In past posts I have mentioned several of my favorite places. Another of my favorite places is Sarasota, Fl. I lived there in my late twenties and early thirties, and have vacationed there almost every year since we moved to Boston and then Michigan. Recently, the beach on Siesta Key (where I lived for a year) was rated the best beach in the US by Dr. Beach who is really coastal expert Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman, Director of Florida International University’s Laboratory for Coastal Research.
This year we decided to do something different than just sitting on the beach or pool enjoying the warm weather. My daughter Michelle and I decided to take an environmentally oriented kayak tour of Sarasota Bay through Biotica EcoTours. Biotica EcoTours stresses the environmental and natural features of this important estuary.
Estuaries occur in areas where freshwater meets and mixes with salty ocean waters. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection call estuaries “The cradle of the ocean” because more than 70 percent of Florida’s recreationally and commercially important fishes, crustaceans, and shellfish spend part of their lives in estuaries, usually when they are young. The shallow water, salt marshes, seagrasses, and mangrove roots provide excellent hiding places from larger, open-water predators.
Estuaries are among the most productive ecosystems in nature. Rivers and streams drain into estuaries, bringing in nutrients from uplands. Plants use these nutrients, along with the sun’s energy, carbon dioxide, and water, to manufacture food. Florida’s estuaries, including Sarasota Bay, have been significantly degraded by development. Some of the most expensive real estate on Bird Key, Lido Beach, Longboat Key, Siesta Key and along Sarasota Bay, used to be covered with Mangove trees and sea grasses, before the dredge and fill development of the 1950′s to the 1970′s.
Here is a picture of Bird Key as it was.
Here is a picture of Bird Key today.
During our kayaking trip, we saw the rusted hulks of the original dredging equipment.
During our tour we saw all three types of Mangroves, Red, White and Black. We saw numerous bird species including the Double Breasted Cormorant, Great Egret, Great Heron and Osprey. We even saw a young Bonnethead shark that appeared to be injured. One of the most fascinating part of the tour was going through the tunnels that were made through the Mangroves in the 1950′s in a misguided and ill-advised attempt to reduce the mosquito population. In the tunnels we saw coral, oysters and mud crabs, among others. Here is a picture of the mangrove tunnel as our tour leader, Christine navigates her way in. (photo by Michelle Rubin)
In all it was a wonderful, educational and exciting way to spend an afternoon. I highly recommend Biotica EcoTours and our guide Christine, who selflessly rescued me when I tipped my kayak and ended up in the refreshing and clean waters of Sarasota Bay. Here are some final pictures of Christine, my daughter Michelle and me kayaking Sarasota Bay.
Tags: beach, beaches, Bioteca, Biotica EcoTours, Bird Key, birds, dredging, eco-system, ecosystem, ecosystems, EcoTour, EcoTours, estuary, Florida, Kayak, Kayaking, Lido Beach, Longboat Key, mangove, mangove tunnel, mangove's, Nature, oysters, recreation, Sarasota, Sarasota Bay, Siesta Key, wildlife