaks can deter people from boating, the team sets up shop to cancel out such deterrents. They take care of nearly every task, bringing all equipment necessary for a leisurely paddle on puddles of all sizes right to the launch site. The crew will pick up and deliver equipment to popular launch sites within Hillsborough, Pinellas, and Manatee Counties. To keep the aquatic adventure accessible, the shop rents only kayaks and standup paddleboards that can be piloted by anyone, experienced or not. Additionally, they give visitors tips on paddling and safety techniques and sell new kayaks, paddleboards, and accessories.
Captain Kim was destined to spend her life near the ocean. Born and raised on Anna Maria Island, the third-generation commercial fisherwoman with 15 years of captaining experience provides tours of the waters that she grew up exploring. Her 30-foot pontoon vessel can hold up to six passengers or one curious orca whale, taking groups on informative sightseeing tours around Anna Maria Island and Cortez, Florida. In addition to pointing out cresting dolphins and noteworthy historical sites, Captain Kim gives visitors a hands-on experience with the area's fish, crustaceans, and other sea life while explaining the local ecology.
If you part the branches of Mixon Fruit Farms? citrus trees, you might spy an unusual sight: Burmese pythons, an alligator, a crocodile, and African land tortoises basking in the sunlight, surrounded by cages of roosting falcons.
The farm that began in 1939 as a 20-acre roadside fruit stand has stayed true to citrus farmer Willy Mixon?s vision of showcasing the region?s natural splendor. But in addition to an extra 50 acres of fruit trees, the farm has expanded its focus to include a wildlife refuge, where rescue volunteers nurse injured animals back to health and educate visitors on native and exotic species. The farm also hosts an on-site tropical garden along with dazzling koi ponds, and has a magical maze open to kids of all ages.
Along with daily tours of the grove and sanctuary, Mixon Fruit Farms also spotlights Florida?s bounty with citrus-infused ice cream and salads at Groveside Caf?. Homemade fudge and orange juice also populate the 14,000-square-foot gift shop
After founding The Golf Boot Camp in California and Washington state in the ‘90s, Cathy Schmidt has since set up two locations in Florida—one at Timber Creek Golf Club in 2009 and more recently at Terra Ceia Bay Golf Club in 2012. At all of the locations, Cathy helps students improve their swings by leveraging a two-decade career, including stints on various professional tours and a certification as a LPGA Class A instructor.
Whether an individual lesson or a three-day intensive golf boot camp, all of The Golf Boot Camp's programs begin with an on-course evaluation to assess each student’s swing habits and allergies to fairway landing zones. Lessons utilize V1 video technology to capture every movement of the swing, using the data to provide corrective feedback that fits each golfer's unique physical capabilities. The goal of lessons is to satisfy five key components: a steady head, weight forward, flat left wrist (or right wrist for lefties), correct sweet-spot path, and control over the clubface.
Florida has long been a source of fascination for scientists and explorers, who have searched the Sunshine State for everything from fossilized mammals to gold. The state's natural riches are rivaled only by the cultures that have sprung up around them, and both are on full display at South Florida Museum.
The museum's first floor starts at the very beginning, with fossil evidence of Florida's earliest marine and mammal inhabitants. These fossils eventually make way for archaeological material from cultures that predate European contact. Special exhibits often fill out the museum with unique artifacts ranging from prehistoric artifacts to Penny Hardaway's fossilized high tops. As if that weren't enough, the museum also shares a campus with the Bishop Planetarium and the Parker Manatee Aquarium, where guests can observe and learn about the beloved sea cow. And the museum is also home to Snooty, the world's oldest known manatee.