If you’ve ever wanted to see and touch bioluminescence, make your way to Florida for A Day Away’s kayak tours. Here’s a look at the tours and my experience with them.
What a Bioluminescent Kayak Tour Is and Where It Is
“A Day Away” is a kayaking company that offers several types of tours, including night kayak tours on the Indian River Lagoon at the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge in Florida, located near Titusville and the Kennedy Space Center.
In the summer, extending into the early winter, tiny dinoflagellates accumulate in the water. When they are disturbed, like by your hand or your oar, they glow bright blue-green! In the winter, comb jellies start to congregate. These are non-stinging animals ranging in size from tiny to as big as a grapefruit. They glow brilliant green when disturbed. You can even hold one in your hand and watch it glow!
What To Expect and What To Bring
You’ll need to drive out to the landing, which is about 20 minutes outside of Titusville, FL or interstate I-95. It’s a beautiful drive through the wildlife refuge, so you may want to plan extra time to make stops and explore.
You’ll end up on a dirt road, but the drive is pretty tame. I took my Corvette with no problems, and it’s not an off-road vehicle by any stretch of the imagination.
What To Expect on Kayak Tours
Expect to be enthralled! No matter which tour you take, it’s an unforgettable experience.
- Expect Wildlife – It’s everywhere! There is a manatee viewing platform directly across from the turn for the kayak tour, so if you arrive a little early and it’s still light, consider checking out the manatees. On the kayak tour you’ll see bioluminescence and also birds such as osprey, vultures and owls; manatees, alligators, fish and dolphins.
- Expect Exercise – The tour is perfect for any age group, since the water is slow-moving and shallow and no prior kayaking experience is necessary, but you’ll be out for a couple of hours, so you’ll burn off some calories. It’s unlikely you’ll feel sore or anything the next day, plus you can use it as an excuse to try some of the excellent restaurants in the area. I’m partial to El Leoncito or Valentino’s Pizza, both in Titusville, but you can’t go wrong with any of the area’s selections.
- Expect Fun – Everyone I’ve ever met who took the bioluminescence tour thoroughly enjoyed it.
- Expect To Learn Something – A Day Away has extremely knowledgeable guides. They are thoroughly familiar with the area and know all sorts of things about the local area. They are very personable and tell great stories.
What To Bring
What you bring will depend on what time of year you go, but do expect to get wet! Also, there may be mosquitoes, even in the winter. It’s never a bad plan to bring bugspray, although your guides will have some in case you forget. You will want:
- Appropriate Clothing – As I said, expect to get wet, so don’t wear clothing that has to be kept dry! Even in the summer, you might want a thin nylon jacket to keep the insects at bay. Otherwise you can wear beach-type clothing and shoes. It can get cold in the winter, so check the forecast. You may want long pants and a light jacket. It’s not hardcore kayaking, so you don’t need gloves or any special gear. A personal flotation device will be provided for you.
- Plastic Baggies – I recommend having a couple of zip-type plastic bags for things like your keys and camera, if you bring one. Also, if you put bioluminescent water or a comb jelly in the bag, it will glow. Note: I’m pretty sure you are not supposed to remove any organisms from the wildlife refuge, so keep that in mind. An exception apparently is this: If a fish jumps into your boat, under Florida fishing laws, you can keep it. More likely, it will be a mullet and you’ll want to toss it back!
- Camera – It’s basically useless for bioluminescence, but you can get great pictures of wildlife and people before it gets too dark.
- Water or Soft Drink – You’ll be on the water a couple of hours, so you may want to bring water or a snack. Personally, I would just leave these in the car, but you’re certainly welcome to take food/soft drinks along with you.
- Change of Clothes or Towel – You’ll probably get wet, so you may want to bring a change of clothes or at least towels to protect your vehicle. There aren’t any changing rooms or restrooms, so keep that in mind.
I have done both the summer bioluminescence kayak tour and the winter comb jelly bioluminescent tour. Both were incredible! While the overall bioluminescence was brighter in the summer than the winter, the winter tour is my favorite because you can catch both bioluminescence and the glowing comb jellies, plus it’s less buggy. On the other hand, if you want to see manatees, you’ll want to choose a summer or autumn tour, since the sea cows seek out warm water. Here are some of the animals I personally have seen:
- bioluminescent dinoflagellates
- bioluminescent comb jellies