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#EverydayAdventures: Lido Key mangrove tunnels

Looking for an easy adventure? The Lido Key canoe/kayak trail in Sarasota County could prove to be the perfect opportunity to test your mettle. The well-marked waterway can be as short or as long as you like. Paddling through the tree-covered corridors, it is easy to imagine yourself in another time and place.

Five minutes into your trip, turn and follow the signs into what looks like an enchanted mangrove forest. The trees have grown over the water and formed a canopy, just large enough for a canoe or kayak to navigate.

Inside the darkened tunnel, you will see raccoons hunting among the "walking trees" as mangrove crabs scurry for cover. Wading birds prowl the dimly lit corridor, feeding on fingerlings illuminated by the shafts of sunlight filtering through the treetops.

The water here is exceptionally clear, so pristine, in fact, that you can see sponges in some of the deeper areas. Don't be alarmed if you surprise a silver-sided snook resting in the shallows.

Exit the mangroves and head for open water, following the shoreline around toward Big Pass and the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Once you leave the shelter of Sarasota Bay, the water can get rougher in Big Pass.

The current is usually lighter along the shoreline if you want to head to the tip of Lido Key, where kayak surfers congregate on windy days to frolic in the breaking waves.

You can also choose to stop at one of the picnic tables beneath some Australian pine trees for a picnic lunch. Wade in the cool, clear water as pods of manatees pass 100 feet offshore.

Plan your adventure

Head south to Sarasota. Follow the signs to St. Armands Circle on Lido Key. Go around the circle, exiting south on the Boulevard of the Presidents to Taft Drive and South Lido Park (Lido Key has three county parks; all with amenities).

Launch from the park and paddle south along the shoreline to go through the mangrove tunnels. A full circumnavigation of Lido Key will take several hours; more if you stop at Mote Aquarium.

If the gulf is too rough, retrace your path back to your launch point through sheltered water. Guided tours Sarasota Bay Explorers at Mote Aquarium (1600 Ken Thompson Parkway) offers guided kayak tours through the mangrove tunnels along the Lido Key Canoe/Kayak Trail.

A naturalist accompanies all expeditions, offering insight into the flora and fauna of this unique ecosystem. Previous paddling experience is not necessary. The aquarium crew offers basic instruction. Two-person kayaks, paddles and personal flotation devices are provided. All you need to bring is sunscreen, water, a towel and waterproof camera. Call (941) 388-4200 or go to Sarasotabayexplorers.com

#EverydayAdventures: Lido Key mangrove tunnels 09/05/13 [Last modified: Thursday, September 5, 2013 4:30pm]

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