From: January 25 to January 28, 2018

Destination: Homosassa Springs, FL

  • Paddling with Manatees

    Who can resist these gentle giants in their winter home of Florida's spring-fed rivers??  On this trip we experience the manatees up close and personal in their natural habitat, viewing them through crystal clear waters as we sit above and among them in our kayaks.  This is an ideal trip both for women who know they love paddling and for those who want to give kayaking a try: you'll learn basic kayak strokes on calm waters and by the end of the weekend you will be a competent and confident paddler. Even if you discover you don't like kayaking (which we doubt), the thrill of these wondrous creatures sticking their snouts out of the water beside your kayak, as if to be petted, is simply an amazing experience.

    We've chosen two very different rivers to experience on this trip, the Homosassa and the Chassahowitzka.  The Homosassa, wider and more developed, offers an excellent opportunity to see the manatees as they move in from the cooler ocean temperatures to the warmer waters of this spring fed river.  The Chaz is a more primitive river with virtually no development along its shores.  It has over 30 springs tucked away on her tiny tributaries and feeder streams.  We'll explore just a few of these hidden gems in search of the manatees that hang there for the warmth of the springs.  We'll also explore nooks and crannies to see the outstanding array of shorebirds wading, feeding and drying their wings: Great Ibis, Snowy Ibis, Great Blue Heron, Anhinga, Cormorant, and Wood storks all call this area home.

  • As is true on any adventure trip, this itinerary may be modified based on weather, tides, changes in conditions, group desires etc. While we cannot guarantee that you will see wild manatees, it is extremely likely based on previous experience.

    Thursday, January 25: We meet at the Tampa, FL airport at 10:30am (if you plan to arrive that morning, please make sure your plane arrives by 10:00am).  Our drive to the Homosassa Riverside Resort is about 1.5 hours. After settling into our rooms, we will share a welcome picnic lunch and then head to the water for a couple of hours of instruction in our kayaks. Contrary to popular myth, sea kayaking does not require significant upper body strength; we'll teach you how to paddle safely, effectively, and efficiently so that you are not totally exhausted at the end of the day. This practice time will also help you get to know your boat and how to get it to go where you want it to.  By the end of this session, you'll be ready to paddle with the manatees and enjoy your trip!! After our time on the water we'll return to our rooms and our group dining area for a hearty meal and a discussion of our plans for the rest of the trip.
     
    Friday, January 26: We'll spend our first full day on the Homosassa River. Leaving directly from the boat ramp at our resort, we head towards Monkey Island.  Monkey Island is the home to several monkeys whose ancestors were left there after a Tarzan movie was filmed on the Homosassa River in 1937. We'll take pictures but we won't venture too close as these monkeys have very nasty tempers and like to throw things at unsuspecting paddlers.

    Leaving Monkey Island we'll hug the shoreline and start watching for manatees.  We’ll learn to spot them by the soft exhalation of air as they stick their snout above the water to breathe. and by their form just below the surface of this clear water. We'll paddle at a relaxed pace as we keep a careful watch for them.  If they are curious, they may come right up to us!  Despite weighing multiple tons, manatees are very gentle and slow moving so they pose no danger to us.

    We'll continue exploring the Homosassa to its end at the Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park where ill manatees are kept after rescue to be nursed back to health.  The park is blocked from the water but, oftentimes, healthy manatees hang out just beside the underwater gate to the park. After lunch back at the resort, we head back to the Park, this time by land. This little gem of a park is a great place to learn more about the manatees and the other birds and mammals in the area. We'll be able to see the recovering manatees and a variety of fish through the underwater viewing station.  We'll also listen to the ranger presentation on manatees and their habits. 

    After spending a couple of hours in the park walking among the other animals and birds that also live in this area, we'll return to our rooms for some relaxation and showers.  You might opt to hang out on the deck of the group room overlooking the Homosassa River, or walk over to the decks of the Yardarm Lounge and Monkey Bar to watch the traffic on the Homosassa and the monkeys on Monkey Island. Whatever you decide to do, we'll end the day with a fabulous meal in our group dining area.
     
    Saturday, January 27: Today we'll explore another spring fed river, the Chassahowitzka or 'the Chaz'.  The Chaz is very primitive and feels ancient.  You'll find yourself wondering if a T-Rex is going to stick its head over the Spanish moss draped palm trees or if a brontosaurus will be munching on the marsh grasses we paddle through.  The Chaz has over 30 springs, some of which are well hidden and hard to reach.  We'll pick a few and paddle to them in our kayaks in search of the manatees that like to gather in the spring's warm water.  The Chaz's waters are crystal clear, abundant with colorful fish as you look towards the bottom.  The springs are turquoise blue and beautiful to behold, with or without manatees.  As we explore the Chaz we'll also watch for shore birds feeding in the waters.  If we're lucky, we may even see a Yellow Crested Night Heron.

    After our day of paddling we'll return to our resort to shower and change before going to Three Sisters Spring, where we can walk out on a boardwalk to three different springs where manatees hang out. Tonight we’ll go out for our farewell dinner.
     
