Tuesday, 5 February 2013


Today I am having a quiet day at home, kittens are snoozing, there is no sound except the occasional tweeting bird. I look out the window at my pond and watch the silver eyes, one at a time, dart down for a drink and flit back up into the solid wall of tall bamboo greenery that is my neighbours backyard.

Suddenly I am slowed down, peaceful, quiet and reflective.  And my mind flits to the last time I experienced such gentle, lush, watery, green-ness. The Wekiva River.

I went kayaking with the Central Florida Kayak Tours. Kenny and Jennifer run a range of tours and I choose the daybreak birdwatching photographers tour.

For this 4 hour tour, I had a front row seat and Kenny at the back did all the paddling and I did all the shooting. It was wonderful - I felt very luxurious being paddled around and having quiet commentary from the rear.

When we first set off the day was very cloudy and a gentle rain was falling, but this cleared up very quickly for a beautiful clear day. The Wekiva River permanently runs as it is fed from underground springs. The name Wekiva comes from the original American Indian local people - the Creek language - and means "spring of water".

Federally designated as one of Florida's 'wild and scenic rivers' the area is mostly pristine and undeveloped. There is an abundance of wildlife and I spotted many birds, including sea eagles, woodpeckers, heron and egrets. 


As the day heated up, I saw many yellow bellied turtles sunning themselves on the logs. Despite our quiet and gentle paddling, these guys would fall into the water as soon as they spotted us.

The area is also home to alligators - but they proved harder to spot

The banks of the river are an untouched swamp of trees and vines, and at the waters edge many water lillies, and aquatic grasses. In typical Florida style, the trees are dripping with spanish moss.

The Limpkin is an endemic bird here - fairly good size bird which predominately eats apple snails. And there can only be apple snails, due to the high mineral content from the underground spring water supply. Thus nature balances itself.

I loved this tour - and would love to do it again. Not just because Kenny did all the paddling! We were the only ones on the river for the whole 4 hours - it was so peaceful and being low and slow on the water we were able to get up close and personal to the amazing diversity of wildlife and greenery.

In the heat of June, a daybreak tour starting at sunrise would be the only way to go. Otherwise one would be stuck out on the water in full sun and blazing heat. Kenny tells me that in summer he has some other places to visit where there is a sandy beach and swimming is possible. Perhaps a spot with less alligators.

I am willing to book a group tour if we can put one together. I suspect it would cost approx. $50 per head, which would supply the guide, the kayak, wet pack bags. Bring your swimmers, cameras and any snacks / food / beverages you desire. It would be an early morning start - or an overnight stay in a closer location - as the Wekiva River is a 1 hour drive from the Marriott World Centre in Lake Buena Vista.

Is this something you would like to do when you visit Orlando?

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