ExtraHyperActive: Florida
Showing posts with label Florida. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Florida. Show all posts

Diving With Sharks At The Florida Aquarium In Tampa Bay

2 comments:


Florida diving offers something for everyone, from the newbie to the most experienced divers, from coral reef diving to fresh water, wrecks, caverns, 4000 lb statue of Christ of the Abyss to ... diving at the The Florida Aquarium.

I came across this incredible adventure while looking for guided scuba diving trips around Tampa. The Florida Aquarium in Tampa Bay offers two great diving adventures - Swim with the Fishes and ...Dive with the Sharks !

Diving with the great white sharks near the Neptune islands of southern Australia has been on my Bucket List since I first got my PADI Open Water certificate.

But diving with sharks at The Florida Aquarium was no less thrilling.

Visit The Dry Tortugas In Florida

No comments:
Those few months I lived in Florida have become one of my most memorable experiences of my life ! I got a taste of life after retirement in Florida :)

That was my third time visiting Florida.

The first time I had a road trip of  the lifetime, driving from Miami to Key West on the Florida Keys Overseas Highway.


Though I spent a couple days in Key West, unfortunately I didn't have time to visit Dry Tortugas National Park which was on my Bucket List of places "to visit before I die" :).

Located just 70 miles west of Key West, the park is a beautiful historical landmark and a wildlife refuge like no other. The Tortugas Islands also offer some of the best snorkeling and scuba diving in the entire United States with the coral reef just feet from the white sandy shores of the islands.



This is one of the few places I'm definitely coming back to !

Bookmark and Share

Dive Minnow Caves, Key Largo, FL

No comments:



True what they say : "There is a whole new world down there ! " I beat myself up every day for not being able to go scuba diving while in Florida :(

Well, that's what my Bucket List is for...

If you are a recreational diver or just thinking about trying our scuba diving, I recommend adding "Scuba diving in Florida" to your Bucket List !



Minnow Cave is one of the best-known coral caves in the Florida Keys, and is home to many of the namesake species. The cave is part of the Northern Dry Rocks, which is a shallow reef with depths up to fifteen feet. The reef is smaller than the Key Largo Dry Rocks but offers everything except for the well-known Christ of the Deep statue. However, divers may prefer this site if they are not particularly interested in the statue and are looking for a less populated location.

 The filtered sunlight and shallow depth also makes this a great spot for snorkeling. Divers at this site will be amazed by the slick movements of the glass minnows that hover around the opening to the cave. Groupers and great barracuda are also commonly seen here. Divers who choose to explore crevices will find Florida's spiny lobster hiding away. This is a great dive for those looking to avoid heavy traffic but still experience a beautiful location.

The reef is marked off by three mooring buoys with the letter "N" inscribed upon them. This area contains a .05 square nautical mile Sanctuary Preservation Area (SPA) which is marked by yellow buoys.

Bookmark and Share

Paddling The Hillsborough River, FL

No comments:
The Hillsborough River flows 54 miles from its head waters in the Green Swamp to its mouth in Hillsborough Bay, a portion of Tampa Bay, Florida's largest open-water estuary. From nearly pristine conditions, the river winds its way to Tampa Bay through rural, suburban, and urban settings.

My first introduction to SUPing in Florida happened on  the Hillsborough River where I enjoyed paddling my board to the heart of Tampa.


I also happen to live right across from Lettuce Lake Park  in Temple Terrace. Located at the north edge of Tampa, Lettuce Lake Park protects 240 acres along the Hillsborough River, providing a getaway for hikers, bicyclists, runners, and  all types of paddlers ( kayakers, canoeists, and of course paddleboarders ).

On one of the beautiful sunny days, I decided to go on a short adventure paddle along the river.


For the most part the Hillsborough is what is known as a dark or black water river. The water is stained reddish-brown by the tannic acid (the same thing that gives iced tea that reddish-brown color). It comes from the decaying leaves and other vegetation in the swamp.

The Hillsborough River has been favorably compared to the Amazon and the Florida Everglades as one of the great places to view wildlife. The Hillsborough River was chosen by "Canoe and Kayak Magazine" as one of "North America's Best Close to Home Paddling Adventures" in its May 1995 issue.







The River astounded me with its beauty and abundant wildlife. This would be a great trip for wildlife watchers, families, and those seeking the serenity of the outdoors.


TIP:  The above mentioned Lettuce Lake Park offers canoe rentals ( year round ), and nearby University of South Florida Campus Recreation has canoes, kayak, and paddleboards for rent.

