Merritt Island Florida

These photos are from our September, 2005 visit to Merritt Island, near Titusville, Florida.  Hurricane Ophelia had just left the area. We drove on the Black Point Wildlife Drive and did 2 kayaking trips, one daytime trip and a nighttime paddle.  We also visited the Kennedy Space Center.  Our kayak trips were with a great guide named Mike Mahan.   Mike was knowledgable, and able to accomodate our trips with little advance notice.

We found the manatees in a cove by a boat ramp... The manatees were pretty outgoing, and after a few minutes, they came up to our boats, nudging them, and looking to get their backs scratched.  As Mike put it, where else can you go where an endangered species comes up and rubs against your leg?  The night time paddle was just as amazing.   We started off at dusk, and watched as flock after flock of different birds congregated on one island.  Pelicans, Herons, Ibis, Comerants, Fish Crows, Egrets, all roosting close together on the same small island.   The sight (and sound!)  was really something.   As we were watching the birds, we noticed a pod of dolphins, so we paddled out to get a closer look.  There were about 10 dolphins, including at least 2 very small young ones.  We watched them play for a while, and got lots of good views, some as close as 20-30 feet.

As it got darker, we paddled back closer to shore and started to see the bioluminescence come out.  We've seen this before, but never this bright.  The bioluminescence of seawater comes from the tiny algae named dinoflagellates.  These glow when disturbed, such as from paddle strokes, splashing, waves, and most incredibly, from fish and other animals in the water.   As we paddled, it looked like someone was dumping buckets of blue-green cylume stick liquid into the water with each stroke.  As we came into areas with schools of fish, it looked like dozens of blue-green bottle rockets shooting off in all directions.  A crab swimming by was completely glowing from the agitation of its limbs sweeping through the water.

In addition to the photos below we also saw frogs, lizards,  lots of butterflies, some amazingly large spiders, and an adorable screech owl.   We'd certainly visit this area again, and can recommend it to others.  Just be sure to bring lots of bug spray!  The mosquitos were out in force when we visited.

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Photos Copyright 2005, Andy Welter