Travel consideration provided.
One of the things I love about traveling is the chance to see different scenery and animals than I do at home. It’s one of the reasons that I love Florida – its swamps and alligators are quite a change from Oregon’s natural habitat. The last time I visited Kissimmee, Florida, I was fortunate enough to experience this scenery up close and personal by taking a self-guided kayak tour from The Paddling Center!
The Paddling Center at Shingle Creek is located in the headwaters to the Everglades, and is the perfect spot to take in Florida’s signature scenery with a tour on a kayak, canoe, or stand-up paddle board. We were traveling with one of our friends from Experience Kissimmee, so we opted for a self-guided kayak excursion, but The Paddling Center also has a variety of guided tours available, including a Star Gazing Night Kayaking Tour that sounds amazing!
Carol and I were paired up to take the tour together, so we put on our life vests, got a quick run-through from one of the staffers, then got into our kayak to begin our adventure. I’ve only been kayaking once before, and my lack of experience was quite apparent as I struggled to get to grips with which direction I was going, making our kayak spin around like a Laurel & Hardy sketch. 😉 When you’re steering your kayak, you essentially want to paddle on the opposite side of where you want to turn – paddle right a few strokes to start turning left, alternate on either side to keep going straight, etc. Well, at one point, our friends Jana and Veronica pointed out that there was a large alligator on the shore, so “Don’t paddle too close to the edge”. My brain does not learn new things very well under pressure, so I immediately began paddling furiously in the wrong direction, sending our kayak crashing right up onto the shore where this alligator had been moments previously. Paddling frantically right towards the thing I am trying to avoid is such an apt metaphor for anxiety, don’t you think? 😉 Fortunately, the alligator was nowhere to been seen – he was probably running away from us! – and Carol, a more experienced kayaker, took over the steering to get us back on track. As our tour continued, I started to get the hang of it and become more comfortable. I won’t win any kayak races anytime soon, but I didn’t steer us into any other gators and that’s all that really matters. 😉
The scenery at Shingle Creek is simply stunning – it’s so serene paddling down the water and looking up at the trees.
Aside from the alligator, we also got to see Great Egrets and get up close and personal with a Florida Cooter!
To give you a Beeb’s-eye view of my kayaking experience, I thought I’d share some video footage I took during our tour with my Garmin VIRB. It’s extremely shaky, since it was taken by a nervous kayaker while trying to paddle 😉 , but it gives you a little peek of the excursion, both above and below the water:
When we returned from our kayak tour, we were also offered the chance to get a quick stand-up paddle board lesson. We were warned that it can be a bit tricky to balance if you haven’t done it before, so there’s a high chance that you can end up in the water on your first attempt. Jana had brought a change of clothes along and gave it a go – which is a good thing, since she did end up getting dunked in the water! The nice Paddling Center staff let us know that if the paddle board started to feel unsteady, you could drop to your knees and paddle from there to regain balance, which is exactly what I did when it was my turn. I only did the “Stand-up” portion of the paddle board for a few seconds before dropping down, since I did not have a change of clothes with me and I had just gotten my hair done. 😉
If you’re planning a trip to Kissimmee, I highly recommend checking out The Paddling Center. It’s such a neat way to experience Florida wildlife and create memories that will last a lifetime! And now that Alaska Airlines is offering daily nonstop flights from Portland to Orlando, it’s the perfect time to get away from the Pacific Northwest rain and have some fun in the Florida sun!
For More Information:
The Paddling Center
4266 W. Vine St.
Kissimmee, FL 34741
Phone: (407) 343-7740