Bookmark and Share

Kiteboarding Skyway Backside Beach, Tampa Bay, FL

No comments:

....beginning of November, and I'm still new to the area, and still looking for places to go kiteboarding, and people to go with...

...this morning I finally came across a group of people at Skyway Backside "beach"... the area is pretty decent for a beginner like me...though the launching area is relatively small ( especially with many people on the beach ), I had no problem launching my kite...Water level is knee deep, so I wasn't too concerned about getting stuck somewhere in the middle...

...a few people expressed their concerns about me flying my 2005 "C" kite...I have to admit, it's a bitch to relaunch it, and when the wind is gusty, it gets harder to control it...

...so, I guess, it's time for me to upgrade my gear...


Bookmark and Share

Back To Mc'Cormick's Cable Waterski, Wakeboard, and Cable Park, FL

No comments:


Last year, during my visit to Tampa, FL, I had a a lot of fun trying out cable wakeboarding for the first time !

This time, I invited my friend to join me. He's a complete beginner. As a matter of fact, he's never been on any board before. Zero skills, zero experience.

As I wrote before, the park has two areas : the main cable and Lil Bro, made for less experienced/beginners and/or younger riders. This is the best place to learn how to ride on a wakeboard if you've never been on one before.

It literally took him less than an hour to learn the basics. He told me that before he had tried to wakeboard behind a boat, and couldn't even pop up. After less than an hour of lessons at the cable park, he could pop up, ride, edge, and was ready for the main cable.

Two hours of riding was more than enough for us to get a great workout and have tons of fun !

So if you've never tried wakeboarding before, or failed wakeboarding behind a boat, try cables. It's easier, cheaper, and more fun !




Riding The Waves Of Hurricane Sandy

No comments:
Florida is an interesting place to be a surfer. According to locals, the surf here usually sucks. The west coast is flat about ninety percent of the year, and the east coast is fickle even with a category 3 hurricane hovering off the coast.

...but not this year...

The Megastorm, the Frankenstorm, or the Snowicane, or just plain old Sandy is coming to the East Coast. The rare mix is the result of Hurricane Sandy, a Category 2 storm now hitting the Caribbean, an unusually early winter storm coming from the West and a fierce Arctic air coming from the North. Those air masses are now predicted to combine with each other — right over the country’s most populated and developed stretch of real estate, including New York City.

If certain conditions come together to create the perfect storm, Hurricane Sandy could be a historic storm...

But  Sandy's greatest impact to the Tampa Bay are winds up to 50 mph, and ....shoulder high waves !

And as many die hard surfers say : " "On days when the surf is good, nothing else matters " ...






Bookmark and Share

SUPing At Sunset Beach, In Tarpon Springs, FL

No comments:


Not on your average tourist's radar, Sunset Beach juts into the gulf at the end of Gulf Road in Tarpon Springs. It's nearly a perfect spot to sit in the shade of the palm trees gently swaying in the breeze and watch the sunset.

This is the perfect beach to go to if you want to escape the crowds. True to its name, it is a spectacular place to view sun setting into the Gulf of Mexico.

Apparently, this beach is also popular among paddleboarders, and kite surfers.  In "winter months" ( are there "winter months" in Florida ? :)), the wind is nice and steady, enough area to launch your kite, and super safe for beginner kiters ( it's shallow, so even if you get stuck, you can always just get up and walk back to the beach ).

I took my Stand Up Paddle Board /windsurfer for a short evening session. I had a lot of fun, and the sunset was breathtaking !!!





Bring Your Own Snorkeling Gear On Your Next Tropical Vacation

No comments:
My trip to Mexico was the second time I regretted not bringing my own snorkel gear with me. My fins are old, heavy, all-rubber ones, not really comfortable for tropical diving/snorkeling ( since tropical divers do not always need wetsuit booties, many use long, full-foot light pocket fins while diving in tropical water ). Also, I wanted to travel light, and knew that most dive schools provided all the gear for their trips.

But even if you're not a diver, in places like Mexico ( Hawaii or Florida's Keys ) there are many great places where you can go snorkeling.

Of course, you can always rent a snorkeling set ( mask, snorkel and fins ), or even buy a brand new one at a local WallMart. But having you own snorkel gear means you’ll have one less thing to do when you get to your destination. In other words, you’ll be at the beach sooner instead of searching for the rental shop.

I think that if you're a frequent visitor/lover of sunny tropical places ( and love snorkeling/diving/swimming ), investing in a quality snorkel gear set is a must.