    January 28, Sunday: After a hearty breakfast we'll pack up and say our farewells as the group splits. For those who have to go home, we'll leave our riverside resort for one last experience of the area.  This time we'll spend about 2 hours in the woods, hiking Rook Trail in the Withcaloochee State Forest.  This 2.7 mile trail is a beautiful hike away from any sign of human development and a peaceful end to our trip. We'll be walking on a mix of upland sandhill habitat with hardwood swamp, pine forest and open meadow. Wildlife is abundant and a "must" for any birder.  Wild turkeys, red-tail and red shoulder hawks, white-tailed deer, and even bear frequent this area. After our hike and a few last words about our adventures, we'll head back to the Tampa airport.  You'll be back by 1:30pm  and can fly out after 2:30 PM.
  • $1235 for a standard room (see this page for discounts) $300 deposit. A single supplement is available for a standard room for $240 or a deluxe riverfront suite for $495. You can check our cancellation policies here.

    Trip Includes

    • Experienced guides (minimum of 1 guide for 6 participants)
    • Three nights double occupancy lodging
    • All meals from lunch on Thursday though breakfast on Sunday
    • Round trip transportation from the Tampa, FL airport
    • Kayak rental and instruction
    • Entrance fees

    Not included: Transportation to Tampa, alcoholic beverages, guide gratuities and travel insurance.

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  • Common Questions

    If you’ve never traveled with us before, you may have some questions about how we do things and what you can expect. We’ve answered the most common ones below and are always available by phone or email to answer any others.

    How do I pay for my trip?

    You can make the deposit by submitting a secure form with your credit card information after filling out the registration form or calling us with your card information. We will send you an invoice for the balance due with your Predeparture Information 4 months before an International trip and 3 months before a domestic trip. You can get a 3% discount for paying the balance by check.

    What if I’m coming alone?

    The majority of women who travel with us come by themselves. If you want to pay a single supplement to guarantee your own room, or if you want to share a room with someone with whom you are traveling, you can indicate that on the registration form. Otherwise we randomly assign roommates and rotate every time we change lodging – it’s a great way to get to know different women on the trip.

    Can you accommodate special diets?

    We can always accommodate vegetarian, gluten-free, and omnivore diets. On most trips we can also accommodate lactose-free, vegan, and other restricted diets, although in some locations the availability of special food may be limited. If in doubt about your specific dietary needs, please give us a call (877/439-4042) or send us an email.

    What if I have to cancel my trip?

    The amount of your refund depends on how close to the trip you cancel and whether it is a domestic or an international trip. You can read our cancellation policies here. We highly recommend travel insurance because cancellations are always unexpected; we will send you additional information about insurance when you register.

    Will my family be able to get in touch with me in case of an emergency?

    Yes, we always send out emergency contact information. On a few trips, because of limitations in communication, the best approach is to give them the office number and let us make the contact.

    What other information will you send me?

    When you register, we’ll send you a Trip Summary that includes the itinerary, travel information, and a packing list. Three to four months before your trip we’ll send you Pre-Departure information that includes detailed information on how to get to the trip starting point, pre- or post-trip lodging suggestions, suggested books and websites etc. Four to six weeks before the trip, we’ll send you a list of everyone who is registered along with their travel plans; and a Pre-Trip letter with the name of your guide(s) and how to contact them if your arrival is delayed as well as any other important updates.

    Do you help with pre-trip and/or post-trip hotel reservations?

    For international trips, if you want to stay at the hotel where we’re staying the first night before the trip, or at the hotel we’re staying the last night after the trip, we’re happy to make a reservation for you. Otherwise our PreDeparture Information will have hotel suggestions. Our travel agent is also happy to help you with this.

    How does the waitlist process work and how often do people cancel?

    If you are interested in a trip that is full, you should sign up here. If there is a cancellation, we send out an email to everyone who has expressed interest and ask them to respond within 24 hours. If more than one person is interested, we give the space to the person who has traveled with us before or in the order of being put on the waitlist. Frequently, even when we have a long wait list, it is the last person to sign up who is still available to go. Whether or not there will be a cancellation is completely unpredictable, although not uncommon.

    What is the role of the guide(s)?

    On every trip, the primary roles of the guide(s) are to ensure your safety and to make sure that, to the extent possible, you are having the trip you want. The guide(s) will also make sure that you know what is happening each day and what you need to bring to be prepared. On domestic trips the guide(s) will also likely be driving, preparing picnic lunches and sometimes other meals, providing skills instruction, and giving you information about the natural history of the area. On any trip where we partner with another company (which is most international trips and some trips that require special equipment), the AGC guide will work with the local guide to make sure that the trip is conducted in accordance with the AGC philosophy.

    What if I have more questions?

    Give us a call (877/439-4042) or send us an email. A Program Manager is assigned to each trip. Once you have registered, she will send you a registration confirmation letter that includes her name and email, and she will be your primary contact. Her job is to make sure that you get all your questions answered and that you feel completely prepared for your adventure.

    What if I'm the oldest/youngest/heaviest/least in shape/only single woman/only mom on the trip?

    You might be. Someone has to be the oldest/youngest/heaviest/least in shape person on the trip. And while the great majority of our trips have both single and non-single women, and moms and non-moms, sometimes they don't. But it doesn't matter if you're "different" in any of those ways - what you will share with everyone else is a desire to experience adventure in your life, and an appreciation of the joy and camaraderie of being in an all women's group.

Trip highlights

  • Watching manatees in the crystal clear waters of the Homosassa & Chassahowitzka Rivers from kayaks
  • Learning/reviewing basic kayak strokes & becoming confident paddlers
  • Viewing an outstanding array of shorebirds such as the Great Ibis, Snowy Ibis, Great Blue Heron, Anhinga, Cormorant, Wood stork
  • Paddling kayaks in pristine and unspoiled beauty
  • Visiting Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park to learn more about the manatees & wildlife of the area

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