Sadly we had no Rum Punch for the paddle. We paddled with Tom (owner and guide) on Thursday after Ash Wednesday. The inhabitants of Kaibo had celebrated "Mardi" Gras on Mecredi and some enterprising revelers had broken into his lock box and stolen the rum. There was a strong wind blowing from the mangroves back towards Kaibo. Tom had a large group scheduled for the evening, and was visibly upset with the break-in. He advised us all that the wind would make the initial paddle difficult and that he had no punch for the return trip. Six of us decided to go anyway. One large group decided their paddling skills were not up to the adventure and left.
Tom has 2 solo kayaks and a large number of Wilderness System Tarpon 13.0T tandem "Divorce boats" (as he calls them). He paddles one of the solo boats and uses the other if there is a group with an odd number of people. These are open kayaks, with straps for dry bags or other gear, seat backs and holes in the bottom to let the water out. There are also cup holder holes. We did get wet on the way to the mangroves as we paddled into the 1-1.5 foot (30-45cm) swells. We were told the paddle into the wind would likely take 15-20 minutes, but I believe it was only about 10 for the 3 experienced paddling pairs on our trip. Tom was careful to provide some initial safety and technique instruction. I was also pleased to see that he insisted we all actually wear the PFDs.
Once we reached the red mangroves the wind and waves were no longer a factor and the tour began in earnest. Tom showed us sponges, mangrove oysters, sea urchins, jelly fish, a star fish, and looked for lobsters without success. He talked about the plants, gave us great information about the mangroves and their importance to the island. We saw the red mangroves mostly, but also saw a black mangrove. One of our group found a snail we were able to pass around as well.
The return trip was with the wind at our backs. Tom had us raft together and told us to imagine we were relaxing and enjoying our Rum Punch. The sun was setting over Kaibo and the drift back was very pleasant.
I would highly recommend this trip for anyone interested in a little exercise, who is interested in learning about the flora and fauna of the island. Tom operates out of Georgetown as well, so the trip is accessible to those of you staying around 7 Mile Beach. The mangroves are bigger near Georgetown, since they get more rain there. Tom told us there were more critters near Kaibo. Cayman Kayaks has 2 other trips as well. One is a day time tour of the mangroves which lasts a bit longer than the sunset tour. The other is a night-time tour; one of the other couples on our tour said it was fabulous.
Tom takes Friday off and alternates his tours between the 2 locations. I think he is the only guide right now. He has owned the business for about 2 years, and was a guide for the previous owners before that.
Tom had offered to do the tour for free, because of the wind and the lack of Rum Punch. All of the people on our tour felt we still got sufficient value from the tour that we paid him anyway. I would not say we did not miss the Punch, but the trip was a great trip even without that added perk.
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