Brunette has always enjoyed Florida and has migrated here for at least a brief period of time every winter for nearly 20 years. Blonde saw Florida as consisting of the Disney crowd of bed wetters or the Codger crowd of bed wetters.
Then last summer Brunette and her grumpy hubby purchased a condo on Marco Island in Florida. Blonde thought they were nuts. (She still thinks that but the condo is seeming like a very good idea.) Blonde flew south the minute her beloved brother-in-law flew back north and then she twice extended her stay.
At first it seemed to fit the Codger Crowd stereotype. The flight down was Bizarroville and the pool at the condo has a bevy of bossy over-tanned large women and expressionless, grumpy, doddering old men.
As we didn’t have a car in Florida, we ventured out on long walks and bike rides. We swam laps every day and went out to dinner every evening, sitting outside in perfect temperatures. Florida, at least Marco Island, does not seem so bad to Blonde anymore.
Marco Island has a gorgeous beach with white sand that feels like flour on your feet. There’s a sparkly lake with a bike path around it. There are water views everywhere you turn; the Gulf of Mexico, countless canals, the Everglades and the Marco River.
Compared to freezing temps in Boston and Pittsburgh – our respective homes – it was seeming pretty damned good.
And then it got great!
Brunette looked on Trip Advisor to see what the top rated adventure on Marco Island was. It was a trip on jet skis in the Everglades with Captain Ron’s. We contacted them to see if they would comp us an outing if we tweeted and generally spread the word if we liked it. Fair deal. If you’re a regular reader you know we have somewhat strong and often snarky opinions about everything and we made no guarantees that we would say we liked it.
And we didn’t like it. We loved it! We are all about any water related activity and have done many – a nature cruise in the Galapagos Islands, boat trips in South Africa, sailing off the coasts of Turkey and Greece, numerous sailing trips in the Caribbean and Mediterranean and Indonesia and this was one of the most fun water activities we have ever done!
Before heading out we stuffed ourselves into our protesting bike pants, threw in some extra sunscreen, took a camera that we didn’t care about and stashed a peanut butter sandwich and semi-rotten banana into a bag. We then set out for the park where Captain Ron’s launches their trips. It was probably a 5 or 6 mile bike ride which we managed to convince ourselves was equivalent to at least one of the more difficult segments of the Tour de France. Lance Armstrong had dropped off a package he said would help us make the trip easier and faster so we got there before we left.
In reality we allowed so much extra time to bike to the park that we were at the launch point 40 minutes early. We each had half of the sandwich and banana. That was a very good idea as we would have starved to death otherwise. The trip lasted about 4 hours and no food was provided (as had been clearly stated) although everyone was given plenty of water. We are calorie consuming machines and we were having so much fun we weren’t even aware we were hungry until two seconds after the trip ended.
Captain Ron’s outing began at 11:30 a.m. at Caxambas Pass Park’s public boat launch. Our guide was RJ and Avi was the on-land logistics man that day although both men are guides and Avi is “the Dolphin Whisperer”. One thing we liked that led to us contacting Captain Ron’s was that they emphasize respect for the Everglades ecosystem and its inhabitants and tell you that if you want to speed around like a maniac go on someone else’s trip.
On our trip we were on one of the comfortable and very stable Yamaha Waverunners and, as Brunette likes to say, two “other couples” were on the other two jet skis. RJ and Avi spent a fair amount of time prior to the launch telling us how to operate the jet skis. Blonde, the designated driver, listened carefully and forgot everything. Brunette listened apprehensively as she was afraid her sister was forgetting everything.
(It’s probably also only fair to say that we are lifelong scorners of jet skis and have always firmly believed that only obnoxious idiots ever ride them. Apparently we are obnoxious idiots as about 5 minutes into the trip Brunette announced that she was going to have Grumpy Husband purchase a jet ski and Blonde was weighing in on the model to purchase.)
RJ took us on a tour among the mangrove islands and occasionally paused to teach us all kinds of interesting things we have already forgotten. We did retain that the Everglades have 9 distinct ecosystems, that Blonde has a spasmodic throttle grip and that wearing shoes you don’t mind getting wet is an excellent idea.
We were out on the water for nearly 4 hours and here are a few of our favorite sights:
After seeing these strange and beautiful things we went to a small shell covered island referred to as “the Humps”. RJ explained numerous shells to us and as usual we don’t remember much of that information. But one thing we do remember is that one shell RJ showed us climbs on top of other shells (and not consensually either) and secretes its stomach acid on the other shell. The gross secretion makes a hole in the mounted shell which allows the aggressor shell to suck out the oyster in the other shell. There are a couple lessons here: don’t consult us for marine knowledge and run like hell if someone crawls on your back and tells you they have an acidy stomach.
One of our favorite things is always to get a chance to see dolphins and we had about half a dozen sightings. One group was particularly playful – even swimming under our (turned off) jet skis. As soon as we saw any dolphins RJ would have us turn our jet skis off so we won’t alarm or injure them (the dolphins, not the jet skis). However, before we stopped he caught this really cool shot of a dolphin saying “hi”.
After our last dolphin encounter we realized we were running late so we got to crank it up a bit on the way back and that was really fun. Maybe a little too much fun for two women on another jet ski who somehow tumbled off and landed, laughing hysterically, in the water. They were completely unharmed but learned that it’s harder to get up on a jet ski in the water than it is to fall off one.
When we all arrived back at the boat launch it was massively entertaining to the people in the little park to watch us drive our jet skis onto a boat trailer which then pulled us out. It was entertaining to us too although perhaps a bit nerve wracking for Avi and RJ as they tried to pretend we were all doing splendidly as we bumbled and lurched incompetently along.
With the full knowledge that we had this fabulous experience for free and you won’t, we strongly recommend you do it anyway! Supposedly there are other less expensive tours of various types in the Everglades. Some are in airboats that make so much noise they scare the wildlife away so the operators have to surreptitiously feed critters to get them to appear and other tours that may be nice and peaceful but not as much fun as this was.
Also, at the end of each of the Captain Ron’s outings they give you (included in the price) a CD of pictures that the guide has taken on your outing (and many of which were purloined for use here).
Our recommendations are to wear a long sleeved shirt (Rash Guard would be great), lots of sunscreen and water shoes. Although we were wearing bike pants for other reasons they’re great for cushioning the ride. If you have a pair available throw away your pride and wear them. And eat before you leave because you’re going to be out there for quite a while!
Here’s one last picture RJ took showing the beauty of the skies as we returned.