Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

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Ted | VCKC
Published Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The sea is alive with mystical lights!
June 27-28, 2006

Twenty-seven paddlers participated in this two-day kayaking event and all I can say is WOW! The night paddle on Monday was an experience that none will ever forget. Bioluminescence is something that must be experienced to believe, it defies written description.

We met on 5 PM Monday at The Grill at Riverview, for an excellent meal as we watched the rains fall, which had us concerned with the possibility of having to cancel the night paddle. However, after a few calls to the outfitter and a group vote, the decision was made to drive down to the put-in location and take a chance that the weather would change. Hindsight is always 20/20, and that proved true that evening as the rains slowed then stopped just as we launched our kayaks.

The outfitter gave the group an excellent talk about bioluminescence and what we would most likely encounter. We launched our boats at 8PM just as the last vestiges of twilight gave way to darkness. Slowly but surely we began to notice the blue green lights put off by the billions of the microorganisms that surrounded our kayaks. Each paddle stroke, each droplet of water coming off the paddles, each passing fish, porpoise, rays, each passing kayak lets loose beautiful blue green light. Mullets soared through the water like submerged sky rockets and when they jump into the night air they caused an explosion of light. Passing rays appeared as submerged spotlights shining up. Where to look first and so afraid to miss something but missing nothing. It was magical!

Al & Dianne Letch's kayak was boarded by an uninvited guest - one of the jumping mullet smacked Al on his back and landed in his kayak. My wife Joanne and her kayak were lifted out of the water by a manatee and late she was joined less then two feet away by a playful porpoise.

We kayaked like this for 2 plus hours not wanting the night to end. The next morning we couldn't stop talking about our prior night's experience.

At 10AM Tuesday we met at the launch site (same as for the night trip) and paddled around the bird sanctuary island and viewed hundreds of bird life. This island is protected and off limited to beaching a boat but we were allowed within 20 feet of it. Too many birds to describe but the sights and sounds were fantastic. We paddled basically the same waters we traveled on the prior evening and it looks so different in daylight. At the lagoon, we were met by a pod of perhaps a dozen manatees. Paddlers were thrilled as the manatees came up to our kayaks and rolled over for a belly rub.

Some of us left that area to paddle to mosquito lagoon to look at the launch pads at Cape Kennedy which is seven-miles across the bay but a haze limited the view.

Our Outfitter “A Day Away” could not have provided better service to our group. He and about 4 other “employees” were our guides for both trips and they couldn't have been more helpful

Most of the group stayed at The Riverview Hotel in New Smyrna while a few of us stayed at a the Night Swan a nearby B&B. Originally, we booked rooms at the B&B to handle overflow and when we had to reschedule, we could not cancel those “extra” rooms. Both places were great selections offering comfortable accommodations and amenities at reasonable prices.


Comments from the participants

Hi, It was another AAA Trip. (Awesome Adventure with Al and Ted) We must all live right because it was charmed from beginning to end. I loved the RiverView Hotel, very quaint and people friendly. The night trip was certainly an adventure with all the "neon fish" darting through the water. The very best for us though was to pet that cute manatee face that came right up to the boat, let us give him a back rub and then rolled over like a puppy for a belly rub. It was a gift from nature. Wonderful!!! Thanks so much for making it happen.

Ed and Cleo Simon

From the Riverview hotel to paddling with the manatees, the trip was a delight for us. We enjoyed the dinner together where we met folks we hadn't met before. The hotel was quaint and comfortable- all room numbers beginning with 3.! The weather cooperated and the outfitter was competent and thoughtful. We appreciated the fact they took responsibility for the group and had their staff nearby through out the trip. Thanks for all you did to organize the whole event. We'd sign on again.

Joyce and Vic Wise

Dear Al and Ted,
Both Yvonne and I really enjoyed everything about the trip. Our accommodations were great. It was lovely being close enough to the ocean to take a swim and spend some time on the beach. The restaurant was fine. But best of all were the paddles, both of which were wonderful in different ways. They sure were right when they said we would definitely see manatees and dolphins. And the evening paddle was awesome. Kudos to you both.
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

Bob & Yvonne Larkin

I'm still telling people about what we saw and did on the MERRITT iSLAND kayak trip; trying to describe the glow of the biolominescent off the paddles and watching fish glow in the water was something i've never seen or heard of before ; thanks to the gals who insisted that we paddle even though it looked like it was going to rain all night; we went out there and it was great.
the next day was an opportunity to get up close and personel with about ten manatees; they were next to the kayaks; pushing some boats around and playing with us; the best look at manatees that i ever had.
all of our trips are well planned and organized but this trip was one of the best trips my wife and i have had the pleasure to go on.
nice job Ted and Al

tom and sonja browne

Mosquito Lagoon, Indian River, bioluminescent waters… There are not words that do justice to this area of Florida and the experience of paddling in the bioluminescent waters. I admit I was a bit skeptical when I heard about the blue green water and fish that light up like bottle rockets but it's true!! The fish truly glow, the paddle strokes create blue green lights and the water sparkles like diamonds as drops from the paddle hit the water. The day paddle to the rookery and seeing so many Roseate Spoonbills and pelicans in one place was awesome. I wish there had been time to sit and study them for awhile. The manatee were very entertaining and approachable. What fun to pet such an unusual animal.

The Riverview Hotel was true Florida, more bed & breakfast than hotel with all the comforts of home. The staff was very customer oriented and did everything they could to make our stay perfect! Our room had access to a balcony and overlooked the drawbridge. It was very relaxing to sit on the balcony, watch the rain and the boats pass through the channel as the bridge opened and closed. The continental breakfast was delivered to our room and we enjoyed it on the balcony as we watched the town come to life. It was a great way to start our second day of paddling.

The outfitters, A Day Away, were professional in their work and provided an experience that will be remembered for a very long time

Thanks to Al & Ted for finding this Florida adventure. This trip is absolutely a must do!
And this, in my opinion, is a must on the list of annual trips for the club.

Mickey Jensen

Hello Ted and Al,

My overall impressions of the trip = 5 stars in every way. Thank you o much for providing such a sterling event in every way. Thank you fo choosing to "go for i in spite of "iffy" weather. Bravo!

The hotel was quaint, comfotable, convenient, pleasan, and the saff was very cooperative. Breakfast on the balcony was a treat.

Our group returned after the Tuesday paddle and used the pool to refresh and rinse. We were allowed to use fresh towels and the downsairs restroom to change our clothes. Suggestion: provide he option for a 2 night stay.

The dinner was excellent. The food was reasonably piced and tasty.

The bioluminecent paddle was an experience beyond descripion. I have been recommending it to everyone I know and plan to do i again before the end of the "season" in September.

The interacion with manatees was amazing. It allowed me to check of an item on my life "to do" list. I was forunate to have a lengthy encounter and to have picures to remind me of the day.

Suggestion: Doboth aspects of the trip again next year in late May when the rookery island has moeyoung birds and allow more time to drift aound the island to watch he birds and take pictures. I felt rushed around that part of our Tuesday paddle.

Elizabeth Bate

The trip to Merritt Island was fantastic, one of the best kayak trips we have taken. The highlight was the night kayaking and seeing the bioluminescence. Seeing was believing and I do not know how to describe it.

Lonnie and Pat Rauls

Last update Friday, April 11, 2008

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