Growing up in Central Florida I went to Disney a lot as a child. My family and I also camped quite frequently and canoeing was always a part of that camping. The folks had an unfinished fiberglass canoe (this was back in the late 70′s people) and I can remember my 5-year-old fanny being eat up with fiberglass after sitting in the bottom of that thing for a few hours. Not pleasant memories. So when I was offered the chance to go on an eco-kayaking tour on my recent stay at the Ritz-Carlton Orlando, I hesitated. In fact, I almost didn’t go. Boy would that have been a mistake!
Our tour guide Michael picked us up in an ATV at the entrance of the Ritz-Carlton and drove us over to the beach area on Shingle Creek where our adventure was to begin. We got a glimpse of Grande Lake and part of the golf course behind the resort on our journey to the beach.
Oh..a bit of Florida history I learned from our guide. Shingle Creek is named such due to the timbers harvested there that were used to make, what else…shingles for the houses built in the area.
After a quick lesson on paddling we were ready to suit up in our life vests and launch!
Being the trepidatious one that I am, I elected to not take my own kayak but accepted Michael’s offer to be paddled in the canoe like Queen Nefertiti on the Nile. Oh and btw..this was a modern, finished canoe. No fiberglass issues here. =) Also, the adventure included “ride-on” kayaks instead of “ride-in” kayaks. We were told that the “ride-on” kayaks were much easier to clean. Guess it’s hard to get all the water out of the “ride-in” vessels and no one wants a musty kayak smell when out on a nature tour.
Our group was small. There were only two other participants besides the three of us and everyone went at their own leisurely pace while Michael dropped some eco Florida knowledge on us. You could tell Michael had been doing tours for a while and you could also tell that he really loved his job which made the tour even more engaging!
We saw several species of fish including spotted gar and bass as well as turtles and even an alligator! And were also treated to sightings of many native birds. The flora and fauna were breathtaking and I couldn’t help but relax!
Two hours literally FLEW BY and I was sad to see our tour come to an end.
Grande Lakes Outfitters Adventure Experiences include canoes, kayaks, eco-tours, bird watching, nature walks, fly fishing and spin fishing.
Our “Eco Tour on Shingle Creek” is $60 for the first adult and $40 for the second adult. Children 16 and younger are complementary with each paying adult. Additional children are $40. Tours are offered daily at 9:30am and 1:00pm. Reservations are required (Ask for Michael!) Maximum of 15 guests per excursion. You do not have to be a registered guest of the Ritz-Carlton or JW Marriott to participate in the tour.
This is an amazing add-on experience that you can have on your next Walt Disney World vacation. Grande Lakes Outfitters is located at 4012 Central Florida Parkway, Orlando, FL 32837. For more info or to make a reservation contact the Grande Lakes Adventure Experience Desk at 407-393-4900.
Special thanks to Grande Lakes Outfitters for providing me and my family with a complementary adventure. All opinions are my own.