Tips for Kayaking Around Alligators [What To Know]

If you enjoy kayaking, you may wonder about extending your activity into the hours of darkness. Florida has some fantastic spots for kayaking, and surely they’d be even more magical under the moonlight. But you may have concerns about alligators or legal requirements. So can you kayak at night in Florida?

You can kayak at night in Florida, provided you follow the necessary safety precautions. In addition, several tour companies offer night tours, particularly along the Space Coast of central Florida, where you can witness spectacular bioluminescence. There are also tours available in the Everglades.

With several tour companies offering moonlight tours in the Sunshine State, it is clear that you can kayak at night here and experience bioluminescence or the Everglades under the lights of the Milky Way. 

However, you must know how to stay safe. Here’s a guide to kayaking at night in Florida.

Kayaking At Night In Florida Lets You See Bioluminescence

If you are going to kayak at night in Florida, consider joining a tour along the Space Coast of central Florida. Here the waters of Mosquito Lagoon, Banana River, and Indian River Lagoon shimmer with the frosty blue light of bioluminescence. Billions of microscopic dinoflagellates and sometimes comb jellies cause the blue light.

These marine organisms create light through biochemical reactions inside their bodies, and when any movement excites them, they shine with the characteristic blue light. The splashing of your paddles and hands trailed in the water creates the effect, as do the sea creatures around you.

Mullet shoot through the water like bottle rockets and jump in trails of blue fire, and leaping dolphins become fairy tale creatures. Manatees stirring sleepily in the water below your craft create explosions of mystical blue. 

Overhead are the blazing stars of the Milky Way. It is a truly magical experience.

Numerous tour guide operators in this part of Florida know all the ins and outs of giving you an unforgettable experience with bioluminescence. The phenomenon is at its best between June and October, so if you are in Florida for summer vacation, you should not miss out on this opportunity.

Wear lightweight clothes that cover your limbs and apply bug repellent: these balmy summer nights draw lots of insect pests.

Bioluminescence shows up best on dark nights, so new moon nights are especially popular for these tours. Unfortunately, that means crowds. 

For dark nights that aren’t too crowded, book for one of the nights leading up to the new moon, when the moon is in its last quarter.

Florida Offers Other Magical Night Kayaking Experiences

Some companies also offer kayak tours of Everglades waters at night, which allows you to paddle in the cool of night under millions of stars without light pollution interfering and see hundreds of alligators. You may even float through a mangrove tunnel in a spooky but safe experience.

Alternatively, take a night tour of Winter Park’s Chain of Lakes, down the Little Manatee River, or kayak at night in Key West to see marine life.

If you aren’t an experienced paddler, we recommend joining a tour. But for out-of-state experienced paddlers who want to go exploring on their own, we recommend speaking with local paddlers for tips about local conditions, sights to see, safe places to put in, and so forth, on one of these Facebook groups:

How To Stay Safe Kayaking At Night

To stay safe when kayaking at night, you should obey the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the US Coast Guard regulations. 

While you don’t need to register a non-motorized kayak and don’t need a license to operate one, you should behave responsibly.

Never drink and go boating. If your blood alcohol level is 0.08 percent or more (0.02 percent more if you’re under 21), you will be considered boating under the influence (BUI), which carries the same penalties as driving under the influence.

Apart from the legal trouble, you could get into, alcohol harms your ability to make good decisions, and you could end up doing something stupid while under the influence. For example, doing so while operating a boat, even as small as a kayak, could lead to severe consequences.

The FWC requires everyone aboard a vessel under 16 feet, including kayaks, to wear a class I, II, or III personal flotation device (PFD) while the boat is underway. 

These are all types of wearable life jackets. Not only is it the law, but if you come off your kayak, a life jacket could save your life. Wear one.

From sunset to sunrise i. e. when kayaking at night in coastal waters, you must carry three visual distress signals (flares or glow sticks) in the event of an emergency. 

These are not required on inland waters. You must also take a sound-producing device such as a horn, whistle, or bell. 

The USCG requires all vessels under oars, a class that includes kayaks, to carry a flashlight or lantern capable of producing a white light in sufficient time to prevent a collision. 

Carrying a flashlight should be a bare minimum precaution, and sensible night kayakers install a white stern light, red port light, and green starboard light as required for sailing vessels. 

Doing so allows larger vessels to see you easily and know which way you are facing.

How To Avoid Predators When Kayaking At Night

Although you may be concerned about predator activity when kayaking at night because alligators and sharks are more active in the hours of darkness, the reality is that both these types of animals are shy creatures that rarely attack humans.

To stay safe from alligators, leave them alone. Avoid vegetation-choked water bodies where you may run into alligator nests. Mother alligators will get aggressive in defense of their nests, and male alligators may also be aggressive during mating season.

If you are kayak fishing, avoid accidentally feeding alligators by putting fish scraps into trash cans rather than throwing them into the water. 

Feeding alligators will cause them to associate humans with food, becoming bolder and potentially dangerous. Also, do not leave your kayak to swim during darkness, as you will share the water with feeding alligators.

Staying safe from sharks means avoiding anywhere where fish scraps are tossed into the water and avoiding cloudy river mouths. 

Do not leave your kayak to swim around dusk and dawn, as these are the times when sharks are most actively feeding. If a shark gets overly curious, use your paddle to smack it on its sensitive snout.

Final Word

You can kayak at night in Florida, and do so safely, provided you follow basic precautions. Join a guided tour to see the Everglades at night under millions of blazing stars, or book a tour on the Space Coast to witness the spectacular light displays of the bioluminescent organisms.

Kayaking at night in Florida is an experience you will treasure for the rest of your life.

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