By Jesus Calo
We are fortunate to experience some of the most scenic sunsets in our country and the best view is right out in the Everglades. Occasionally, it is nice to step outside your comfort zone and do something adventurous. Everglades Area Tours is an excellent way to spend your evening with a small group and if you’re one of the lucky few you may even witness the infamous “Green Flash” beyond the horizon.
If the weather conditions allow, the tour launches about an hour before sunset. Our guide for the moonlight kayak paddle tour was Don McCumber, a seasoned wilderness explorer. McCumber has been involved with Everglades Area Tours for about five years and kayaking for the last 20. In fact, he was the head Florida Kayaker helping Diana Nyad make her extreme swim expedition from Cuba to the US.
“Nature is filled with surprises.
This is true wilderness.”
Kayaking is an excellent way to connect with your surrounding nature. At this tour, you have the option to ride solo or with a partner to witness the spectacular sunsets out on the water. This is more than simply a scenic tour, it’s an informational experience.
10,000 Islands is formed by biological action. This is due to the oysters and mangroves that have made their homes in this area allowing for a sunset paddle tour to have beautiful views of our SWFL nature. Nature is a cluster of interconnected biological creatures. You’ll first witness the Red Mangroves, also known as the “walking trees,” due to its ability to grow roots when more water source is needed and extra support for a trunk is required. The branches and old stumps are also home to the oysters. Now the oysters also have their own habitat, which are the sandbars they create, but they can be seen at the roots near mangrove trees.
The tour was a great reminder how life is a cycle. For example, even after an oyster is no longer viable, the old shells provide a place for babies to form life and develop. In fact, this area is so well known for its oysters that it dates back to when Captain William Collier settled nearby. Establishing one of the largest clam beds in the country, extending five miles long. It took about six to eight people to operate. But, it was so successful that the cannery located on Marco Island at the time overdid it and eventually had to shut down.
Out on the Chokoloskee Bay you may encounter plenty of local aviation species. On the tour, we saw brown pelicans, white pelicans and even a great blue heron, seen with its large wingspan fly across the mangroves in search of food. This particular bird is known for picking great locations shallow enough to capture its food – primarily the oysters. One fun fact we learned differentiating between the white and brown pelicans you see along the trip, are their eating habits. The white pelican is so large it can reach its food without having to dive in. There are times that a pod of white pelicans form a circle around schools of fish and at the same time to capture its prey. Witnessing this is like watching the coordination of ballerinas during a ballet.
“What’s wonderful about these paddle tours is never knowing what you’re going to see’” McCumber said about guiding the same trail daily. “Nature is filled with surprises. This is true wilderness.”
During a tour like this, it is the perfect opportunity to be mindful of your surroundings. We all contribute to the earth’s longevity and existence whether we realize it or not. The beauty of paddling through the islands is using natural shelter from the wind due to the mangroves. The birds benefit from this as well.
After the sun had set, the moon was bright and lit up our path along the water. Once the ski begins to dim, the birds return back to their roots for the night. Within a respectable distance, we approached the great white pelicans nesting area that make their home for the winter in the Chokoloskee Bay area. We idled for a while to blend in and observed the birds quietly in their natural state. They peacefully went about their business as we looked up at the stars illuminating the dark night sky. The moonlight reflected on the water, you could see the sparkles of the moonlight as the small waves rippled through the water from our kayaks. This is a sight to see, every once a month on the week leading into a full moon.
Everglades Area Tours is located on 238 Mamie St. in Chokoloskee Island. Sunset tours are also available from its Marco Island location into the 10,000 Islands. To make reservations call 800-860-1472.