Friday, June 05, 2009
Space Coast River Tours Offer Manatee & Dolphin Watching Near Cocoa Beach
With countless tourist traps lining each Florida causeway, It's easy to overlook one of the finest aspects of the Sunshine State- it's diverse and captivating wildlife.
If you're in desperate need of relaxing day away from the long lines and rides at Disney, or you just have a hunger for unique adventures, spend an afternoon of Cocoa Beach Tours, with Captain Mark Anderson and Captain Michele Anderson of Space Coast River Tours.
Their vessel, the Blue Dolphin, seats up to 49 passengers comfortably. It's a fully restored, 44-foot pontoon boat fashioned with cushioned seats, folding tables, a bathroom and a retractable roof for views rocket launches.
Atlantic bottle nose dolphins, white egrets, manatees and ospreys are just a few of the animals you'll intimately encounter in their natural habitat.
I had the pleasure of joining Mark,Michele and a group of passengers for a tour. Within the first five minutes, we came within a few feet of a family of dolphins, including a baby. The first impression made on me was Mark and Michele's attention to detail.
Mark's extensive knowledge of the local ecosystem amazed and educated me throughout the tour. I've spent 23 of my 27 years on the Space Coast, and I learned more about our local environment in those two hours than all of my science classes. As amazing as the wildlife scenery is, there are also plenty of technological marvels to behold, including NASA's VAB (Vehicle Assembly Building), and some of the world's largest cruises,docked in Port Canaveral.
You'll cruise through the lock system, a series of gates and chambers that balance the water levels between the Atlantic Ocean and the Banana River Lagoon system.As we entered the locks and waited for the water level to equalize, two Manatees surfaced just off the starboard side of the boat.
Once we passed through the locks and entered the port, Mark informed us that Tropicana Orange Juice is stored in Port Canaveral, as well as Morton Salt, which is shipped to Sea World for their saltwater facilities. Mark and Michele's knowledge of the area comes from hours of research between the two, as well as input from local NASA workers and Sea Ray workers who shared their facts during different tours.
'Anytime we'd read an article with a local scientist or biologist, we would contact them and ask them if they could tell us more about the local area,' Michele said. 'We learn every day and what's great about this job is you meet people from all over the world. We've met people from Australia, South Africa, Asia and even Eskimos.'
Michele tends to each passenger. Snacks and drinks are served on fold down tables. She takes good pride in the Blue Dolphin, and for good reason- she and Mark each poured their financial and physical resources into restoring the boat.
'I think if we knew everything we would have to go through, we wouldn't have done it. It took a lot out of us, but we made it, and we're so glad we persevered.'
Inspiration for Space Coast River Tours came during Michele's trip to Montauk, NY (Long Island) . Michele found out that a friend of hers had given up, after many years, his fishing charter business to start a Montauk Lake Boat Tour business on a 40' pontoon boat. Michele got the idea of doing the same here at Port Canaveral.two years later, after many sleepless nights on the Internet that Michele found - THE BOAT, nicknamed "the Beast" (she was that ugly) in Michigan.
They knew that the Beast had a lot of potential, and with lots of TLC and hard work could be turned into a swan. So, filled with determination, they had the Beast trucked down here to Florida, and started revamping her in August 2002.
Mark and Michelle, both U.S. Coast Guard Certified captains, maintain the boat and are constantly exploring new ideas for special tours. In addition to their standard nature tour, they also offer shuttle launch tours, Christmas boat parade tours, wine and cheese cruises for Mother's Day and Valentine's Day, and even a gardening cruise. A botanist from a local nursery, Rockledge Gardens, grabs the mic and points out examples of quality lawns and proper landscaping techniques along the backyards of houses lining the canals of Sykes Creek. It's just another way Mark and Michele use their business to build stronger bonds with fellow local business owners.
To book a tour on the Blue Dolphin, call (321)-652-1052 or visit www.spacecoastrivertours.com for more information.
By Matt O'Hern at 11:52 AM | Comments (0)