The job of a travel writer includes a whole lot of eating. I know what you’re thinking—rough gig, huh? But it can be hard to keep your weight in tact when you’re visiting a destination like the Florida Keys where every meal concludes with a slice of key lime pie. Which is why outdoor adventures like kayaking always make it onto our travel to-do list: Not only are they fun and give you an overview of the area, but they counteract a bit of that second slice of pie you probably shouldn’t have eaten at dinner the night before.
My friend Erin, native Floridian, said that kayaking with Bill Keogh is pretty much a “religious experience.” Well, I didn’t get to kayak with Bill due to a change in our itinerary, but I did get to meet him and his dog (adorable pair, those two) and go on a three-hour tour (a three-hour tour) with one of his trip leaders at Big Pine Kayak Adventures, who might as well have been John Malkovich’s twin. (Service-y: Cost is $50 a person for a group tour and worth every penny.)
Our guide encouraged us to take separate kayaks—he called the two-seaters a “recipe for divorce”—but we opted to share one, so one of us (i.e. me) could take pictures while the other one (i.e. SVV) could paddle. The times we both paddled at once, I totally got why our guide said that, heh.
We paddled about 15 minutes across the bay before we reached the mangroves, in which we would spend the next couple hours.
These guys were not easy to navigate; a thick tangle of branches, you don’t so much paddle as you do pull yourself through their narrow passageways.
SVV and I, being reasonably coordinated, had no trouble with this and found the challenge quite fun, but others in our group didn’t think it was so easy, and we hovered at the very back of the line giving them ample space to pass.
The water on the way to the mangroves had been too churned to spot any of the rays or other fish you tend to view on this kayak excursion; however, when we reached the lake, we did see quite a few egrets and other species of elegant birds.
After spending some time among the wildlife, it was back through the mangroves again—no other way out.
I thought three hours would be way too long in a kayak, but it was the perfect amount of time and a really pleasant afternoon.
We returned, and pulled all our gear up on land then set out in search of sustenance. Big Pine is right next door to the (in?)famous No Name Pub, so we dropped in for a beer and, yes, a slice of key lime pie. More info to come in my “where to dine in the Keys” post, but it’s worth a stopover for sure.
On the way out in search of Key West, we wanted to see some tiny key deer first, so we drove two minutes over the bridge to No Name Key and saw one right away. They’re so used to strangers—but no feeding them! it’s a law!—that this little guy moseyed right up to the car window to say hello. It took all the restraint I had not to jump out and cuddle him. How cute is he?
The bartender at No Name Pub told us that the key deer are akin to pests in the area and come into the locals’ yards around twilight each evening; thus, if you’re passing through and want a sighting, drive around the area just before dusk, and you’re guaranteed to see one if you give it a few minutes.
Kayaking, key deer, key lime pie and a brief stint on the beach at Bahia Honda earlier in the afternoon made this the absolutely perfect vacation day.