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Kayaking “The Grand Tour” at Curry Hammock

Tuesday November 10, 2015                                                       Most Recent Post:
Curry Hammock State Park                                                        
Getting Awfully Laid Back Here
Marathon, Florida



Today’s the day.  Winds are down; ocean is calm.  We’re off to kayak what is known here as The Grand Tour.  I’d say the title is a little overstated since it is a trail around three sides of Little Crawl Key, the home of Curry Hammock and also around two sides of Deer Key which is often the background of my sunset pictures.   It’s maybe 5 miles and is grand fun but not a Grand Tour.

The put in couldn’t be easier since it is right around the corner from our site.  We just carry the kayaks to the shore and off we go.




Beautiful morning.  We’re on the water just after sunrise.



Bye Winnona



Friends have come down to the shore to wish us bon voyage.




As I am rounding the corner from the day use area a loud slap and splash startles me and I look down to see a large manatee has just come out from under my boat.  I may have inadvertently paddled right over him.  He’s bigger than my kayak and I’m sorry I scared him.  He’s gone before I can get my camera to my eye.  But his picture is inscribed firmly  in my memory.


I recover from my manatee shock to see a wide channel all along on the north side. 





My manatee is the only thing I see  on this side of the island but David is traveling down the far bank and comes upon a black crowned night heron hiding pretty well in the mangroves.  Good eyes David.





At the end end of this closed channel  we take a left turn into the entrance to to a mangrove tunnel running along the island’s west side.                How low can we go?  I love mangrove tunnels.







We come out for just a minute and go under the bridge which leads into the campground.  It too is a low ceiling but then we’ve picked near high tide in order not to run into water that is too shallow which happens here around low tide.





I’m told the tunnel is about a mile long but it seems like I am seeing the opening much sooner than that.




Soon we are out in the open on the far west side and turning south where we find some pricey real estate.








We’re just drifting along when I spy a pelican doing the same until he spies us.







Look at that wing span.  I’ve read it’s up to eight feet but boy they look maybe even longer here.




Another mangrove tunnel presents itself and I’m all in. Love these dark tunnels.



Hmm, how much further can I go?   I never quite know until I get there.


This time I spot a tree snail on this red mangrove branch.  Now I can clearly see where it got its name.


David gets a picture of its flower.




Shortly I spot the mangrove tree crab.  Hope Heyduke sees this.   It’s hard to tell in these pictures but the crab is tiny, about the size of a silver dollar.  I only spotted this one because he was moving up a tree limb to my right.  But looking closely when you are in the mangroves, you will spot them all over the place especially once you see one.









On my way back out of the tunnel  I start looking more intently down in the water. There are a lot of these upside down jellyfish. Shallow water and particularly mangroves are their habitat. They are really beautiful and often hang out on the bottom in an upside down position. I sure wouldn’t want to step on one. Water shoes! Skin suit!




Looks like a surface floating jellyfish type thing but I’m not sure.  It’s lovely but I don’t think I’d like to touch it.



Other beautiful and unknown things on the bottom as we paddle along.



We are nearing home. As I am coming along the east side of Deer Key I hear a ruckus ahead of me.  I round the corner and find this group of cormorants perched on the red mangrove roots near the water.




David comes along behind me, closer than I to them and they scurry across the water stopping nearby





The sun is getting high in the sky.  The temperatures are hot.  It’s time to move inside for the heat of the day.  We leave the kayaks under a tree so we can return for sunset and take them out again.





Walking back along the shore I find many more shells than I have seen here before.




Things are taking on that golden glow when we come back out to the water at 5:00.  Yes, you heard me right.  Five o’clock and sunset in less than an hour.  Whose idea was this?








Winnona looks happy by the shore.



The color coalesces over the campground just to the right of Winnona.   I love its reflection in the water.




And then the sunset comes with its rays of sun beams flying high into the sky and reflections of the color shimmering in the water.   Enough to take my breath away.  How lucky are we to see sunset over the ocean from the ocean.



As the blazing sun colors fade, pastels take over the sky.  It’s hard to tell where the water ends and the sky begins.  I feel like I’m floating in a wonderland.




I am paddling in toward the shore to call it a night when off to my left side streaks a drop dead gorgeous spotted eagle ray.  He’s near the top of the water and moving at a good clip.  He’s huge.  They reach 8.2’ without their tail and 16 feet with tail.  He’s magnificent, one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen in the wild in the water.   Not a chance in the world for a picture but I’ve taken this picture from the internet so you can see what I saw.  Of course what I saw was in a very background  but still just unbelievably dazzling.


spotted ray



Seeing the eagle ray sets my heart pounding and is the only interruption to such a perfect and peaceful closing to this great day on the water here in the Florida Keys.



  1. Looks like a lovely day for you both. The ray must have been a real thrill!

    Virtual hugs,


  2. yaaa. . .you finally got those kayaks in the water. . .absolutely gorgeous ending pic.

    The entire time I was in one of those mangrove tunnels, I would be waiting for a snake to drop down on me. . .shivers. . .

