Clear Bottom Kayak Reef Tours

Navarre Beach Marine Sanctuary’s Clear Bottom Kayak Reef Tours are underway here on Navarre Beach. Visitors and locals alike are taking advantage of the chance to explore the local reef system.

The 45 minute tour takes groups out to one of Navarre Beach’s nearshore artificial reefs in the Gulf of Mexico. The clear bottom kayaks offer a view of the reef system just like looking through a dive mask.

The first tours of this year have already seen some amazing creatures including sea turtles, sting rays and a variety of fish. They were able to see the ever-growing coral that has taken root on the artificial structures, but the coolest site of the trip was a passing pod of dolphins that decided to come check out the tour group.

The tours are about more than just spotting cool critters. They also provide a lesson on reef ecosystems and the unique species that call them home.

The tour has groups of 12 loading into kayaks at the new kayak walkover at Sea Oat Pavilion. It cost $20 a person. The tour also includes free admission to the Navarre Beach Sea Turtle Conservation Center where visitors can say hello to the resident sea turtle Gigi.

The tour groups depart at 9, 10 and 11 a.m. The tours run every other Saturday from July 1 through Aug. 26. The kayaks and paddles are provided. Additional dates in September and October have yet to be announced.

The minimum requirements are:

  • Ability to swim and expectation to get wet
  • Life jackets which are provided
  • Ability to paddle the kayak for 45 minutes
  • Children must be accompanied by an adult and sign waiver
  • Remain in kayak, snorkeling and diving after the tour

According to the Navarre Beach Marine Sanctuary’s website states refunds will be given for inclement weather, and it is recommended that groups arrive 20 minutes prior to their tour time.

Even without the tours, the reef is open for folks to enjoy any time the weather and water conditions are safe by kayak, snorkel or even scuba diving.

Reservations for the tour can be made at navarrebeachkayaktours.eventbrite.com. Plan your vacation to include this unique adventure.

 

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The Borrow Bin

As a child growing up along the Gulf Coast, I loved building sand castles on Navarre Beach. As a tot I would splash through the surf to collect shells to decorate my sandy creations.

But to build these creations you need the tools of the trade and vacationing moms and dads frequently get roped into shelling out a pretty penny to buy buckets, shovels, sand molds and more. Walk into any store from Walmart to the Dollar Tree to even the Tom Thumb and odds are you will find a variety

No longer! At least not here on the Panhandle’s most beautiful beach. The pioneering folks at the Navarre Beach Sea Turtle Conservation Center have come up with a great idea to help visitors and the environment.

The Borrow Bin was created at the June 14 to allow visitors to recycle, rather than buy, beach toys.

In its first week the bin is already filled with toys found along the shoreline. According to county ordinance nothing but foot prints should be left on the beach at dusk.

But the toys are Plastics are one of the leading pollutants cleaned up from the beach, and among the empty bottles and lids, beach sand toys are a leading find. Plastics left on the beach are washed into the Gulf of Mexico where they are broken down into smaller and smaller pieces. But they never truly go away. Instead they become microplastics.

Microplastics pose a big threat to all sorts of marine life including colorful reef fish and sea turtles. These plastic pieces can often absorb toxins from the environment.

When animals like sea turtles or small fish mistake them for food, they eat them and leech the toxins into their system. The plastics can also cause obstructions in their digestive tract, tricking them into thinking they are full. This can cause them to starve to death.

By having a place for people to borrow and replace their plastic toys, the NBSTCC hopes to lower the number of toys being left behind. And it means a cost savings for visitors.

The 8 foot by 2 foot wooden Borrow Bin is located out front of the NBSTCC and open all day. It contains a variety of beach toy items including small plastic sand molds, brightly colored shovels, various-sized buckets, balls and even boogie boards. In addition to the items that are collected from beach cleanup, residents have also taken the time to donate items to the haul.

The one stipulation for using the free toys is you have to remove them from the beach at the end of the day.

It’s all part of the NBSTCC’s mission: “giving sea turtles more tomorrows.” Come build a sand castle with the toys from the Borrow Bin, and visit the NBSTCC’s resident sea turtle Gigi.

Reserve your Navarre Beach vacation today.

Snapper season extended in federal waters

Fisherman visiting Florida’s gulf coast will be happy to know that red snapper are still on the menu.

Federal waters have been opened up to recreational fishermen in the Gulf of Mexico for a longer period of time thanks to the joint efforts of the United States Department of Commerce and the five Gulf states.

These delicious, bright red reef dwellers are showing up in more abundant numbers and larger sizes than they have in years Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials reported.

Once set for an all-time low of only three days, the season now has an additional 39 days added to it. The extended season opened late last month and will be open on weekend days and holidays through Labor Day weekend.

