Kayakers, unlike pancakes or depressed turtles, muster the will to get themselves upright when flipped upside down. Float through life with today's Groupon: for $20, you get a two- to three-hour guided tour from Shan-T Native Kayak Tours (up to a $59 value).
Running daily with morning, afternoon, and evening tours, Shan-T Native Kayak Tours' guides lead patrons through the Gulf of Mexico's pristine waters. Kayakers can experience the Florida ecosystem and practice paddle jousting with each tour's two guides, who are certified in first aid and CPR through the American Red Cross and by the American Canoe Association. Guests can choose one of the outfit's five excursions, such as the Exotic Mangrove tour, in which kayakers venture through mangrove tunnels in hopes of catching glimpses of a menagerie of birds and marine life, including starfish, stingrays, and wood storks.
During the Manatee Watching tour, paddlers cruise along the shore of Palma Sola Bay, where the amiable sea cows can often be observed slowly swimming and making toast on the Intercoastal Waterway. Seafarers can opt for the canoodling-inducing ambiance of a Romantic Sunset or Full Moon tour, or they can choose the Braden River Exploration tour for a brackish water odyssey rife with rare specimens such as the sawfish and its cousin, the tape-measure eel. Check the website for details, as meeting points vary with each tour.
Shan-T Native Kayak Tours
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.