Get an up close and personal look at manatees and dolphins in their native Indian River Lagoon habitat on a kayak or paddle board tour
Compared to when Europeans first arrived over 500 years, yes, Florida isn’t the same place. Highways, theme parks, farms and industry span the landscape. Because of our hospitable climate and many of other factors, Florida has grown to be the fourth largest state in the U.S.
Despite all of this change though, pockets of the old Florida still exist, providing residents and visitors a glimpse of what was once wild frontier. The Indian River Lagoon is one such place. Spanning almost 40% of Florida’s east coast, the Lagoon supports a variety of wild, yet endangered giants that capture the imagination in ways the theme parks back in Orlando can’t. Getting into the lagoon on a kayak or paddle board offers visitors a chance to see more, and get a personal look at manatee, dolphin and other wild critters in their native settings.
We invite you to continue reading for a brief glimpse of two majestic sea creatures that await you on a guided eco/nature tour in the Indian River Lagoon just outside Orlando.
Image courtesy of WikiMedia
A distant relative of the elephant believe it or not, the Florida manatee is known by anyone who meets one as the “gentle giant.” They love warm water, so for most of the year, waters in the Lagoon provide an ideal habitat for the “sea cow.” Manatees dine on the sea grass and other plant life found within the Indian River Lagoon ecosystem.
Manatees are incredibly slow swimmers, which isn’t surprising considering they can weigh anywhere from 1,000 to 3,500 pounds. A large tail helps propel them through the water, where they actually can do some impressive maneuvers like rolls, somersaults and even swimming upside down. They stay close to the surface since they must breathe the open air every few minutes.
Their slow movement, breathing patterns and general docile nature allows you to get really close and possibly even touch a manatee. If you encounter a group, be prepared to stick around for a short bit, but
don’t poke or prod these gentle giants from your kayak or paddle board – if they roll on you unsuspectingly, you could wind up in the water.
Although you can see manatees throughout the canals, bayous and natural shorelines along the Indian River Lagoon, Mosquito Lagoon in the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge is well known for its abundant manatee sightings.
Image courtesy of WikiMedia
Dolphins are found throughout the world and are highly intelligent and social animals – their hearing is so good that even one who is blind can survive in the wild. They live in schools, known as “pods,” which is why you see their signature dorsal fins in such abundance when you encounter them. Like the manatee, dolphins are mammals who have adapted to living in the water. Most types of dolphins prefer warm waters like the Indian River Lagoon just east of Orlando.
The bottlenose dolphin is the most common for waters in Florida – their sleek body makes them very agile in the water. They commonly reach speeds of up to 20 miles per hour, and can jump as high as 16 feet out of the water. Pods of dolphins communicate through a system of squeaks and whistles that are not well understood. They also surface the water every few minutes to breathe.
Bottlenose dolphins mostly feed on shrimp and small fish. They average 10 to 14 feet long and weigh up to 1,100 pounds.
While some aquatic theme parks like Sea World in Orlando provide a view of dolphins, an eco-tour in their native habitat provides the most thrilling view by far.
Kayaks vs. Paddleboards
If you decide to embark on a guided nature tour of the Indian River Lagoon area, you will need to decide on if you want to go in a kayak or stand-up paddleboard.
Each has their pros and cons, especially when it comes to seeing manatees and dolphins in their native habitat.
A kayak is certainly the more stable of the two, and provides space for storing food, water and other supplies. A paddleboard though is big enough to accommodate a child, but we wouldn’t recommend that for a long trip.
Also, you can not only see much farther on a stand-up paddleboard, you can also see down into the water much easier.
In the end, it depends on your comfort level. Kayaks are better for beginners since they’re more stable, but a paddle board can provide better views of the majestic manatees and dolphins that call the Indian River Lagoon home.
Learn More or Encounter Dolphins and Manatees Up Close
To learn more about the Indian River Lagoon and eco tours just an hour’s drive from Orlando, we invite you to browse around Calypso Kayaking’s home online, and feel free to contact me with any questions or to schedule a manatee/dolphin excursion.