As I've mentioned above, full-foot pocket fins are lighter, and sometimes the whole snorkel set will weight about 4 lbs. A set usually comes in a convenient carrying and storage bag, that will easily fit in any suit case.

Also, before I heard people recommend bringing your own snorkel gear because of the hygiene aspect ( Mexico doesn't have the same health & safety rules that you're likely used to at home ). I don't know about you, but for me, there is just something about having your own snorkel in your mouth :) When it comes to masks, aside from the hygiene thing, pink eye can be very nasty.

And finally, the price of the snorkeling set is ( almost ) the same as the price of one (!) "snorkeling tour". So, buying and bringing your own gear will pay off even during a short tropical vacation.



Bookmark and Share

Surfing and Ocean SUPing Cocoa Beach, FL

No comments:

Just because it's Florida, you can't automatically assume that one of the most popular outdoor activities here is surfing. Florida's west coast/Gulf of Mexico is never going to be a world class surf-producing machine. The continental shelf saps power and the limited fetch reduces the swell period.

However Florida's Atlantic coastline is home to some quality surf spots, but unfortunately the swells it gets are pretty small and inconsistent.

One of the most epic surf spots here is Cocoa Beach, home to six-time World Champion Kelley Slater and Ron Jons. The latter is the founder of the world famous Ron Jons Surf Shop with their Cocoa Beach location being the largest surfing shop in the world !




That's where I was planning to rent a longboard. But since I've never had a chance to surf a SUP, I went with a 11'6 South Point Dave Kalama Model SUP.

And I didn't regret....

The waves at Cocoa Beach are pretty...mellow...which makes it a good choice for longboarders.... and even better for paddleboaders !

If you've never surfed in your life, make your first time surfing on a SUP instead of a longboard. Highly recommended !

Comparing to a longboard, popping up and keeping your balance on a SUP while riding a wave is extremely easy.



On the downside, paddling while trying to catch a wave was...very frustrating....

It took me a while to realize that you can't surf a wave facing forward. You need to change to a sideways surfing stance. Also, unlike surfers who can catch waves late on their short boards, you need to catch the wave before it breaks.

Catching waves on a SUP will take a few sessions and a lot of wipeouts to get the hang of, and a lifetime to truly master, but wave-riding is one of the best experiences you can have on your SUP.

It is hard to explain why catching a wave on a 10-11' board is such a buzz and the only way to find out is to do it! Though, the swell here is no better than at our local Westport, still, there is something about surfing/paddling in Florida - they don't call it the Sunshine State for nothing!

Cable Wakeboarding is the Future of Wakeboarding

No comments:

Ironically, my first introduction to cable wakeboarding was through a Youtube video about the Orlando Watersports Complex Cable Park. I didn't know that a year later I'd get to try cable wakeboarding in Florida.

I was looking for kiteboarding lessons in/around Tampa, FL when I was reffered to McCormick's Waterski Wakeboard and Cable Park.


Though, Central Florida is a phenomenal location for the growing sport of
kiteboarding, June thru Sept the wind is very inconsistent, and lessons are not taught during the summer months for this reason.

Many kiteboarders use this time to practice with a trainer kite or work on their wakeboarding skills.

I wrote before that cable wakeboarding was less expensive than boat wakeboarding. Now I can add that cable wakeboarding is much easier to try/learn.

As you might have heard before it takes an average of 3 attempts, before you can get up on the board. Remembering my first experience, I was really worried about being out of my league.

The park has two cables – the main cable and Lil Bro, made for less experienced and/or younger riders. This is the best place to learn how to ride on a wakeboard if you have never been on one before.

Though I'd only been on a wakeboard once before, it was super easy to pop up with a cable. After just 2 rides I was ready to move on to the main cable.

The main cable holds up to five riders at a time and runs clockwise around a man-made lake with numerous sliders and kickers of almost every size and shape along the way.




My only concern was falling down far away from the starting dock . Then you would have to swim to the shore, and walk back to the dock.

You can rent everything from the shop ( board, helmet,vest) or bring your own gear. They offer two types of boards - slider and non-slider wakeboards. The main difference is that you can't use non-slider wakeboards on obstacles.

Cable wakeboarding is convenient, safe, affordable and a great work out ! Many action sports enthusiasts ( skiers/snowboarders/surfers/kiteboarders/skaters...) as well as other people who like new challenges and experiences will greatly benefit from cable wakeboarding.

