The guides at Black Water, Blue Water Tours tailor their kayaking trips to the crew accompanying them. Wildlife tours, sunset tours, island-picnic tours, or even journeys under the full moon introduce kayakers to South Florida's Myakka River, mangrove tunnels, and canals laden with wildlife such as manatees. If visitors have specific sightseeing locales in mind, the guides can create an entirely new tour to fit their parameters.
Mark Toomey once helmed his own recruitment firm in Nottingham, England, on the outskirts of Sherwood Forest, but a disdain for damp winters led him to the sun-drenched beaches of Siesta Key. Since opening Robin Hood Rentals in 2009, Mark has persevered through what he calls "Florida's harshest winter in 30 years," during which temperatures teetered near the freezing mark. He equips visitors with rental land-based and aquatic craft that let them explore the area without having to saddle a horse or propose to a dolphin.
From its perch near the Jim Neville Marine Preserve, the company fits cyclists with a range of beach, mountain, and tandem bicycles; matches riders to a fleet of two-seat 49cc automatic scooters; and trains visitors to venture off on newer-model i2 LeanSteer Segways. They also let kayakers explore the local waterways from sunrise into the nighttime.
O-Sea-D Aquatic Adventures guides paddlers through Gasparilla Sound, an 80,000-acre estuary teeming with more than 100 kinds of invertebrates, 200 fish species, and 150 shore and wading birds. Fifteen minutes before launch time, O-Sea-D's owner, operator, and master naturalist Vince Molnar outfits kayakers with gear, instruction, safety equipment, and swamp-thing repellent. During the 2.5- to 3-hour voyage, Vince shepherds the fleet under the canopied mangrove tunnels of the Woolverton Trail, about six miles of aquatic alleyways that slink through a tangle of exotic leaves and limbs. Vessels' hulls will brush against tendrils of turtle grass and glide past shoals of oysters and starfish, and their admirals may spy dolphins and manatees or even cradle seahorses in their palms. O-Sea-D Aquatic Adventures posts its scheduled tours on its online calendar, and Vince will also add dates to accommodate guests' schedules and desire to experience peak mud-storm hours.
Paddleboarders and kayakers flock to Hooked on SUP's cabana, lounging by the pool before they paddle out into the Gulf of Mexico's waters. The staff includes kayak and paddleboard instructors, who teach newbies the finer details of understanding a dolphin's traffic signals. Aside from rentals and lessons, Hooked on SUP occasionally leads special eco tours.
The spindly branches of mangrove trees dip into Sarasota waters, often creating channels just wide enough to admit one kayak. But despite the narrow nature of these waterways, the guides of I Kayak Sarasota—all Sarasota natives—navigate them with ease. They do this while leading kayakers on tours that uncover different aspects of the bay’s natural splendor without revealing its real secret—that it’s actually a giant’s bathtub. One tour showcases the mangrove tunnels where tourists might see manatees and dolphins, and the other grants guests views of the sunset from the middle of the bay. In addition, I Kayak Sarasota offers standup-paddleboard lessons, which incorporate balance and core fitness into wave-top adventures.
Sarasota Wind and Water Adventures gives adventurers the vessels and knowledge to plunge boldly into the surf, providing paddleboard, kayak, and waterski rentals as well as lessons. Fishing trips set sail for open water with a Coast Guard-certified captain and all of the tackle necessary to hunt for kingfish, triggerfish, and the vengeful ghosts of scuba divers, while sunset cruises let passengers experience the wonder of voyaging directly into the heart of the sun.