The Florida Department of Environmental Protection will be partnering with Charlotte Harbor Aquatic Preserves’ nature boat tours from 10 a.m. to noon and 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Friday, April 7 and Monday, April 10.
The tours are conducted by CHAP. The organization manages 5 of the 41 aquatic preserves in the state: Matlacha Pass, Lemon Bay, Cape Haze, Gasparilla Sound/Charlotte Harbor and Pine Island Sound. Together they make up approximately 180,000 acres of submerged lands below the mean high water line.
“There is one boat, and we offer these tours to six guests at a time,” said Dave Hersl, environmental specialist with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
“We do the tours year round. From October through April we offer two- hour tours four times per month.”
Participants will board a comfortable, 25-foot Windsorcraft boat for a two-hour-long informative tour. Guests will view local wildlife that call the aquatic preserves their home, including dolphins, manatees, white pelicans and other colonial wading and diving birds. Participants can use the supplied binoculars to get an up-close and personal view of wildlife.
“This is a unique and intimate tour accommodating a maximum of six guests,” said Hersl. “There is a captain and a mate, both of whom will speak about the area, wildlife and habitats as well as CHAP’s mission.”
During the tour visitors will learn about the importance of the estuaries, various habitats and the history of the area.
The cost is $30 per person. A cooler with ice and water will be provided, and participants can bring their own drinks and snacks.
Tours will depart from the Gasparilla Marina, located at 15001 Gasparilla Rd. A $5 parking fee, separate from registration, must paid at the Gasparilla Marina office (around the back of the marina complex) upon arrival. Please arrive early to park and pay, as the boat departs at the time scheduled. For more information, visit dep.state.fl.us/coastal/sites/gasparilla.