Thursday, January 28, 2010

Kayaking the Ten Thousand Islands

I was back in the Everglades this week kayaking in Rookery Bay, part of the Ten Thousand Islands ecosystem. See the yellow box in the map to the right.

Here's how the web site describes it:

Located at the northern end of the Ten Thousand Islands on the gulf coast
of Florida, the Rookery Bay Reserve represents one of the few remaining undisturbed mangrove estuaries in North America.
An amazing world exists within the 110,000 acres of pristine mangrove forest, uplands and protected waters of Rookery Bay. Where rivers and streams meet the sea, a unique habitat is formed. A myriad of wildlife, including 150 species of birds and many threatened and endangered animals, thrive in the estuarine environment and surrounding upland hammocks and scrub found within the Reserve.

Since Rookery Bay is used as a national research and monitoring center for marine life and birds, it's a great place to go paddleing and bird-watching.

I joined a group kayak tour with Eco-Quest Nature Tours, based in Naples. It was one of those incredible blue-sky days with nary a cloud in the sky, water like glass and temps hovering around 74. Since it's winter, there were no mosquitoes ... it was a picture-perfect day, as you can see from my photos.

If you want an up close and personal kayak adventure in Rookery Bay, contact Wendell Vaught at Eco-Quest Nature Tours. Wendell is a master naturalist and excellent tour guide, who provides interesting commentary on the nature, wildlife and ecosystem of the area. Eco-Quest Nature Tours will also customize any kind of Everglades adventure you like including hiking, bird-watching and swamp walks. Find them at
or (239) 298-6750.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Arctic Exploration

My friend Rudy Scheffer is not only a world traveler and owner of Adventures Worldwide adventure travel company, but he is also a world-class photographer. Last summer he was lucky enough to be invited on an Arctic expedition to photograph polar bears.
Says Rudy:

My most memorable experiences were seeing my first polar bear and standing on the bow of the ship as it ran into a solid sheet of pack ice and came to a stop.
The ship had to back up and ram the ice again until it broke apart and we could
continue our journey. In the evening after dinner it was extremely interesting
interacting with 50 other passengers from 14 different nations, the Russian
crew, the Norwegian oncologist and a Danish geologist.

For a look at more of Rudy's photos and an overview of his trip, check out this page on the St. Pete Times web site:

To check out Rudy's web site, go to In 2010, he'll take you to the Arctic, to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, to Brazil's incredible Iguassu Falls or can arrange just about any wild trip you want to take.

Rudy will be giving a presentation on his Arctic adventure at the Suncoast Sierra Club meeting at 7 pm Jan. 21 at Mocassin Lake Park in Clearwater, FL.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

One Bird, Two Bird

After my bike ride in the Everglades (see post below), I volunteered for the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count. I was lucky enough to be invited to count with the North Pinellas team at Caladesi Island, considered to be one of the world's most beautiful beaches near Clearwater, Florida.

Every year from Dec. 13 to Jan. 5, before the first rays of sun cast shadows on the ground, tens of thousands of people from Alaska to Antarctica roll out of bed, stuff backpacks with binoculars and head out in search of birds. From yellow-bellied sapsuckers to burrowing owls and tufted titmice, birds of every species are spotted, tallied and added to a massive database that began more than a century ago.

I wrote a story about it for the front page of the Tampa Tribune and took lots of photos. Caladesi is like ground zero for shorebirds ... we counted hundreds of them. It was a great experience!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Yule Like a Swamp Ride

Guess what I did on Christmas Day? While you were slaving over a big ole' dinner, I was spinning my wheels through the Fakahatchee Strand.

What's the Fakahatchee Strand, you ask?

It's a preserve and state park in South Florida's Everglades, a long swath of swamp about 20 miles long and 5 miles wide with uplands hiking trails and a nice dirt road up the middle for bikers and drivers. More native orchid species grow in this 75,000-acre wilderness than in any other place in the world! You are likely to see orchids, along with a few gators and other swamplife, on one of the ranger guided Swamp Walks every 1st, 2nd and 3rd Saturday of the month.

On the Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk on the southern end of the park you can spot an eagle's nest, lots of gators, herons, egrets and Roseate Spoonbills. I took a stroll on the boardwalk (see photo) and then took a ride along the 11-mile Janes Scenic Drive starting at the Ranger Station.

It's a flat, smooth gravel road with very little car traffic, so it's perfect for an easy ride (22 miles roundtrip).

There are no admission fees, so this is a cheap, enjoyable date or family expedition. For more information on the park or the Swamp Walks, go to and click on Fakahatchee Strand. Happy trails!