Florida wildlife can be seen all around the Indian River Lagoon, but you have a much better chance of seeing animals without disturbing them when using kayaks and paddle boards. The wildlife we are most excited to see at 321 is often shy or easily startled, so the engine-less kayaks and paddle boards give us an opportunity to get up close with Florida wildlife without being too noisy!
We’ve been spotting dolphins, manatees, birds, and a variety of other animals from our boats for years, but the recent addition of kayak rentals and paddle board rentals at 321 has taken our wildlife spotting to another level. Read on to learn our best tips for seeing spectacular marine life on Melbourne’s Indian River Lagoon.
Know Your Target: Dolphins, Wading Birds, and More
A great first step in a successful wildlife spotting tour involves knowing a bit about the animal you’re hoping to observe or photograph. One of the most popular animals to watch at 321 is the dolphin, and these friendly creatures are probably seeking you out as well! They love to observe the behavior of humans, including paddlers and kayakers, and seem to be as captivated by us as we are by them. Interacting with wild dolphins is an unforgettable experience, and Melbourne, FL is one of the best locations in the world to do it.
Speaking of the benefits of the Indian River area, the water here is spectacularly clear, so you’ll be able to enjoy viewing fish, crabs, seahorses, and other creatures in their underwater world just as easily as you can view birds and Florida’s other terrestrial residents. It’s often easy to see straight through to the sea floor. If you’re planning on spotting the abundant aquatic life underwater, you may want to take a look at the water clarity conditions for the day while you’re checking on other aspects of the weather. Water clarity can be affected by factors like storms and surf stirring up sand in the water column, but more often than not, it’s the ideal environment for clear water.
Other wildlife won’t be so easy to find, as animals like birds are more likely to view your approach as threatening and sound the alarm, warning others in the area of your presence. By studying pictures and reading about the wildlife you’re hoping to find, you’ll be better equipped to know where and how to look for them, and how to approach them when you do find them. You can also check in with the staff at 321, as we’re always happy to guide you around the area. Our staff loves sharing their years of knowledge in fishing, dolphin cruising, bird photography, and more with customers and helping them get the most out of their day.
Get Your Kayak or Paddle Board on the Water
The next step is getting yourself on the water in a way that won’t scare away wildlife. Your kayak or paddle board offers a quiet and controlled approach, allowing you to move slowly to avoid startling animals. However, being quiet alone isn’t enough.
Seabirds and other prey animals often don’t appreciate being “snuck up on” and prefer you to approach slowly in a head-on manner rather than trying to surprise them. Try to approach slowly and intentionally, checking often to see how the animal is reacting to your presence.
If it’s your first time on a kayak or paddle board, wait up! You’re probably going to spend a few noisy minutes figuring out your balance and paddling before you get the hang of things. Practice paddling, turning, and stopping before you try to approach wildlife in areas with rocks or mangroves, because getting stuck is a quick way to stop the fun and scare away the animals!
Bring a Camera (and Snap Away!)
Once you’ve found wildlife, it’s time to take some pictures! But wait…you don’t want to scare the animals away or make them uncomfortable with your equipment.
First of all, if wildlife is within 100 feet of your boat, consider yourself lucky because wildlife can become spooked even at these distances! We recommend taking photos as you approach wildlife rather than trying to wait for “the perfect moment” to get your shot. This perfect moment may very well come, but in case your subject decides to flee before it does, you’ll still have other photos that you can crop and adjust later. We’re often surprised to find a real gem hidden in these approaching shots, and even if you only get a photo of a bird taking flight, it may be the most compelling photo of all!
Dolphins in particular are there and gone again in an instant, so we recommend snapping away as quickly as possible, deleting any underwhelming shots later.
Safety and Conservation First
If you love animals enough to want to observe them in their natural environment, we’re sure that you agree that their conservation is paramount. Please ensure that your wildlife spotting activities don’t disrupt the natural behavior and environment of our delicate wildlife. This includes leaving environments as you find them, not disturbing animals who are nesting or caring for their young, and refraining from touching or feeding wild animals.
Your safety is also incredibly important to us, and it’s never worth compromising for the sake of a photo or close encounter. Please remember that although friendly and gentle, animals like dolphins and manatees are still wild animals that can behave in unpredictable ways when they’re startled or frightened.
We hope that you take these guidelines to heart and have a wonderful wildlife-spotting experience at 321. As always, remember to practice safety first and let the wildlife be wild! Ready to start planning your wildlife spotting adventure with 321? You can book online now!