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Is kayaking in the Everglades safe?

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​There are many rumors about alligators and snakes lurking in the Everglades waiting to attack visitors. You’ve probably had friends and family warn about kayaking here. But, the fact is, we have never had a client even threatened by any wildlife. Contrary to popular belief, alligators are actually timid reptiles that are fearful of kayaks and people. They are a different species entirely from the aggressive crocodiles found in the southern hemisphere. Gators and snakes submerge quickly and swim quietly away whenever we approach. Incidents of attacks in Florida occur by hand fed gators which live in populated areas and have lost their natural fear of people. We do not encounter these dangerous “habituated” gators in the backcountry of Everglades National Park.Also, the widely reported invasion of non-native Burmese pythons is actually only a threat to native wildlife, but not to people. Python are non-venomous constrictor snakes which feed on small prey they can swallow whole (rodents, fish, birds). Therefore even a starving snake would not attempt to stalk a kayak or human. By being knowledgeable and prepared, we have the experience to deal with all wildlife. In any case, please don’t let exaggerated fears or uninformed opinions stop you from experiencing the beauty of the Everglades!

What will we see?

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Our itineraries offer you the opportunity to explore, truly experience and appreciate the Everglades backcountry. You will spend your days paddling easily, slowly and quietly with minimal impact on the surrounding environment. This allows you to not only see the wildlife, but to get close and observe its behavior unaffected by human impacts. You may spot a docile manatee lolling at the surface, kayak in the middle of frolicking dolphins, watch a shy sea turtle coming up for a breath and observe pelicans diving for their dinner at sunset. You will also spend your nights sleeping in the backcountry which allows you the time to fully experience the Everglades that day trippers miss. You will watch spectacular sunsets from remote beaches, warm yourself around a blazing beach campfire, sleep beneath immense star­-filled night skies, listen to soft manatee breaths throughout the night and awaken to songbird­ filled mornings.

Do you offer one-day trips?

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Unlike the numerous day trip operators, we concentrate on fully outfitted and guided overnight sea kayak camping tours in the backcountry of Everglades National Park. Our experience allows us to offer you the best itineraries. We will guide you to see all of the various habitats in the Everglades (mangrove estuary, tidal rivers, 10,000 Islands, isolated keys, Wilderness Waterway, Gulf of Mexico, hidden mangrove tunnels, white sand beaches) and we will camp at all of the different types of campsites (chickees, shell mounds, beaches). We won’t waste your valuable vacation time and dollars showing you the same old heavily visited sites. We are also a local outfitter. When you contact us with questions you will be assisted by the guide who will take you on the tour. Your questions will be answered by someone who has been there and done that, and will be there doing it with you! You are not being sold a tour by an agent who has never been to the Everglades or is operating from an out­-of­-state sales office.

What size are the groups?

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You will have a private guide and be kayaking with an intimate group of a few like minded companions (2-10 people). You will not be herded like cattle on a mass market tour. And, as you know, one of the best parts of travel is who you meet along the journey. On our trips you have a head start because you’re traveling with people who more than likely share your values and your passion to experience the natural world. You might very well meet new friends that you’ll want to keep for life. But don’t take our word for it, see what they have to say for themselves in our testimonials.

What will the weather be like?

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The Everglades enjoys a subtropical climate and the “winter” months are the best time of year to visit! November to April is the tropical dry season with abundant sunshine, warm days, cool nights, low humidity and little rain. The infamous clouds of biting insects are also greatly reduced. However, temperate cold fronts do reach the Everglades in winter. These cold fronts can bring dangerous thunderstorms and be followed by strong north winds. Therefore, a packable rain/wind jacket and one set of warm camp clothes are still necessary on our tours. A specific personal packing list is provided with our Overnight Tour Information sheet.

How bad are the mosquitos?

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The winter months are the dry season in the Everglades when the insect levels are greatly reduced. However, at certain times in camp (warm/humid, dawn/dusk, no wind, near trees) the bugs can be irritating. We have both mosquitos and tiny biting gnats called “no­-see­-ums”. When we’re out kayaking on the open water we never have a problem. Also, all our tents have fine no­-see­-um mesh screens, which assures you of a good night´s sleep. We also provide a large screened kitchen tent for use during meals. We set up tents away from trees to catch any breeze which also helps. The best way to protect yourself is with a long sleeve shirt, long pants with socks and a head net. A skin repellant with 15­-30% DEET is also effective.

How difficult is the trip, really?

