The Mote Aquarium Boat Tours – Sarasota Bay Explorers Sea Life Encounter Cruise Review!

by on Friday, June 7th, 2013

The Sarasota Bay Explorers work in conjunction with The Mote Aquarium, to provide fantastic in-the-water action.

I don’t think your trip to the Mote is complete until you’ve taken part in one of these boat cruises, seriously!

This past weekend I got to experience The Sea Life Encounter Cruise. (They also offer a Nature Safari, Guided Kayak Tours, or the chance to have a private boat charter for the day to explore the area and its islands.)

The Sea Life Encounter was educational AND fun. It was really interactive, too. We went around the Sarasota Bay, with a boat captain who is U.S. Coast Guard certified, a Mote volunteer, and a marine biologist.


It was about an hour and a half. The biologist, Keeli was ours, narrates the tour. You are encouraged to get up and walk around, and to point out any dolphins you see in the bay. Although they have hundreds, we didn’t seem to spot any…nor any manatee’s. But we did see tons of birds, and plenty of cool houses… including one owned by Jerry Springer, one with web cams, one with a tennis court on the roof, and one owned by a member of ACDC who has a guitar-shaped pool. All of them were fancy!

The highlights of the Sea Life Encounter tour:

  1. Going on an island to see some red and black mangrove trees up close, and learning some history of the area.
  2. Going past the bird rookeries, which have SO many cool birds, and nests with babies.
  3. Pulling a trawl net through a small section of the Bay and then getting to see everything there! They have different tanks and salt water jars so you can get a good look of each different species. In our net there were sea sponges with tiny starfish, a saltwater catfish, pig fish (who we HEARD OINK, living up to the name!), file fish, black sea bass, 2 starfishes (and we had a small group so we all got to get our pinkies hugged by them!) and even more! They don’t just let you see them up close, they let you handle and touch them!

If you have questions, you can just ask your guide or the marine biologist. They are super friendly and open to talking about anything you’re seeing. I loved the casual atmosphere. Safety is stressed, of course. The only thing I wished I’d known was that you will get a little wet/dirty if you stand near the edge of the boat, or decide to do the touching portion for the sea life. I just hadn’t expected any of that. But you really do get to be involved! Other than that, it was really cool to be on the water with the breeze, going under bridges, and seeing the Sarasota skyline.

My other wish is that we would have caught even more sealife (sometimes they have puffer fish, crabs, sting rays…) and that we would have seen dolphins! (I’m such a dolphin nerd!)

Best yet, this is good for any ages! I really loved this experience, and felt like it really let me feel connected to the wildlife in Florida in a very special way.

I even got a chance to ask our guide about a bird I’d seen in a pond below where I’m staying. She told me it was an Anhinga, nicknamed the “snake bird.” (Every time I see it in the water, my heart stops because I think it’s a snake!)

Feeling like I learned a lot about wildlife without ever feeling like I was being force-fed facts was a really great aspect of the tour. (I learned that black mangrove trees absorb the salt, and it comes out in their leaves. And Indians used to flavor their food with the black mangrove leaves. I also learned that citrus trees are an EXOTIC to Florida, they’re not a native plant!)

I 100% recommend the Sarasota Bay Explorers Boat Cruises offered at The Mote Aquarium.

For More: Sarasota Bay Explorers

Disclaimer: Tickets provided in exchange for honest review.

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