We were recently gifted a set of matching kayaks (thanks Mel and Sydney), and since then we’ve been spending weekends exploring the different places to paddle around Central Florida. Labor day weekend our destination was Canaveral National Seashore on the southern end of New Smyrna Beach.
The alarm buzzed at 6 A.M. on Labor Day so that we could make the hour and half drive to the national park. Knowing it was a holiday, we didn’t want to make the drive only to be told the park was full. We’d recently experienced this at Wekiwa Springs State Park a few weeks earlier. So by 6:30 the kayaks were loaded and cooler packed, and by 7 we were on the road.
We arrived at Canaveral National Seashore about 8:30. Five dollars later we were headed toward the visitor center to check out the boat launch. Scoping out the area from the dock, we had our first wildlife sighting–a dolphin. Instead of launching the kayaks here, we decided to make this dock our rest point.
Back in the truck we drove to parking lot six and unloaded. Carrying the kayaks a few feet we were quickly pushing off into the water. It was then that I heard a giant splash in the mangroves to my right. Immediately I saw a couple of manatees, so I decided to paddle a little closer. Geoff launched right after me. I hadn’t paddled more than twenty feet when I was surrounded by at least five manatees. Instead of moving away from me, they decided that they needed a closer look at my kayak. I stopped paddling as a rather large one swam right under me, nudging my boat on the way. Now I know that manatees are pretty docile mammals, but my heart was pounding as I saw I was surrounded.
Slowly I dipped my paddle and pushed backward putting a little more space between me and the herd of female-seeking males. Later, I found out that I had interrupted a sea cow love-making session. Most likely only one of the herd I found myself in was a female. Once I had disengaged from the tangle of manatees, I paused to watch them from a safer distance. Geoff was about twenty feet away from me watching as well. Close, but not close enough for me to hear him breathing. As I continued to hear these puffs of breath, I soon realized that there was a manatee snout next to the side of my kayak. He or she just seemed to be scoping out my kayak. So perfectly still, I grabbed my phone and got some of the coolest and closest shots of the manatee checking me out. It was a moment I’ll never forget.
Leaving that herd of manatees behind we explored Mosquito Lagoon encountering Florida brown pelicans, a blue heron, egrets and ospreys. Three miles later, we pulled into the dock at the visitor’s center to stretch our legs and grab a snack. We weren’t out of the kayaks for more than five minutes when I spotted another dolphin swimming right where we had been paddling.
Back on the kayaks we headed to our entry point and again paddled into a herd of manatees. This time we saw them ahead of time because they had knocked a paddleboarder into the water. Again, this group was feisty as well with lots of splashing and tail flipping. I’ve never seen the massive manatee move so much. Wilting in the humid and breeze-less day we decided to end our paddle. So, we pulled out and loaded back into the truck.
After lunch we hiked to an ancient Indian shell mound. While we weren’t sure if we actually found the shell mound, we did find dozens of banana spiders in webs intricately woven between mangrove and palm branches.
A quick dip in the ocean cooled us off before he headed back for home. This is the best place I’ve kayaked yet, and I cannot wait to get back and do it again.