Frequently asked questions

What if I can't paddle the kayak?

You'll be fine! We don't use paddles! We have foot pedals to get us there! As long as one person on each kayak can move their legs (think: stairmaster motion), then the other person can be the designated tour photographer!

How long of a kayak ride is it?

Usually it takes around 25 minutes to reach our island destination, depending on the wind and currents!

Do you provide life vests?

Yes! Of course! USCG-approved life vests are available and required to be worn while kayaking.

Are the shells found in the water or on the shore?

The shells are found along the shoreline, in multiple wrack lines from the water's edge all the way up to the treeline sometimes! Sometimes we wade in knee-deep water looking for big shells, sometimes we go waist-deep - optional of course! Scoopers are not necessary although you're welcome to bring your preferred tools of the trade! Digging instruments can sometimes be useful when the shell piles are rather large! Depending on the season and temperature, I may bring snorkel masks on tour. If the water is clear and warm enough we may have the option of kayaking to a shallow snorkeling spot to swim and dive for shells as well!

Is this tour recommended for kids?

Children 6 and up are welcomed guests and usually excellent shellers! The terrain can be rough though, as it is not usually a white sandy beachfront but rather full of tree roots and stumps and sometimes slippery muck. Kids love that stuff, right?! You best know your child - if you think his or her attention span is game for shelling multiple hours and his or her physical abilities can handle the climate and terrain - then let the fun begin!

What's with all the panther crossing signs?

Florida's big cats are not predators to us - though humans have managed to dwindle the population of these creatures down to an estimated 200 now. The Florida Panther is considered to be endangered, and tracking data has shown the few panthers remaining are especially fond of travelling in or near the lands owned by the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve - which you may very likely drive through en route to our tour destination! With such a small panther population, a sighting would be very rare and special! But a panther vehicle fatality would be devasting as well - please drive carefully!

What are some Guest Requirements / Recommendations for this Tour?

Guests should be comfortable on the water and able to swim. Guests should be able to get in and out of the kayak with little to no assistance. Guests should have a moderate level of fitness. The combined weight of the two passengers in each kayak must not exceed 380 pounds (Guide weighs 150). Guests should be prepared to walk/hike at least 3/4 mile down the island (in water shoes). Guests should be fit enough to traverse the island's terrain (buried tree roots, stumps, branches, slippery muck) and contend with sometimes extreme conditions such as no shade, heat, humidity, and noseeums (biting insects). Guide provides water and snacks - Guest must make every effort to keep hydrated (drink plenty of water) and fueled (keep blood sugar levels where they need to be)! You'll need energy for shelling and also for kayaking your way back!

What Seasonal Conditions should Guests be aware of?

Summer: (March - October) Be aware that summer months lend themselves to sometimes extreme conditions such as:

  • Extreme Heat
  • Extreme Humidity
  • Extreme Sun (there is no shade on the kayak or on the island). Bring plenty of sunscreen.
  • Extreme Noseeums (biting insects) - though they usually are most problematic at sunrise and sunset. Guide provides insect repellent, but nothing is 100% effective against these critters.
Shelling in summer months is hard work. New shells are not rolling in. Shell hauls are not nearly as bountiful as winter months. Shells collected in summer months are more likely to be uncovered leftovers from winter storms rather than fresh deposits. Guests should be prepared to dig deep to uncover shells in summer months. Winter: (November - February) Be aware that winter months lend themselves to sometimes extreme conditions such as:
  • Extreme Cold (sometimes it gets down to 35 degrees!)
  • Extreme Sun (there is no shade on the kayak or on the island). Bring plenty of sunscreen.
  • Extreme Smell (freshly deposited shell piles can REEK!!) Your hands, clothes, etc. will smell for days. Vinegar is the only solution!
Shelling in winter months is easy! New shells roll in almost daily and most especially after a storm! Shell hauls are huge and amazing and will bring a tear to your eye! Shells collected in winter months are freshly deposited and easy to pluck right off the top of a pile. Guests should be prepared to scoop out the remains of deceased mollusks in shells which they wish to keep - this is not for the faint of heart! Note this only applies to deceased animals - there will be PLENTY of live shells everywhere - these are not to be collected!

What is the Weather/Cancellation Policy?

Fully refundable in the event of severe inclement weather, otherwise 3-Day notice must be received in order to honor your request to cancel. It is possible that it could rain during your Shell-venture (and most SWFL rain showers pass very quickly). This tour is a RAIN or SHINE activity; shelling is SAFE and FUN in the rain. By booking your experience you agree to our policy that refunds or rain checks are NOT given for wet, hot or cold weather. Tours may be cancelled in the event of SEVERE weather conditions such as lightning in close proximity or unnavigable waters due to high winds and waves. Tours launch on schedule. Guests agree to check-in with Guide at the boat ramp 15 minutes prior to scheduled launch time. Refunds or rain checks are NOT given for failure to arrive and/or check-in on time.

What are some nearby Accommodations?

While Marco Island is home to some world-class beach resorts like the JW Marriott, Hilton, and Marco Beach Ocean Resort. These resorts are super-close to the boat ramp; inquire with them if they provide shuttle service to Caxambas! But if that isn't your style or within your budget here are a few other ideas within a driveable distance:

Which is Better Shelling - Sunrise or Sunset Tours?

I'm glad you asked! Tours launch at either 7:30am (Sunrise) or 3pm/4pm (Sunset), and each has its pros! I only guide one tour per day, so if the morning option is booked first there will not be an afternoon option and vice a versa. Please message me your travel dates ahead of booking so that I can advise you which date has the more favorable tides! Shells can be found any time of day of course, but some time slots make finding better shells much more likely than others! Below are some generalities for you to consider! Pros of Sunrise Tours: - Early bird gets the worm! Or, in this case, first ones to the shelling spot tend to get the best shells! - No problem finding parking as you'll be among the first ones in the park! - Those sunrise views! - Our tour is done in the cooler hours of the day before the heat index fully escalates! - In Winter months, sunrise tours are our only option. And low tides in winter months occur very early in the morning. So, we get there and make a mad grab for shells right away because the water level will be rising on us the whole tour. Pros of Sunset Tours: - Sometimes, last one standing gets the best shells! - Parking stress is a bit alleviated this late in the day as most tours and charters have returned or will soon be returning! - Our tour is done in the cooler hours of the day, and the evening sea breeze is oh so nice! - Those sunset silhouette shots! - In Summer months, negative low tides usually occur near sunset time! So, we get there when the water level is kinda high but it rapidly goes out the whole tour - so that by the end the best shells might be revealed right before our eyes!

I forgot to bring Cash for a Tip, can I add a tip to the credit card used for booking?

Tips are NEVER expected, but always appreciated! If you feel led to tip your guide, a percentage or custom tip amount can now be charged to the credit card on file which you used to book the tour! Let me know after the tour if you would like to add a tip this way, your electronic signature on my tyablet is required! Alternatively, the venmo is @swflshellguide-ali - feel free to scan below: