Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Kayaking with Alligators, Turner River, Big Cypress National Preserve

We decided to go kayaking with the Ivey House, which I can wholeheartedly recommend. It's a bit pricey, but definitely worth the money. The guides working there are super-knowledgeable and easy-going at the same time.

Our kayaking guide

The Ivey House offers three kayaking trips a day: the sunrise, the midday, and the sunset trips. We signed up for the sunrise trip, as we reasoned that most animals are active early in the morning. Also, we didn't want to risk getting sunburned by the afternoon sun during one of the later trips.

Our guide told us that we picked a perfect time to go kayaking in this area: it was not too hot, the bugs were tolerable (sort of), and the water levels in the rivers dropped low enough to attract birds to come nesting there. However, we didn't see too many birds there, and all the once that we saw belonged to the same species that we had previously seen during our hiking expeditions in the area.

Early morning on the water

Well, we didn't sign up for this trip because of the birds. We wanted to see alligators. And we weren't disappointed: there were many of them, and they came in a variety of sizes. We experienced the thrill of kayaking next to a big alligator, carefully watching our moves. We also had the thrill of seeing a group of baby alligators; we were so excited to see them that we forgot to look around to make sure that their mother was not hiding somewhere nearby . . . I doubt she would be too pleased to see that we were only a meter away from her little ones.

A baby alligator

About two years old alligator

An adult alligator

Look how close to the alligators we were!

The other highlight of our kayaking trip was a turtle resting on a tree trunk. Look at this guy, doesn't he just beg to be photographed?
A turtle

At times, kayaking was challenging, as we were on a narrow and meandering river, the banks of which were overgrown by the Mangrove forest. Moreover, Anil and I were were in a double kayak, which posed a double challenge. First, our kayak was longer than a standard single kayak and, therefore, more difficult to navigate. Second, since there were two of us in the kayak, we sometimes had very different ideas of how we should be navigating, and we would end up canceling each other's actions, and finding ourselves stuck in the mangrove trees. It was a bit frustrating at times, but we also had a lot of laughs.
Kayaking through the mangrove forest

Water flowers

Our paddling adventure took place on the Turner River in Big Cypress National Preserve, but there are many other kayaking trails in the area that can be explored both by novice and experienced kayakers. The Ivey House also provides rentals of canoes and kayaks, as well as shuttle service to and from the kayaking trail. The top “paddling season” is from November through March. The trail descriptions and maps can be downloaded from Big Cypress National Preserve website.