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3­-Day Everglades Kayak Tour – The 3­-day tour is rated “Easy Active” and has a maximum of 6 miles and 3 hours of paddling per day. This is our easiest overnight trip and is suitable for beginning kayakers and families with children. It is also great for newcomers to active and adventure travel.
5­-Day Everglades Kayak Tour – The 5­-day tour is rated “Moderately Active” and has up to 12 miles and 6 hours of paddling per day. This is our most popular tour! It is best for individuals with some sea kayaking experience and primitive camping skills.
8­-Day Everglades Kayak Tour – This 8­-day tour is rated “Strenuous” and is designed for very fit individuals and experienced kayakers. It has up to 19 miles and 10 hours paddling per day with potentially limited breaks. This trip also requires breaking and moving camp every day to reach our required campsites with no rest days. Proof of sea kayaking experience may be required for this tour.

What about kayak safety?

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Safety is the #1 priority for Florida Outdoor Adventures, Dave K and your guide! Even if you’ve never kayaked before, paddling with us is very safe. Paddling with us is the safe, smart option. Using a rental and setting off on your own could be extremely risky and problematic, potentially ruining your trip. The Everglades are a unique place where everything looks the same and it’s not unusual for first time visitors to become lost in the confusing mangrove maze as darkness approaches.
Your guide will thoroughly discuss all paddling safety procedures before we head out. Everyone is required to wear the provided life vest at all times on the water. Throughout the tour, your guide will carry kayak safety equipment such as tow system, paddle float, bilge pump, and first aid. Even the rare event of a capsize is not dangerous because the Everglades´ waters are warm, flat and shallow. Your guide also carries a navigation system including compass, detailed charts, and has vast experience paddling this area. They also have communications equipment for use if an emergency evacuation is required. You will be paddling in comfortable, stable, high­ quality kayaks and using the best equipment. We never go out in unsafe weather conditions, such as in lightning.
Also, as a wilderness first responder, your guide is trained to respond to medical emergencies in the backcountry. And, as a kayak instructor, they are qualified not only to perform, but to teach open water sea kayak safety and rescue skills. Florida Outdoor Adventures carries the required Everglades National Park Commercial Use Authorization permit and guide/outfitter business general liability insurance. We have also prepared and use an up­-to-­date Emergency Action Plan.

What kind of kayaks do we use?

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We use high volume expedition type sea kayaks of fiberglass composite construction on all of our tours. Our boats are manufactured by Seward Kayaks, Ltd of British Columbia, Canada. We have Seaward Ascente and Quest model singles and Southwind model double kayaks. You are free to select either at your preference. These are large and stable sit­-inside sea kayaks with spray skirts and foot controlled rudder systems. Because of their length and weight, these kayaks are difficult to maneuver, especially compared to more commonly used sit-on-top kayaks. Strong paddlers with experience often can handle the single kayaks. However, beginners and families with children will do better in the doubles. Simply indicate your preference on the Tour Reservation Form.

What is the camping like?

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We camp each night at the national park campsites as specified in the overnight tour itineraries. These are primitive backcountry campsites with no facilities. The campsites DO NOT have electricity, freshwater, cell service, flush toilets or showers. Some campsites do have picnic tables and port­-a-potty type toilets. As necessary, your guide will review appropriate leave­-no­-trace bathroom practices as specified by the park service. Although primitive, camping on our trips is spectacular and comfortable, even if you’ve never camped before. We supply 2­-person freestanding dome tents, warm sleeping bags, packable pillows, comfortable self ­inflating sleeping mattresses and folding camp chairs. Of course if you prefer, you may bring your own personal camping gear. We provide ample freshwater for drinking and cooking, but it’s not possible to bring enough fresh water for washing. We wash our dishes in saltwater using biodegradable green soap. It’s possible to wash ourselves in saltwater with the green soap, but we also provide ample wet wipes and hand sanitizer for cleaning hands and face. A small amount of freshwater can be used for brushing teeth.

What camping equipment is provided?

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All of our tours are fully outfitted and all inclusive. Unlike self-guided trips, we supply all kayaks, kayaking equipment and camping gear at no additional cost. We provide 2­-person freestanding Kelty dome tents with fine no­-see­-um mesh, 3-season Marmot sleeping bags, comfortable self inflating Thermarest mattresses, packable Thermarest camp pillows, folding Crazy Creek camp chairs, and two (10L & 5L) SeaLine dry bags for personal items. We also bring a large walk­-in screen tent for insect protection at meal time and a complete camp kitchen. We provide a single or double (your choice) expedition quality sit­-inside sea kayaks with foot controlled rudders and all kayaking and safety equipment. There is nothing other than a few personal items that you need to bring to Florida. Of course, if you prefer your own kayak and camping gear, you are welcome to bring it from home.

