There’s nothing new about the idea of self-guided nature tours around the 10,000 Islands area near Naples and Marco Island. However, Backwater Adventure has found a unique way for visitors to have the freedom of their own self-drive motor boat yet still enjoy all the benefits of a local guide. Casual beachwear, water shoes and a light jacket on cooler days are ideal clothing for this wet and wild eco-tour.
Drive Your Own Motorboat
The three-hour trip starts with a short lesson on water safety and how to drive your own motorboat. The two-person motorized catamaran is just over 11 feet long, has two side-by-side seats and a Bimini top for shade. Load up with water, drinks, snacks, towels, and sunscreen essentials and your nature cruise adventure is good to go. There’s no space for large coolers on these low-lying minimalist vessels, but there is a small dry compartment for keeping keys, wallets and cellphones safe and dry. Led by an experienced boater and local naturalist, the fun starts as the flotilla of motor boats maneuvers out in a straggly line from the marina beneath the Goodland Bridge on San Marco Road.
Soon you will be sitting back and relaxing almost at water level, which is a great way to spot wildlife as you cruise through the mangroves. These modern boats are surprisingly stable and quiet – an important plus if you want to see local wildlife.
Wildlife Around Marco and the 10,000 Islands
The water is wonderfully calm and clear as you steer your own motorboat through narrow mangrove channels spotting herons, marine life and wading shore birds. Tours are likely to encounter egrets, white ibis, great blue herons, little blue herons, pelicans, seagulls, sanderlings and rarer species such as roseate spoonbills, glossy ibis, ospreys and bald eagles. You may even spot some nesting birds in the spring season.
Dolphins frequent these warm waters and love to jump and splash in the wake left by the boats – a wonderful way to get close enough to see their smile-like expression. Manatees also feed on seagrass in these waters, so check your speed and keep a look out for these slow-moving gentle giants. Keep your knowledgeable guide in sight as they will be pointing out things of interest from the lead boat.
The mid-point of this nature-friendly boat tour is marked with a visit to your own private sandy island where you can step ashore and collect a bag of pristine seashells or have a refreshing swim. The trip continues to explore the unspoiled waterways and uninhabited islands that make up this scenic area known as 10,000 Islands, covering up to 40 miles in comfort and style. As you return across the Gulf, the CraigCat boats are surprisingly zippy and there is a good chance you will get splashed!
You’re sure to take lots of photographs as you drive through the unspoiled waterways, but your Backwater Adventures tour includes one last surprise. Your guide will take pictures of you and your bespoke eco-tour and will email them to you as a lasting souvenir of your trip.