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By: Nancy Latimer
Venture Outdoors may be a nonprofit with volunteer Trip Leaders, but it’s not a rinky dink operation. Venture Outdoors has rigorous training to ensure that all Trip Leaders follow the same format including the planning, the introduction, the safety, and the experience. Recently, I was on vacation in southwest Florida and went on an Everglades kayak tour with a commercial outfitter. Many of the Venture Outdoors checklist items were the same as my Everglades trip, but Venture Outdoors covered things more thoroughly. I was impressed that Venture Outdoors trips are on par or better! Read on for the details.
I booked a three-hour Everglades kayaking tour with a reputable outfitter. They had excellent reviews on Trip Advisor. The trip cost three times the cost of a similar Venture Outdoors kayak trip. Like Venture Outdoors, it was a fully supported trip with the guide and her assistant. She supplied all the necessary equipment, kayaks, and PFDs. She also supplied water and snacks which is not a requirement for Venture Outdoors trips, but which many Leaders provide. So far, score one for Venture Outdoors for an economical price.
When I booked the trip, the owner was very responsive and gave detailed instructions on what to wear, what to bring, and what to expect. Like going on an outing with Venture Outdoors, I felt very prepared. We met at a nearby park and caravanned to the launch site. The guide introduced the trip with a map. No safety talk or paddle talk, although the four participants had kayak experience. No medical talk (I’m attentive to this since I have a severe bee allergy and carry an Epipen.) No introductions of participants. Being the Venture Outdoors person, I am I had introduced myself. Score three for Venture Outdoors, for the safety talk, the paddle talk, and the introductions.
We launched without incident into a calm pond with gators floating here and there, eyeing us. The sun was just rising, the water was like glass, and the birds were waking up. It was spectacular. There was some safety talk on the water as we met alligators. The guide stopped often to give facts and introduce the next section. This was similar to Venture Outdoors trips. Volunteer Trip Leaders are very knowledgeable. TIE!
We paddled through the mangroves, passing beautiful flora and fauna specimens. The Everglades has the largest population of bromeliads in North America and our trip didn’t disappoint. These are commonly known as “airplants” at the local Home Depot. My favorite thing was the mirror-like reflections of the vibrant greenery on the glassy water, magnificent. The Outfitter was great at identifying everything, giving history, and taking photos. As a Trip Leader I always try to take photos, but with all my responsibilities, I struggle. Thankfully Venture Outdoors has started adding a photographer on trips. That’s a plus for me (and you.) Score one for the Outfitter.
We ended the trip on time and the Outfitter sent us copies of her photos. Venture Outdoors often posts them on the Flickr site, but not quite as user friendly. Score one for the Outfitter.
In conclusion, Venture Outdoors is as professional an outdoor experience as a commercial Outfitter at a much better price!