Kayaking SRQ Lido Key Mangrove Tunnels Kayak Tour

By Andrew Fabian

The ebb and flow of the water is hard to discern, so still and glasslike is its surface across the bay. A hint of salt permeates the air on a gentle breeze that spills through an arched opening between mangroves. If it weren’t for a signpost staked into the seabed and waterfront homes looming small across the water, one could easily forget the year is 2020 and that this spot, Ted Sperling Park on South Lido Key in Sarasota, Florida, serves as a launch for kayak tours. At 9 a.m., the parking lot is bustling with kayak rental outfits. 

Lido Key Mangrove Tunnels Kayak Tour Sarasota, Florida. Take a Kayaking SRQ guided eco tour of the mangrove tunnels at Ted Sperling Park at South Lido Key in Sarasota, Florida. A favorite tour for all ages—great for the beginner or experienced paddler. Photo credit Andrew Fabian. Must Do Visitor Guides | MustDo.com
Photo credit Andrew Fabian

Greg and Kim Gregory, owners and operators of Kayaking SRQ, prep their kayaks for tour groups that have booked a day exploring the majesty and mystery of South Lido’s mangrove tunnels. The married pair are poster children for the ethos of Southwest Florida, their well-sunned skin and laid-back demeanor an indicator that life for them revolves around sand, saltwater, and sunsets. They live for this, and when they disembark from the launch with a tour group in tow, their passion for the water casts a spell. Once out in the bay, the mangroves look like a solid wall of green winding in and out of coves. Almost by magic, the Gregory’s can sense where an opening in the wall exists and what at first seems like an ambling skim across the water eventually takes a group to one such opening.

Lido Key Mangrove Tunnels Kayak Tour Sarasota, Florida. Take a Kayaking SRQ guided eco tour of the mangrove tunnels at Ted Sperling Park at South Lido Key in Sarasota, Florida. A favorite tour for all ages—great for the beginner or experienced paddler. Photo credit Andrew Fabian. Must Do Visitor Guides | MustDo.com
Photo credit Andrew Fabian

The Magic of Mangrove Tunnels 

Beneath low-lying branches, an opening only reveals itself when you’re almost inside sea forest. Eyes take a moment to adjust to the shade that stands in stark contrast to the bright light reflecting off the water. A winding path cuts through the mangroves like a river, the mangroves on either side so exquisite in their architecture they almost look manmade. Within the shade of the trees the temperature is a few degrees cooler, the sea floor dark with leaves shed. The stillness of the tunnels inspires a sense of gravity, as though if any conversation should occur at all it should be conducted in quiet whispers. Even the sound of the paddles cutting through the water seem like a small intrusion on the natural order of life beneath the canopy. 

Take a serene guided eco tour of the mangrove tunnels at Ted Sperling Park at South Lido Key in Sarasota, Florida. A favorite tour for all ages—great for the beginner or experienced paddler. Photo credit Andrew Fabian. Must Do Visitor Guides | MustDo.com
Photo credit Andrew Fabian
Lido Key Mangrove Tunnels Kayak Tour Sarasota, Florida. Take a Kayaking SRQ guided eco tour of the mangrove tunnels at Ted Sperling Park at South Lido Key in Sarasota, Florida. A favorite tour for all ages—great for the beginner or experienced paddler. Photo credit Andrew Fabian. Must Do Visitor Guides | MustDo.com
Photo credit Andrew Fabian

The tour snakes in and out of more such tunnels, each one giving kayakers a deeper sense of wonder. By the time a group returns to the launch, the parking lot is more crowded and active with new groups arriving and a long queue of kayaks leading up to the opening that hours earlier seemed so remote. Like that first entry into a tunnel, there’s a period of adjustment for the returning kayakers. The physical elements of the experience contribute to a sense of healthy exertion—arms and shoulders ache just a bit, salt and sweat combine to make the skin feel weathered, maybe a tall glass of ice water sounds appetizing. But a mental and emotional adjustment exists as well. Maybe manatees or dolphins were spotted in the bay, perhaps mullet were active within the coves jumping in and out like circus performers, sea birds were likely witnessed divebombing for food—these all contribute to a sense that something vital was seen, some sort of secret revealed. A return to life as usual seems unwelcomed as the magic of the tour fades.

Lido Key Mangrove Tunnels Kayak Tour Sarasota, Florida. Take a Kayaking SRQ guided eco tour of the mangrove tunnels at Ted Sperling Park at South Lido Key in Sarasota, Florida. A favorite tour for all ages—great for the beginner or experienced paddler. Photo credit Andrew Fabian. Must Do Visitor Guides | MustDo.com
Photo credit Andrew Fabian

But the magic is still there, waiting in the shade of the mangrove tunnels for all who wish to get in touch with something meditative and pure.  

Lido Key Mangrove Tunnels Kayak Tour Sarasota, Florida. Take a Kayaking SRQ guided eco tour of the mangrove tunnels at Ted Sperling Park at South Lido Key in Sarasota, Florida. A favorite tour for all ages—great for the beginner or experienced paddler. Photo credit Andrew Fabian. Must Do Visitor Guides | MustDo.com
Photo credit Andrew Fabian

Kayaking SRQ also rents kayaks and standup paddleboards (reservations are required) and offers guided kayak tours in Siesta Key. Book a Siesta Key tour or a Lido Key mangrove tunnel tour.

Lido Key Mangrove Tunnels Kayak Tour Sarasota, Florida. Take a Kayaking SRQ guided eco tour of the mangrove tunnels at Ted Sperling Park at South Lido Key in Sarasota, Florida. A favorite tour for all ages—great for the beginner or experienced paddler. Photo credit Andrew Fabian. Must Do Visitor Guides | MustDo.com
Photo credit Andrew Fabian

Written by: Andrew Fabian | Author Website

Andrew Fabian covers arts and food for various publications in Sarasota, where he has lived since 2005. He graduated from the University of Central Florida with a BA in English - Creative Writing. When he's not running around town to various restaurants and arts institutions, he enjoys a nice woodworking project or an evening on the couch with his wife arguing the merits of a television show or movie.

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