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Wildlife on Kayak Tours in Sarasota Bay

manatee swimming upside down at the surface of blue water

Looking for a great way to see wildlife in their natural habitat?  Join us on a kayak or paddleboard tour on Lido Key or Siesta Key!

manatee swimming upside down at the surface of blue water

We are so lucky to live in Sarasota, Florida with the  stunning beaches, crystal-clear waters, and abundant wildlife.  One of the best ways to really see the area is on a kayak or paddleboard tour, allowing you to see animals in their natural habitat. With a variety of tour options available, you can explore the mangrove tunnels, bird rookeries, and shallow bays while immersing yourself in the local wildlife.

Everyone always asks about the wildlife that we may encounter on our kayak and paddleboard tours.  While we can never guarantee any sightings, we are pretty lucky with all kinds of cool critters regularly seen. woman stand up paddlboarding with a dolphin in the distance

What kinds of wildlife will I see on my kayak tour at Lido Key or Siesta Key?

  1. Manatees: These gentle giants are one of the most beloved creatures in Florida waters. They are herbivorous and can be seen grazing on seagrass beds in shallow bays. Manatees are slow-moving and often come up for air, making them easy to spot during a kayak or paddleboard tour. They are very friendly and curious and love to come over and say hello. Best times to see manatees in Sarasota waters is March-November.
  2. Dolphins: Sarasota Bay is home to a resident population of bottlenose dolphins. These intelligent mammals are playful and curious and can often be seen swimming alongside kayaks and paddleboards. If you’re lucky, you might even witness a dolphin feeding frenzy.  Not only do the dolphins feed around the kayak tours, they have also been seen out surfing during our lessons.  They are very fun!
  3. Sea turtles: Although rare to see, Sarasota is home to several species of sea turtles- including the loggerhead, green, and Kemp’s ridley. During nesting season (May through October), you may see females laying their eggs on the beaches, while hatchlings emerge from their nests and make their way to the ocean.  Very occasionally, we have seen hatchlings (baby turtles) that have lost their way and are hiding out in the bays.  In these situations, it is best to call Mote Marine to help the hatchling get where it needs to be.
  4. Birds: Sarasota is a birdwatcher’s paradise, with over 300 species of birds found in the area. Some of the most common birds you may see during your tour include ospreys, pelicans, herons, egrets, and ibises. You may even spot the elusive roseate spoonbill, a bright pink wading bird.  Our tours at Siesta Key go around the Jim Neville preserve–a prominent bird rookery.  Bring your binoculars and your zoom lens for some great photos.
  5. Fish: The waters around Sarasota are teeming with a variety of fish species, including snook, redfish, tarpon, and spotted seatrout. If you’re lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of a ray or a shark.  Fishing is allowed at both of our launch sites.  Rent a kayak and bring your pole to take advantage of the abundance of Sarasota Bay.

Are there alligators at Lido Key or Siesta Key?

No, alligators prefer freshwater and both areas are salt water in Sarasota Bay.  In the past, the occasional alligator has visited the Siesta Key location but they don’t stay long.  We have never (in 12 years) seen an alligator at the Lido Mangrove Tunnel location at Ted Sperling park.

an egret standing in shallow water at the mangrove tunnels

From manatees and dolphins to fish and birds, you never know what you might see when you come and explore either the Lido Mangrove Tunnels or Turtle Beach with us.










  • Self-Guided Tours
From $45

Paddle Siesta Key! Away from all the hustle and bustle of Siesta Key, is our favorite local beach, Turtle Beach.

From our launch, you can paddle down the intercoastal, around acres of mangrove islands.  Take the kayaks and ashore at Midnight Pass and spend time exploring the beach.  This is a great place to look for shells, take a dip in the ocean or just relax.  With our rentals, you have plenty of time.



  • Most Popular!
From $55

Turtle Beach is a great place to paddle! We start on the intercostal and paddle down a short canal to the Bay. We paddle around the mangrove islands of Jim Neville Marine Preserve and then through a few mangrove tunnels to a “secret” beach.  This beach is only accessible by boat so we may have it to ourselves.  Such a beautiful place for a quick swim or just stopping for a few moments to relax.