Last week, I attended TBEX, a travel blogger’s conference. Because, yea, I do that. Blog about travel. Anyway, given that a bunch of people who write about travel were descending upon the city, the conference arranged all sorts of fun activities. I opted for the kayaking eco tour of Middle River.

I’ve kayaked before, of course, living in San Diego, but this was different. This river cuts through Fort Lauderdale, and while it’s not the Everglades, it’s still pretty swampy. Funnily enough, in the midst of the mangroves were houses. I love cities that mix city living with wildlife. San Diego’s like that too.

Grab Yer Partner

We had to buddy up for our kayaks, and I ended up with an amazing woman: Nancy D. Brown, a fellow travel blogger who patiently allowed me to pick her brain about her strategy as we navigated the river together. Say hello to Nancy’s back.

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Check Out the Wild Life

On the tour (there were about 15 of us), our fearless leader from Atlantic Coast Kayak¬†pointed out an osprey (a type of eagle…or was it hawk?), as well as the vultures who kept an eye on the osprey. As soon as he’d dive and catch a fish, they attacked for that fish. Seems like a cowardly and lazy way to get your meal, if you ask me.

We also saw a few iguanas in trees. It always trips me out to see some animal that’s completely common in one area, but exotic to me. Like elk in Colorado. Or, if you’re not from San Diego, sea lions. I took this picture, but as you can tell, it turned out a yellow blur. Still, he’s a 3-foot iguana. Respect.

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At one point, I saw a furry ball high in a tree. I couldn’t imagine what it was. Then our guide told us that there are raccoons in the area, and that they can get up to 40 pounds (I can’t remember what he said they ate to get that big! Fish?). They crawl high into the trees to get away from the mosquitoes, which don’t go any higher than about 5 feet (human height). Any higher, and there are risks like dragonflies that the mosquitoes don’t want to eff with.

When I asked about alligators, he told us that alligators didn’t like the brackish (salty) water of the river, so we didn’t have to worry about them (shoot.).

Can You Say Limbo?

The funniest part of the tour was when we all paddled toward a bridge and stopped.

“Which way now?”

“We’re going under the bridge,” our leader grinned.

There looked to be about 2 feet of clearance under said bridge. We were sure he was crazy. But we all leaned back, guided our kayaks by pushing off the underside of the bridge, and came out fine. Nancy worried the tide would get higher and we’d be trapped on the river forever. I exaggerate.

Perfect Cap to the Trip

Awaiting us on land were coconuts with a hint of lime (yes, you put de lime in de coconut). We sucked the juice down with straws.

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I noticed a commotion on the dock and went to investigate. Turned out there was a mama and baby manatee making their way down the river. We didn’t see much more than a blowhole popping up above water, but it still made a great end to the trip.