7 Days
Manatee and Monkeys, Exploring Florida’s Springs


MANATE, MERMAIDS, and MONKEY: The Amazing Springs of Central Florida

Enjoy “The Land of Flowers”, spend a relaxing week of sunny days floating down spring fed rivers that lazily wind their way to the sea. Each day our group will travel via passenger van to a different and unique area. Mostly kayaking, however; we will hike, swim, snorkel and tube these areas. There will be plenty of opportunity to go birding, sight seeing, time to observe wildlife, and time to sit back and reflect. This event takes place in the height of the manatee season, expect day time temps in the 70”s and the spring fed rivers will be a constant72. There is no better time or place to be outside paddling!

We begin at a place that has inspired all who have set foot or dreamed of riches. Prehistoric traces of the early inhabitants are still being found. Authors and orange growers found this place bounded by Lake George, St Johns, and the Ocklawaha River ideal.

Each day, we venture onto a new and unique waterway in search of manatee and other wildlife.Glide gently along the tannic water deep in the forest interior. Abundant wildlife greets us around each bend and with every stroke of the paddle. This is the best way to see the “real Florida.”


January 5-11, 2025

Day 1 — We meet at noon at the Orlando International Airport at the bottom of the the escalators at baggage claim 5A. From there, our private van will transport us the 2.5 hours to our cabins at Silver River State Park. We will stop at a local diner for lunch in route (not included in the trip price), settle into the lodge, a little basic kayaking review, go over the week’s itinerary, then enjoy our first dinner together.

Day 2 — Silver Springs and the Silver River. Bring your camera; this is where you can get extremely close to heaps of wildlife. A paddle trip on the Silver River in the Ocala National Forest features some of Florida’s most beautiful scenery and diverse wildlife. This river with translucent blue headsprings has been described as magnificent and magical. In 1873, Harriett Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, said it best with “There is nothing on earth comparable to it.”

The headwaters start at Silver Springs, the world’s largest natural artesian spring, which produces nearly 550 million gallons of water each day. Because of the substantial flow, we will float more than paddle the 7 miles downstream where the crystal clear Silver meets the tea-colored Oklawaha River.

Spending the day on Silver River will reveal why the Silver Springs attraction bills itself as “Nature’s Theme Park”. Beside the subtropical landscape and wintering manatee, the river is famous for its abundant wildlife. Anhingas, ducks, egrets, herons, ibis’, hawks, limpkins and kingfishers are some of the many birds that inhabit the area.

The fish species are well represented by bluegill, sunfish, bass and prehistoric-looking longnose gar. If you have never seen one, gars are cylindrical fish up to four feet in length with long snouts and very sharp teeth. Reptiles are a-plenty too. Turtles and alligators can easily be spotted sunning themselves while lizards and snakes present more of a challenge.

One animal that you wouldn’t expect to find in Central Florida is the Rhesus monkey. Several troops of these monkeys live wild along the length of the river. Legend has it the monkeys are descendants of escapees from Tarzan films shot at Silver Springs; however the Silver Springs web site ( lists the source as a concessionaire who operated the Jungle Cruise boat ride during the 1930s. The monkeys were placed on an island in the river and they simply swam off and disappeared into the neighboring forest.

Day 3 — Oklawaha River- Manatees, alligators, wild monkeys, otters, and black bears.

Day 4 — Juniper Springs- We’ll begin by snorkeling and exploring a wonderful second magnitude spring. Afterward we’ll navigate our kayaks down the extremely narrow gin-clear waters snaking through the sub-tropical Juniper Springs National Wilderness area,

  • Excellent brush land environment, home to the endangered Florida Scrub Jay.
  • Narrow, winding, crystal waters through a lush, designated wilderness area.
  • Up-close and personal photo opportunities with massive Florida alligators.
  • Likely sightings of deer, otter, and perhaps even the Florida Black Bear.

Day 5 — Rainbow Springs-  Located three miles north of Dunnellon, this river has gained the prestigious designation of a National Natural Landmark. Such recognition seems justified when viewing the headspring from a lofty overlook near the park entrance. It is an exquisite scene — the glassy crystal-clear water flanked by forests and fringed by marsh grass — as if lifted from the canvas of a landscape painter.

Rainbow’s beauty attracted early developers, who dredged the spring run for glass-bottom boats, built waterfalls, planted ornamental gardens and tacked on a zoo and a monorail.

Here, too, newer theme parks lured away the tourists and the park closed, reopening in the mid-1990s as a state park. The gardens and waterfalls were maintained as a reminder of the park’s cultural heritage, but the monorail was replaced in favor of nature trails that meander through the gardens and hilly forests surrounding the spring.

Day 6 — Ichetucknee Springs – We start a little early today so we can be one of the first people on the water. The Ichetucknee is the ultimate tubing run in the world! Clear flowing water, sand bottom littered with fossilized sharks teeth, and the States Highest level of protection. Make sure to pack your snorkeling gear and underwater camera.

Day 7 — Morning hike or swim, depart for the airport by 11 a.m.

Kayaking is physically challenging and participants should be in good shape to enjoy such a trip. In Florida, storms can appear quickly. Alternative activities are planned in case of extreme weather. I require that all participants must be at least 16 years of age.

Bring quality rain gear, a water bottle, insect repellent, a daypack, snorkeling gear and personal first-aid kit. We will probably encounter a variety of weather conditions; sun protection is critical. Expect warm days and cooler nights, with possible daily intermittent rain and wind. You will need a 220-stitch long sleeve cotton shirt, a sweater, sandals, waterproof windbreaker, shorts, swimsuit and support walking shoes. Cotton or cotton blend is more comfortable than polyester in the tropical weather. Please also bring a wine glass and your favorite beverage to share.

We will be staying at the amazing cabins at Silver Springs State Park. Think wilderness luxury. Everyone will be staying in two bedroom cabins. One bedroom has a queen size bed the other bedroom has two doubles. Each cabin has a full kitchen, bathroom, and living room. The rooms are clean, there is hot water, and showers work great. Couples will of course get the rooms with a queen size bed individual participants will be sharing the rooms with doubles.

The guides will prepare all meals and serve it to you. Some special diets can be accommodated, please call us with any requests. Meals included in the trip fee begin with dinner on Sunday and end with breakfast on Saturday.

Kayaks, paddles, and personal floatation devices (PFD’S) will be provided. If you have a fondness for your own paddle or PFD, bring it! A recommended gear list, trip participant roster, and specific directions to our meeting point at the airport will be sent to all participants.

The leaders will prepare all meals. However, everyone is expected to help clean up. Meals included in the trip fee begin with dinner on the first day and end with breakfast on the last day. Meals served on the trip will honor and reflect the local cuisine. A typical dinner would consist of shrimp and crawfish etouffee, white rice, garlic bread, fresh salad, and something chocolate for dessert. People with special diets should contact the leader to make arrangements.

All meals, all ground transportation, van support, kayaks, all kayaking gear, and two local Adventures in Florida guides.

Be sure to download the following files:

Orlando International Airport

1 Jeff Fuqua Blvd, Orlando,
FL 32827, United States



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