With more and more people discovering cable wakeboarding, and more cable parks being build around US, it has a terrific future!

I's compare cable wakeboarding to skiing/snowboarding. With the growing popularity of skiing and snowboarding came a greater number of ski resorts. We can expect the same for cable wakeboarding.

Because more and more people are finally discovering its many efficiencies and environmental advantages, the market potential for construction of more cable parks around the world, particularly in the United States is absolutely huge!



Visit Abandoned Rocket Factory in the Everglades

No comments:

I came across this "attraction" while researching "things to do/see" in Everglades National Park.

While on the east side of Florida ( Daytona Beach ), I was really hoping to visit Kennedy Space Center, but this abandoned rocket factory in the Florida Everglades known as Aerojet-Dade, sounded a lot more appealing and mystique ( not to mention it's free ).

In the 1960s the Aerojet company was considered as the possible supplier of solid-fuel rocket motors to be used as primary power plants for the Saturn I space booster.

The short version is that NASA never did use Aerojet when the Apollo space mission decided to go with liquid fuel instead of the solid fuel. The Aerojet eventually gave up on its plant and sold the land to the State of Florida, which holds it to this day as a nature preserve. Most of the original buildings associated with the plant, and some of the machinery, appear to be still there, albeit in decrepit condition.



The factory is accessible, though the last couple of miles of the access road are closed to motor vehicles, so if you want to visit you have to bicycle or walk part of the way. There are a few houses nearby, and people come to bird watch or to fish in the canal that parallels the road, but the place is essentially deserted once you get past the no-motor-vehicles-beyond-this-point sign.

Tips on visiting Everglades National Park in summer

No comments:
Everglades National Park is one of the most famous National Parks in US.
Here are no lofty peaks seeking the sky, no mighty glaciers or rushing streams wearing away the uplifted land. Here is land, tranquil in its quiet beauty, serving not as the source of water, but as the receiver of it...
With these words, President Harry S. Truman formally dedicated Everglades National Park on 06 December 1947 in a ceremony held at Everglades City.

It's true, this park is like no other parks in US. Most famous for its backcountry kayak and canoe adventures, the park offers a truly unique experience.

Tip - visiting Everglades National Park during "wet season" is ...unpleasant, if to say the least. Best time to visit the Everglades is December through April, with low humidity, clear skies and less mosquito.

A recent trip to Everglades City, where the park's Gulf Coast Visitor Center is located, made me rethink the whole idea of how most people visit our national parks.


The dream of paddling along the Wilderness Waterway, a 99-mile path between Everglades City and Flamingo, is ...still a dream.

Tip - if you are short on time, go for a boat trip

I only had a day to explore the area, and that's why I decided to do a typical "touristy" activity - boat tour.

There are numerous tour operators in the area, but since Everglades National Park has been declared a Biosphere Reserve, a World Heritage Site and a Wetlands International Alliance, only Everglades National Park Boat Tours is allowed to operate in its waters. All other companies operate on privately owned land/water which makes trips shorter with fewer chances to see wildlife.

There are two "official" tours - 10,000 Islands and Mangrove Wilderness.

I've always wanted to see the dense swampy part of the Everglades, and to get a face-to-face with an alligator, manatee or even the famous Burmese Python.

Tip - if you are venturing into Everglades wilderness, use bug spray/insect repellent...and A LOT OF IT ! Mosquito, horse and deer flies will eat you alive !

Tip - keep your expectations low.

It's not like the wildlife will come out to "meet and greet" you. The gaters we saw were usually no more than a pair of cold eyes staring out from the still green water, a few manatees here and there, but mostly it's the frequent calls of birds, the occasional splash of jumping fish, and the wind whistling through the leafy ceiling overhead.


Back to my thought about how most people visit our parks...

Unlike Rainier or Olympic National Parks, you can't just roll into the Everglades to snap a few pictures and call it a day. To really appreciate this park you must "go deep".

Paddling your kayak or canoe deep into the marshy backcountry waters, with claustrophobic tunnels of mangrove trees and giant cypress trees around you is the Ultimate Everglades Adventure !


Though the park's ranger station offers maps and tidal charts for sale, Paddler's Guide to Everglades National Park is the most comprehensive guide to paddling the Everglades.

The Wilderness Waterway is poorly marked, and it's easy get lost. Mangrove waterways have a tendency to look very much alike, and no place to camp besides the designated sites. So, plan accordingly, and use all means of navigation ( maps, charts, GPS, location beacon...) or hire a local guide.