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Kayak tours offered by Island Seniors give opportunity to see rare island sites

By Staff | May 6, 2015

Thursday’s Island Senior kayak tour group included (L to R) Jim and Barb Rivard; Kate, Caryn and Carl Smigiel; Ed and Penny Sessa; Dan Hopta and Barb Cecala. BRIAN WIERIMA

There are many locations on Sanibel in which are inaccessible to people, unless those said people are equipped with a kayak.

Kayaking around the island is one of the more popular activities people can do to enjoy the nature which bestows Sanibel.

A grand opportunity to join the Island Seniors of Sanibel, which runs kayaking tours to many different destinations around the island, can be taken advantage of on Tuesdays and Thursdays every week January through April.

Even with the offseason, there are still tours being scheduled by the senior citizens group on Sanibel.

“It’s in high demand now,” said Seniors Program Manager Trish Phillips. “This is the first year in which we’ve expanded to offering an additional day, so it has grown.”

This will be the view for kayakers who take part in the kayak tours, provided by the Island Seniors on Sanibel. Thursday’s tour in the Clam Bayou heading out to Bowman’s Beach was under overcast skies and a brisk headwind all the way to the Gulf outlet. BRIAN WIERIMA

Each tour can hold up to 16 kayakers, which is how many kayaks the Island Seniors own. Four people can be added to the group if they bring their own kayaks, as well.

The tours are not just open to Island Seniors, but to anyone who wants to enjoy kayaking, from novice to experts.

The best part, it’s only $5 for Island Senior members and $10 for non-members, who usually end up being guests of a Sanibel senior citizen member.

On Thursday’s (April 29) guided tour, the launch off was at Bowman’s Beach, through Clam Bayou to the outlet to the Gulf of Mexico and back. It was about a two-hour trip, which was challenging towards the Gulf due to a brisk headwind, but well worth it once the group reach the midway point, where rolling waves were pounding the beaches of Sanibel.

The team leaders were Ed and Penny Sessa, who led a group of nine through Clam Bayou. The trip back was a breeze, with the wind to the kayakers’ backs pushing them down the homestretch.

Penny and Ed Sessa are given a shove off of land Thursday during the Island Senior’s kayak tour, which started off of Bowman’s Beach into the Clam Bayou waters, which eventually ended at the Gulf of Mexico. BRIAN WIERIMA

Birding wasn’t as prosperous under the cloudy skies, but a rare siting of a reddish egret was had by the group at the midway point near the outlet to the Gulf of Mexico.

“This group is especially good, because we can do it twice a week,” said seasoned kayaker Dan Hopta, who kayaks at least once a week. “We’ve kayaked through Ding Darling, the canals, Sanibel River and off the causeway to the mangrove islands.

“We’ve seen manatees and dolphins, depending where you are.”

The beach which marked the halfway point, was covered with untouched shells, since they were not picked through due to very light foot traffic in the secluded area.

“This trip was a good, lightweight workout,” Hopta said. “Each time you go out, you find something different.”

It was all smiles for Caryn and Carl Smigiel as they paddled their last leg of the kayak tour Thursday on Clam Bayou. BRIAN WIERIMA

During the offseason, some tours will be taken into the Fort Myers area, as well, for yet more new experiences.

“The good thing about kayaking is, it’s good exercise and everyone helps out during the trips,” Phillips said. “It keeps everyone active.”

There will be kayak tours headed by the Island Seniors during the offseason. Dates of the tours can be found out by calling Center 4 Life at (239) 472-5743, with tours departing from the Center at 8:15 a.m., which is located at 2401 Library Way on Sanibel.

A reddish egret greeted the group at the halfway point right before the Gulf of Mexico Thursday just off of Clam Bayou. BRIAN WIERIMA