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Local captain has provided guided tours at Cayo Costa for more than 20 years

By Staff | Nov 3, 2016

Captain Brian Holaway. MEGHAN MCCOY

Twenty-three years ago Capt. Brian Holaway began conducting guided tours at Cayo Costa State Park, which eventually turned into becoming a member of the nonprofit organization, Friends of Cayo Costa State Park.

The ability to escape from the mainland while experiencing the wild and nature is what continues to draw the captain to the island.

“The beach changes all the time,” Holaway said, adding that he recently saw driftwood he has not seen in 10 years due to storms passing by the island. “There are different ecosystems that have evolved.”

Since he has been visiting the island for more than two decades, he said he remembers when the little ridges on the beach started.

Holaway has also photographed the same tree for 15 years, capturing the changes it has gone through during the seasons. He recently took a picture under water of the tree.

A prickly pear, which is among one of the food sources for gopher tortoises, can be found at Cayo Costa State Park. MEGHAN MCCOY

“The beauty is, it’s always changing,” Holaway said.

In addition to the natural beauty constantly changing, he has also witnessed many improvements done at the state park, such as campers having the ability to purchase firewood, ice, small snacks and souvenirs.

“I come out here and stay in the cabins,” Holaway said of camping.

The Friends of Cayo Costa is hosting itsannual Cayo Costa Days Saturday, Nov. 5, from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The boat departures vary by location.

Reservations are required by calling the Captiva Island departure at (239) 472-5300, Pine Island departure at (239) 283-0015, Punta Gorda departure at (941) 639-0969 and the Boca Grande departure at (239) 472-5300.

Ink berry is another plant found at Cayo Costa State Park. MEGHAN MCCOY

Tickets, which are $35 for adults and $25 for children, include a round-trip cruise, hot dog lunch, drinks and activities. Tickets for Friends of Cayo Costa State Park members are $30 for adults and $20 for children.

Sheena Brook, a local singer and songwriter, will play during lunch, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The menu includes hot dogs, chips, water and soda.

A variety of vendors including the Randell Research Center and CROW will have tents set up. The Friends of Cayo Costa will also have a table showcasing some of their initiatives, how to become involved, as well as selling T-shirts.

A beach and trail walk will be offered during the celebration with one being held in the morning and the other in the afternoon. A handout with specific times will be given to attendees the day of the event.

Although Holaway no longer does guided tours through Captiva Cruises, he has continued sharing his passion with others through his personalized chartered tours.

Driftwood is among the beauty of Cayo Costa State Park. MEGHAN MCCOY

In 1995, Holaway became a captain. He grew up in Nebraska before an internship took him to Jamaica and eventually Southwest Florida. The captain is a Florida master naturalist, who has earned 30 hours in numerous courses, at Florida Gulf Coast University.

Due to his expansive knowledge of Florida, Holaway’s clients have the ability to completely personalize their charter throughout the barrier islands of Cayo Costa State Park, Cabbage Key, Pine Island and North Captiva. The charters are a minimum of four hours.

“It’s fun for me because I get repeat clients. I get to know them and what they like,” he said. “A lot of my clients come down on vacation. Sometimes they go out twice in a week.”

Some of the personalized tours include taking photographers out before the sun comes up to capture sunrise pictures on the water; locating specific birds such as the white pelicans and skimmers; shelling; finding native plants and a day of island hopping.

“It’s not a straight line to the destination,” Holaway said of the charters because he will make stops to watch the dolphins play in the waves, or birds dive for food.

Since Holaway takes many clients out numerous times, he spends his days off constantly scouting the area to find new places to take them. He also stays current with what is going on in the area.

“I don’t like to stay stagnate,” he said.

His scouting was beneficial for a recent photography charter for L.L. Bean. Holaway said the 10-day photo shoot took the client to Cabbage Key, North Captiva and Captiva. The captain also did a charter for Martha Stewart Magazine personnel.

Holaway was recently apart of National Geographic Online’s 10 reasons to visit Fort Myers and Sanibel list. He said they went to the Randell Research Center and Cabbage Key.

For more information, visit Capt. Brian on the Water on Facebook, www.captainbrianonthewater.com, or call (239) 989-6522. Holaway’s charters depart from McCarthy’s Marina on Ande Rosse Lane on Captiva.