  3. Yea, a kayak trip and a ray to boot!! You do such a good job of catching the wildlife that I can't believe it. It is RARE for me to actually get a pic at all. By the time I get ready all that is left is a tail. So I love the pics that you do get. I am so glad that you were able to make it to the keys this winter. I'm enjoying it !!!

  4. I just looked at Google Maps and saw where you are. You're close to my cousin in Marathon. Looks like a great campground, Sherry!

  5. I agree with you when you wrote "How lucky are we to see sunset over the ocean from the ocean." for you are not just lucky you also have an absolutely gorgeous day in the water.
    Great shots of everything you captured and shared. Love it.

  6. I can't believe how calm the water is! Wow! Absolutely beautiful day for kayaking! Kayaking in the mangroves is so very cool! Love the crabs you saw:) Going out again later was very worth it. What a great day!

  7. Truly a picture perfect day for kayaking. Going through the 'tunnels' looks amazing. Never know what you'll sneak up on. Seems every sunset is better than the last. And seeing that ray puts the day over the top.

  8. Glad you got to kayak and love that mangrove tunnel...got to lean way back at the bridge;o)) The Sunset photos are magnificent...a beautiful perspective from the water!!! The manatee and ray were a very special treat:o))

  9. Looks like a lot of fun exploring. Liked your picture of the sting ray. While we were in Los Cabos, my friend and I went body surfing and a school of sting rays (about a dozen) swam back and forth about 6 times about 25 feet out from from where we were in the water. It was really cool seeing them in the curve of the waves. After about the sixth time they passed by us (we were the only people in the water), we decided discretion was the better part of valor and got out of the water. They were not large - only about 2 feet across but they were fun to watch.

  10. What a lovely day and evening on the water! Fantastic wildlife sightings and sun rising and falling! We are so fortunate to live this traveling life that's gets us close to nature!

  11. seeing that manta ray would indeed be exciting!

  12. Two great paddles in one day, with a manatee and a ray...life is good.

  13. I'm glad you finally were able to get out on a kayaking trip. We took that same trip several years ago.

    The pink jellyfish is called a moon jellyfish. When you're diving/snorkeling sometimes you swim thru hundreds of them. They don't really sting like a Portuguese Man or war, but they do cause a little skin irritation. BUT not if you have a skin suit, which you now have. It is pretty spectacular to see them because they are a pretty light pink color. Sometimes you just have to swim through them, but not to worry.

    You were very lucky to see the spotted eagle ray. There are a lot of them out there, but they stay away from boats and people, so you got lucky. We saw a school of them out on Looe Key Reef one day, but we couldn't get into the water fast enough to snap some photos.

    If you can find a place to launch and snorkel around Ohio/Sunshine Key, it's the best place we found to snorkel...but again, on a calm day.

    Looking forward to your blog when you go snorkeling.

  14. Sorry I did not get pictures of the 4 foot white iguana & 3 foot salmon colored shark I saw, but it is really hard when you only get a glimpse as they pass. Still a thrill. Wish I had seen your eagle ray, that was definitely the winner and I am really glad it was you that had the pleasure too.

  15. The wonder of the Keys, so much to see and do, so little sunlight to get it all done. You packed a lot of nature's finest into your paddles, makes you glad to have kayaks to get out on the water.

  16. Starting with a manatee and ending with a ray is certainly one spectacular day! Too bad you weren't able to get pics of either, but as you said you'll always see them in your memory. Love the wide channel shot of the north side - that water is so beautifully calm. Aren't jelly fish just the weirdest animals? And the two you saw are so different. The cormorants among the roots is another really great catch - they all blend together in there. Paddling at sunset - ahhhhh.

  17. You certainly took advantage of a beautiful calm day!

  18. Ahh Florida heaven. Loved the kayak today, Sherry. Oh, and just for the record. You are on standard (aka real) time at the moment. The sun sets early in the winter. DST is the fake one, the one that gives us all that summertime sunshine at night. Short days are short days. At least we get our morning light at a normal hour now instead of at 8am. geez. guess we would have to move to the equator somewhere to get a perfect 12 hour day and 12 hour night. and no twilight. I don't think I would like that one either. Ha!

  19. Such a rich ecosystem among the mangroves!

  20. Now that was an absolutely perfect kayaking day! Going out twice in one day is even better -- isn't it fun to have your site right on the beach? What a thrill to see a manatee at Curry Hammock -- I hope we might be so lucky. We did see a spotted eagle ray a couple of years ago when we were there, but it was far too quick for us to get a photo. Your photos are so enticing -- that last photo of the kayak and the lavender sunset is fantastic.

  21. Another lovely day with the Boyds! Eagle Ray, Manatee, and assorted other critters. Very nice!

  22. Wow! Kayaking in the Keys is a real treat!!! How unique. Love all the sightings from the tree crabs and snail to the amazing ray :) Beautiful skies too.

  23. I've hiked through many rhododendron tunnels, but I don't think I could bring myself to enter a mangrove tunnel! Great photos.

  24. I've been behind on my blogs. Love the pictures. It's been almost a year since we were kayaking in the keys. What fantastic pictures. I'd like to get back there in a couple of years. So much to do!


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