Day 4 - Sea and Mangrove Tunnels Kayak Tour After a slightly better night, with only a couple of restless moments, I actually manage to stay asleep until my phone alarm wakes us at 5:45am. We dress and walk out to catch the sunrise, but, missing our normal exercise regime at home, we power walk 4 miles along the beach and back. It looks like another cracking day ahead. We're rather sweaty, so return to the cottage briefly to freshen up before heading the short distance to (you've guessed it!) the Village Cafe once more. There doesn't seem much point trying other breakfast venues when we've been completely satisfied here. We are a bit later than 'normal' and it is 7:30 as we take our usual table. We feel like regulars already! While waiting for our drinks, my attention is drawn to a shrub next to the table. It has curiously shaped leaves.....!!! Today Amanda goes for a fruit bowl with a toasted English muffin, and I try the Siesta Key oatmeal (basically porridge with fruit and yoghurt) also with muffin. Not had time for a coffee thus far today, so I have one with my orange juice. Another lovely breakfast, and pretty healthy too! $25, left $30. We head home and shower. Today we have reservations for a 2.5 hour guided kayak tour from neighbouring South Lido Key, through Sea Life Kayak Adventures ( http://sealifekayak.com ). There are a few different companies operating tours in the area, but we were impressed by the reviews for this outfit, as they seemed to uniquely run tours with smaller groups. Having set a sat nav destination in my phone we head off at 8:45. The journey should only take 20-25 minutes giving us plenty of time to arrive by 9:15 for a 9:30 start time. Ha! Little did we know! As we drive off Siesta Key via the northern bridge, I spot a side road, heading north, that I recall from previous visits as a potential shortcut, avoiding congestion on the main road ahead. We take the turn, but the sat nav loses the plot and, when landmarks become unrecognisable we end up in downtown Sarasota stuck in a one way system during rush-hour! A couple of u-turns later we do rediscover the correct way onto the bridge across to South Lido, but I compound the error by flying past the turning we need for Taft Drive and end up heading north along the Key for a couple of miles. I'm sweating now. It's fast approaching 9:30. Amanda tries to call the tour operator's office but my phone won't pick up a signal! I fly into the car park at 9:35 and we run down to the water's edge looking for 'Chris' our guide. There are several companies and guides clustered around the lagoon’s one access point, with different groups of tour guests, so it takes a few more minutes to identify Chris. Fortunately there seems to have been plenty of confusion elsewhere this morning, and we are not the last to arrive. Phew! Chris and an assistant (they both look like they're related to Bear Grylls, serous outdoor types with faded jungle gear, well-worn Tilley hats and mahogany tans) go back to their vehicle and trailer to fetch a couple more kayaks. I take the opportunity to sneak into the undergrowth to relieve my worried bladder, assuming that 2.5 hours in a kayak might be more than my usual limit! (In the panic of our late arrival I didn't notice there were restrooms at the car park entrance!) Everything is eventually sorted. Amanda and I choose separate kayaks - the guides call the tandem ones "divorce boats" due to the potential for conflict between partners trying to coordinate their paddles! Our group consists of 10 craft, 4 of them tandems. Of these, two are mum-plus-young son, dad-plus-young daughter, and a pair of plus-sized, elderly American ladies. Only the final kayak holds a husband/wife pairing. I make a note to keep an eye on their progress! After launching, we clumsily maneuver to cluster around Chris for basic tuition, safety and tour information before setting off across the wide bay, looking for manatee and dolphins. Cormorants appear around us and constantly dive under the boats, coming very close to climbing aboard at times. Chris informs us that they use the shadow under the boat as cover, allowing them to sneak up on fish below. Clever birds! They regularly appear with a fish, sometimes surprisingly large, but always manage to swallow them down before heading under for more. We spend the next hour or so sculling across and around the bay, but fail to see any marine mammals, other than the surface wake created by a fast-moving manatee swimming some metres down. Other groups and guides we pass report the same lack of results - it's very hit and miss, apparently - some days pods of dolphins and individual manatees appear in profusion, but not today. However, it's very pleasant out here and we love the experience. The married couple appear competent in their paddle coordination, and seem to be avoiding the divorce lawyers so far! The parent and child combos are also getting along fine, due mainly to the simple fact that the kids aren't paddling at all! However, the two ladies are in mild chaos for much of the tour, clashing paddles and repeatedly veering into other guests' craft! It's all taken in good humour though, and no one is offended or injured! Chris takes us past some stunning bayside houses on St Armands Key, pointing out where celebrities like Jerry Springer, Judge Judy and Martini Navratilova live. We turn and head back towards the key, bordered thickly on the water's edge by mangrove trees. Chris explains that the tunnels we are about to explore are man-made, cut in the 1950s to allow seawater into the freshwater lagoon, as a mosquito prevention tactic, so the rich residents wouldn't get bitten by bugs. Apparently they only breed in fresh water. This wouldn't be allowed today, incidentally, as mangroves are nationally protected. He asks if anyone is scared of spiders - a couple of people are - before telling us that the 'spiders' we will see crawling over the mangrove branches are in fact black land crabs and completely harmless. There won't be any alligators either, he advises, in answer to a nervous enquiry, as they too only live in fresh water.