The Indian River near Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, Titusville, FL offers some excellent kayaking. On Saturday, May 12, 2018 we chose the Mondo Tour offered by A Day Away Kayak Company based in Titusville. We were in Florida for nine days and our original plans included a week of kayaking. Unfortunately, Mother Nature provided a rapidly approaching storm system that promised a full week of rain. Saturday night looked promising and we hoped to enjoy at least one kayak trip. The Florida sky was grey and cloudy and there was a real possibility we would miss even this one chance for paddling. Luckily the kayaking gods smiled upon us, and the night turned into a magical evening.
The Mondo Tour is a combination of several tours conducted by A Day Away, and provides more kayaking time. We began our paddle around 6:00 PM at the end of the Overhaul Canal. (Note: there are now a number of companies offering kayaking tours from Haulover Canal. These companies are new. We have toured with A Day Away before, they have been in business for years and we highly recommend them as a good choice).Our guide Bob, an experienced kayaker, peppered our trip with many interesting stories about the area (and many bad puns). Thanks Bob!
First up on our evenings kayak was viewing the manatees. Manatees, or sea cows, are extremely active throughout this area. While gentle creatures, if you inadvertently kayak over the top of one they can become startled and accidentally tip your kayak. Bob refers to this as a Manatee Rodeo claiming he’s been flipped 7 times in his kayaking career. Although skeptic at first, later in the evening one of us experienced a Manatee Rodeo and now we believe.
Several dolphins were feeding in the river as we launched in our kayaks. We paddled to within twenty feet of them before they took off. Kayaking down the Overhaul Canal one enters a small boat launching harbor where Manatees usually hang out. It’s currently mating season and the manatees are very active. Several swam right next to our kayaks and several baby manatees could be seen hanging around their mothers and nursing.
Leaving our wonderful manatee viewing we entered the mangrove maze in search of alligators. Bob told us he was hoping for a trifecta that evening: dolphins, manatees, and alligators. Alas, even though we saw signs of gators along several muddy banks we did not see the creatures themselves.
As it got closer to Sunset at 8:05 p.m. we paddled over to “Bird” Island to see the evening fly-ins of an avian extravaganza. Posted signs warn boaters and paddlers to stay at least 20 yards off shore and not to land on the island to protect the birds. It was while approaching Bird Island one of us paddled over a Manatee who was underwater and invisible to us. The manatee startled and took off at high speed creating a large wake. The offending kayak was thumped hard by the manatees tail nearly upsetting the boat, and drenching it’s occupant. Hence the name, Manatee Rodeo. We paddled more cautiously in our final approach to the island.
The nightly roosting process at Bird Island is an incredible experience. As we watched, hundreds of bird flew to the island and found a perch. The noise and the smell is almost overwhelming, but yet we saw more beautiful birds in one spot that we have ever seen before.
We watched the bird spectacular for at least 30 minutes finally turning our attention to the sunset. The grey skies had lifted just enough, and we were blessed with a clear enough sky to see the sunset with enough clouds to make it spectacular. A beautiful treat.
Once it was dark we attached light sticks front and back and followed Bob’s flashing light back into the mangrove maze to see our final treat: a dazzling display of bioluminescence. The principal actors that evening were known as Comb Jellies. The water was thick with them and our paddles caused them to light up like glowing golf balls in the water.
It was nearly 9:30 p.m. when we returned to the landing. We were tired and wet but once again amazed at the beauties of nature we have witnessed from a kayak.
Kayak Tour: A Day Away Kayak.
Services: In Titusville which is about 20 minutes from the launch site.
Location of Launch: Haul Over Canal Boat Launch, Titusville, Florida