By Lucia Casaleno
Photos by Macy Oteri
Well ladies and gentlemen, I’ve found it, the best possible way to start your day; on an eco-tour by Dak’s Kayaks. On a sunshine-filled early morning under the 34th Street Bridge at the launching dock, sisters Allison and Caroline Hartman, along with new tour guide Shane Dooner, greeted me. These locals love being out on the water and sharing their knowledge of our local ecosystem with others. Allison, along with Shane, led the tour. Allison is a marine biology major at Stockton University.
“My number one priority while giving a tour is safety, of course. But secondly, it’s giving people a chance to see, not disturb, the wildlife,” said Allison.
Allison taught us about the environment and she shared her knowledge with an excitement that rubbed off on all of us.
“It’s important for people to know and enjoy what’s in their very own backyard,” Allison said.
Before we headed out onto the intercoastal route Upland Thorofare, (around Crook Horn Creek) on the bay, we were given a crash course on how to paddle our kayaks. Taking the tour with me that day was a visiting couple from Pennsylvania who were kayaking for the first time and two college students. This mini info session was a good refresher even for experienced kayakers and makes an eco-tour accessible for everyone, from a large family of new kayakers to an experienced person who wants to learn more about the local wildlife, or just about anyone who wants to add some adventure into their life.
A Dak’s eco-tour gets you up close and personal to the back bays of Ocean City and all the beautiful nature they have to offer. They also provide the kayak and lifejacket.
“We also encourage people to BYOK (bring your own kayak) if you’re more comfortable with it,” Caroline said.
As we entered the water we resembled cute yellow marshmallows in our bright colored life jackets, but hey, safety always comes first! Our tour that morning took two hours and was a beautiful and relaxing experience. One of topics I learned most about was all the types of birds that inhabit Ocean City. Yes, there are other ones besides those pesky french-fry-stealing seagulls, that are actually called laughing gulls. It was amazing to see herons, ospreys and willits (just to name a few) up close and learn about them from a knowledgable guide. Allison taught us how each bird gets their food, and their types of calls. I’m able to identify a few of the birds around the island now just by the sound they make. Growing up in Ocean City I thought I knew about most of the animals we have on the island, but this eco-tour opened my eyes to a whole new crew.
Did you know that mussels are what keep the bay grass together? I sure didn’t! It is important that they do, and we got to see how they do it. Not only did we see the mussels up close… I also got to hold a mud snail.
Who’s laughing now seagulls?
Since the tide was on our side that day, we made a detour into a part of the water where the turtles like to hang out. Whoever started the rumor about turtles being slow was wrong. These guys were popping their heads in and out of the water so quickly if you blinked you would have missed them. They looked like little thumbs sticking out of the water.
Interacting with the animals was really special, and enjoying the company of people you meet on the tour was just as awesome. And I got an arm work out free of charge. The fresh and salt water route we paddled on was so amazing I couldn’t help but think to myself, how lucky that I live in a place that has so much beauty to offer.
It was also cool to get a different view of the bay from the usual aerial view that you get while going over the 34th Street Bridge. It’s stunning no matter where you look at it. As we finished up the tour and became land lovers again, there was a mutual agreement that we learned, enjoyed, relaxed, and had a great time on our eco-tour by Dak’s. The tours can be anywhere from one person to more than 30.
Dak’s can be reached at 609-938-1185 or visit them at their store on 11th and Asbury.