Distance: 6.3 miles
Duration: 2:30 h.
From the Flamingo marina you can follow the sea coast East towards the Snake Bight. We didn’t see any dolphins or manatees, just the occasional fish jumping out of the water. However, we did see a pod of manatees the next morning inside the marina! A group of 4 to 6 manatees were enjoying the warmer waters of the marina. These mammals are not really exciting but if you need to check them off of you endangered species list, this is probably the most probable spot to find them. You would see a round nose popping out of the murky water. Most likely you will hear the noise when the breath out and see the small waves the leave behind when they submerge. We were lucky since they were only 10 feet away from the docks and we could even identify their tiny black eyes.
On the marina we could also see a crocodile next to the dam separating the sea from the channel next to the boat rental office. He seems to be a local. Approach him very carefully. As soon as he sees you looming over the hand rail, he will flea with a splash.
For the canoe trip, we followed the coast for about 3.15 miles out. The mangrove forest here is much taller than in the brackish waters of the Hell's Bay water trail. Flocks and flocks of white and brown pelicans, blue herons, white egrets, cormorants and many other species were enjoying the afternoon sun perched from the branches overlooking the calm waters. They feel safe up on the trees and you can get quite close to them with a canoe. About 1.5 miles from the marina is Christian Point where you turn North and see the mud flat in the distance. We only identified the white tiny spots in the distance as pelicans when we paddle for another mile. The mud flats are so shallow that even the canoe cannot get close to the shore. That's where the major concentration of birds is. On top of the species mentioned before we also saw some black skimmers and some kind of guitar fish escaping from our monster canoe.
On the way back, as the sun was getting lower, the mosquitos appeared but only bothered us when we paddled close to the mangroves.
This trail can be combined with the Hell's Bay water trail. For lots of birds, just walk around the Echo pond (close to the Flamingo Visitor Center) at sunrise or sunset. You will see lots of ibis, roseate spoonbills, pelicans, egrets, herons, king fishers and even a nesting couple of ospreys. The concentration of birds is amazing and at close range. The central island of the pond offers them a safety distance and they were not afraid of us at the shore.
Another area you cannot miss is road 94 in the neighboring Big Cypress Wilderness Area. This dirt road teams with life at every single vegetation clearing. Not only the cypress forest growing in the swamps is a beautiful image but the alligators basking in the sun on the road side and the myriad of birds offer incredible photographic opportunities, especially in the morning when the sun illuminates the swamp. It just feels right to see herons fishing between the cypress knees while the gators float still or slither away without disturbing the glassy surface.