The season will remain closed Monday through Thursday during that stretch, with the exception of July 3 and July 4 and Sept. 4. The federal season extension is the first in a decade.

Even if snapper (or off shore fishing) are not your thing, the Navarre Beach Fishing Pier offers fishermen a great opportunity to drop a line. As one of the longest piers in the Gulf of Mexico, this pier sports a variety of fish and quiet a history of successful casting.

Anglers frequently pull from the water king and Spanish mackerel, cobia, jack crevalle and more. Even inexperienced anglers can enjoy.

Come cast out on one of Florida’s best beaches.

Escape Zone 60 of Navarre

Walking into the room you are greeted by the sound of thunder as a storm rages outside the windows. All around there are photos of the magnificent magician Harry Houdini, chains, locked boxes and strange objects. Dangling precariously above a water tank and locked in chains is the cunning escape artist himself, raised from the dead.

But he’s not back among the living for long.

The clock on the wall instantly begins ticking down as you hear the heavy wooden doors click locked behind you and your team. As the seconds tick by, the magician’s head drops dangerously close to the water. You have just 60 minutes to find the clues, solve the puzzle and save Houdini from a watery grave.

Welcome to Escape Zone 60 of Navarre. This place is called an escape room, one of thousands of real-life immersion puzzles that are taking the nation, and the world, by storm.

The Navarre location opened its doors Memorial Day weekend and has already seen dozens of teams come through. It is the fifth escape room that Escape zone 60 has opened in the panhandle, and construction is currently underway for a second escape room at the Navarre location: Escape the Red Planet.

This room will have a Mars theme and is expected to opening any day now!

The key to escape room success is teamwork. The local room invites in a maximum of eight people with minimum teams being four people.

Anything can be a clue, and overlooking a detail can cost you the game. Solving these conundrums is no easy task. The average success rate for escape rooms is 41 percent, according to MarketWatch.com.

But don’t worry. Escape Zone 60 is great for newbies and avid escapers alike with a roughly 20 percent success rate.

Even if you don’t save Houdini, the memories are a victory in and of themselves.

Come try it out. You won’t be disappointed.

Sea turtle nesting season is here!

Florida Panhandle beaches are seeing dozens of nighttime visitors crawling onto the beach to dig their nests, leaving behind hundreds of round eggs with baby sea turtles inside, before disappearing back into the deep. This is the only time of year that sea turtles come ashore.

While it’s not new to have turtles burying their eggs in Navarre’s pure white sands between the months of May and October, the first nest of this nesting season was historic.

On Mother’s Day weekend Navarre Beach received its first ever leatherback sea turtle nest!

Leatherback sea turtles are special. These sea turtles are the biggest in the world. The largest ever recorded was 10 feet long and weighed more than 2,000 pounds.

Our local mama left tracks that were more than 7 feet wide! That means she probably weighed 800 pounds and measured 7 feet long from nose to tail. By comparison, the loggerhead sea turtles that frequent Navarre Beach average 3 feet long. Loggerhead eggs are usually the size of a ping pong ball, but leatherbacks lay eggs the size of billiard balls, roughly 80 per nest.

While most sea turtle species return to the beach where they were born to lay their eggs, leatherback females will migrate to new beaches for laying their eggs, traveling up to 3,000 miles from where they hatched which is likely how this mama landed at Navarre Beach.

She has been joined by three other nesting mamas on our shoreline including loggerhead sea turtles.

In about 65 days, these eggs will hatch, and the tiny turtles inside will dig for the surface and waddle their way to the water before swimming away to freedom.

While this is a time for celebration, it is also a time to be careful. That sprint to the Gulf of Mexico is fraught with danger. One scary statistic: It is estimated that only one in every thousand sea turtle hatchlings survive to adulthood. Many sea turtle species are vulnerable, threatened or endangered.

But you can help.

Visitors to the panhandle’s beautiful beaches can make their vacation #cleandarkflat to protect sea turtles. Here’s the breakdown:

  • Clean up the beach. Take your beach chairs, blankets, garbage and other items off the beach at night fall. These items can trip up or trap turtles.
  • Dark is good for turtles. Turn off unnecessary lights at night and pull curtains closed. Artificial light can disorient the nesting mamas as well as hatchlings.
  • Flat sand is best. Sand castles and holes can be death traps for sea turtle hatchlings.

If you are lucky you may even spot a nesting turtle or a hatching nest of baby turtles. If you do, keep your distance, don’t use flash photography and enjoy a once in a lifetime experience here on Navarre Beach.

To learn more, visit the Navarre Beach Sea Turtle Conservation Center and meet their resident loggerhead sea turtle Gigi. This team of dedicated volunteers really knows their stuff.

Book your vacation today.