What will we eat?

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All meals are included in the price and are prepared by your guide in camp. Unlike self-guided trips, you do not have to shop for, pack or prepare your own food. The exact number of meals is specified in the overnight tour itineraries. We feature fresh, nutritious, tasty foods and multi course meals of large portions. With our planning and experience, we’ve learned it is not necessary to use bland and unhealthy dehydrated meals in the backcountry. All meals include several courses where you are free to help yourself to what you like and as much as you like.
Dinner is a highlight that often includes appetizers, local seafood, fresh salads and desserts. We often gather for “happy­ hour” at sunset with appetizers and drinks. We provide plenty of fresh drinking water for the duration of the tour along with some beer and wine. You are welcome to bring additional soda, beer, wine, liquor, although be aware we have no ice and it’s not possible to keep drinks cold. We include cooked breakfast some mornings with hot coffee, juice and fresh fruit. Lunches are buffet picnic­ style where possible or prepared brown bag meals that we carry inside our kayaks. Special diets such as allergies, vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, dairy-free, kosher, etc can be accommodated. Please list dietary restrictions and preferences on your Tour Reservation Form.

What personal items should I bring?

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Protective water shoes or strap­ on sandals are a must. You will wear them inside the kayak and to walk in water, soft mud and sharp oyster beds. They will get repeatedly wet all day as we enter and exit the kayak while standing in water. The shoes must not pull off your feet as we walk in deep soft mud and must have thick soles and cover the entire foot to protect from sharp and oyster shells. Sport shoes can be adequate, but once wet, they will stay wet for the entire tour. Slip On sandals or flip­ flops are NOT adequate. The water in the Everglades does not get cold (always above 50 F), so insulating “wet suit” type booties are not necessary. You may optionally want to bring a pair of neoprene waterproof socks to wear for warmth if necessary. You may also optionally want a pair of dry flip­ flops to wear in camp after you take off your wet paddle shoes.
Sun protection is essential. The winter months are our dry season and we will spend many hours beneath the intense “Sunshine State” sun. There is no shade on the water in a kayak. A full brim hat and sunglasses are essential. A light­weight, quick dry long sleeve shirt and long pants are best when paddling. Plenty of waterproof sunblock and lip balm is also necessary, as is a pair of padded synthetic paddling gloves. If we encounter a rainy and cool day then a light weight rain jacket may be necessary. A heavy weight water­proof paddle jacket is not necessary in our tropical climate. Umbrellas and ponchos are not practical. Cotton and denim clothing is useless, because the saltwater, high humidity and heavy morning dew of the Everglades will keep all clothing feeling clammy for the duration of the tour. The best solution is light­weight quick dry synthetic material which will wick moisture and sweat away from your skin. This will keep you warmer, drier and much more comfortable than sticky and damp cotton.

What about my telephone?

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Bringing a telephone for pictures is essential. You will almost certainly want to have it accessible in your kayak. However, there is a chance of getting it wet with ruinous saltwater, which only happens when it’s out of the dry bag. If you don’t want to take that chance, consider a one­-use or inexpensive point­-and­-shoot camera rather your expensive phone. There is cell coverage in some of the places we visit, so if you want the phone for emergencies, to be in touch with family or for discrete private conversations, that’s fine. However, we strongly discourage you from using it while kayaking, in front of the group or even leaving it on. Thank you for respecting your fellow travelers’ desires to enjoy a vacation away from the connected world!

How do I make a reservation?

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Do you already have your travel dates set? Just check the Tour Calendar to see what’s available. Remember, this calendar shows only the currently scheduled trips and many other dates are possible. Parties of two or more are welcome to schedule a new tour on any dates. Simply specify the dates that work best for you on the reservation form. Solo travelers may book any of the scheduled trips, no single supplement charge.
When you’re ready to book, simply complete and submit the online Tour Reservation Form. After acceptance, your reservation will be confirmed by paying a $200 per person deposit. This can be securely paid online with PayPal, verbally over the phone or by check through the mail. Upon receipt of the completed reservation form and payment, we will send you a reservation confirmation email, payment receipt, detailed Overnight Tour Info sheet, full packing list and Liability Waiver. Please do not make additional travel arrangements until you receive the confirmed reservation from us.
We look forward to having you join us for the trip of a lifetime! Why wait? Many trips fill fast, reserve your adventure today!