For South Floridians, kayaking is an activity that many have participated in at least once, but few can say they’ve done it under a full moon.
The tour launches you off into the lagoon near the center and depending on how large the group is, there can be a few guides to lead the group on the journey. The tour welcomes kayakers of all levels, including first-timers to the activity.
Frank Fernandez, who has been kayaking for over 20 years and is a guide for the full moon tour, said he loves when people are a little hesitant at first, because when they see the Miami skyline, their worries disappear.
Frank Fernandez reinforces the kayaks for the full moon tour before guests arrive.
“To be able to paddle your own boat onto Biscayne Bay and actually enjoy the city of Miami as it lights up and then as we turn around to see that beautiful super moon rise over the horizon, it’s just a magical experience,” said Fernandez.
Before guests even get in the kayaks, a thorough safety walk-through is conducted by the guides along with a showing of the route guests will be taking to make sure they avoid The Bill Sadowski Critical Wildlife Area.
The Bill Sadowski Critical Wildlife Area was first established in 1990 and expanded in 1993 as a bird, seagrass and manatee sanctuary in the heart of northern Biscayne Bay. The area remains a year-round no-entry zone and, therefore, is heavily monitored by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, law enforcement and other marine patrol agencies.
For the tour you can, “BYOK”, bring your own kayak or paddleboard, but the center offers rentals. Single kayaks for $45, double kayaks for $75, and stand-up paddleboards for $45. If you bring your own boat, the tour will cost $25.
After guests receive their life jackets, light-up lanterns, and kayaks it’s time to take off into the bay. The group paddles to Norris Cut and either hangs out by the beachside or the port.
Emily Barrett was on vacation with her family and didn’t even realize that there was going to be a full moon when she booked the excursion.
“I think yes, a full moon definitely attracts people, but I feel like I want to see all of the lights. I want to see the city lit up you know when it’s dark and you’re out there. The moonlight captures the ocean,” Barrett said.
After the sun sets, kayakers are encouraged to take pictures of the Miami skyline and wait as the moon begins to rise in the other direction.
“I’ve done a few of these full moon tours and when I get out there it puts me in a good mood,” a second kayak guide, Bailey Ross, said. “I think it’s quite contagious and when you have a bunch of people enjoying a cool natural phenomenon that we get to see once or so a month, it puts everybody in good spirits.”
Even though spirits were high, the Virginia Key Outdoor Center has been in a whirlwind for the past month with the City of Miami.
As of Aug. 17, the City of Miami has terminated its lease with the Virginia Key Outdoor Center and now they have until Sept. 13 to get out.
(1/3) Please read thread regarding the Virginia Key Outdoor Ctr: Today, @vkocfl was shut down for several code violations including operating w/o a Certificate of Use (CU) or a Business Tax Receipt (BTR). Both documents are required to operate a water-related business in the city
— City of Miami (@CityofMiami)
“I’m toward the end of my lease. The city had a right to get rid of me if that’s what they wanted to do, but the way that they’re doing it, the way they are going about it,” said Esther Alonso, the owner of the Virginia Key Outdoor Center. “I mean, I’m a kayak shop, and they’re like prosecuting me through Twitter at 10:30 at night on a Friday.”
Alonso believes the timing of this shutdown is no coincidence. She has been vocal about her opposition to the homeless encampment proposal, spearheaded by Commissioner Joe Carollo, to build 50-100 tiny homes for the homeless on Virginia Key.
The issue is gaining traction on social media, with some accusing the commissioner of retaliation and using the city’s code enforcement department to shut down the outdoor center.
NBC 6 will continue to provide updates on the next steps for the Virginia Key Outdoor Center.
This content was originally published here.