Programs, Tours, and Events at Rookery Bay Reserve
Guided Kayak Tours
Two-hour guided kayak tours let you explore backwater bays and mangrove forests while you paddle lazily through the shallows and mazelike mangrove tunnels while learning about your surroundings from an experienced guide and naturalist. These tours, the only ones provided by an actual Rookery Bay Research Reserve staff member, provide opportunities to see wildlife such as wading birds, osprey, fish and dolphins. Pre-registration is required. Cost is $69, includes same day admission to the Environmental Learning Center. Offered every Tuesday through Friday.
Dec. 5 – 9, 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Art Class: Paint Portraits in Acrylic Create beautiful portraits in acrylic with Lee Hammond. Based on her painting books by North Light, Lee will show you how to achieve beautiful skin tones, hair and clothing. Lee Hammond is a police composite artist, holds licenses to paint pictures of NASCAR drivers, and has published more than 30 art instruction books that have sold more than one million copies. Now, she brings her passion to the Rookery Bay Reserve, where she teaches art classes each season. Pre-registration is required. Cost is $395, supplies are not included.
Dec. 9, 2 – 5 p.m.
Life’s A Beach Boat Tour This tour provides an opportunity to explore Keewaydin Island, a natural, living barrier island with an incredible diversity of life and some of the best shelling in Florida. Stroll the beach with your naturalist guide and learn about all the things you are seeing: specially adapted native plants, gastropods, bivalves, crustaceans, corals, sea squirts, snails, sponges, worms, fishes, birds, reptiles, and more. Participants must have the physical ability to step down into, and up from, the boat at a dock. Closed-toed shoes are recommended for the walk across the island (and can be removed on the beach). Pre-registration is required. Cost is $109, includes same day admission to the Environmental Learning Center. Also offered Dec. 20 and 22.
Dec. 10, 8 – 10 a.m.
Adventure Race Enjoy a 3k kayak along Henderson Creek and a 4k trail run at the Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center to benefit the Friends of Rookery Bay. All participants will receive a t-shirt, post-race refreshments, Rookery Bay water bottle, and free admission to the Environmental Learning Center and entry for door prizes. Awards will be presented to the top finishers in each category: men, women, relays, tandem teams and surfskis. Cost varies by category, registration is required.
Dec. 11, 12 or 13, 4 – 7 p.m.
Sunset to Starlight Cruise This one-of-a-kind tour takes place in the evening and is often (but not always) around the time of the full moon. Guests will visit a remote section of Keewaydin Island, renowned for its shell-strewn beaches and pastel sunsets. Stroll along and enjoy beachcombing until the magical moment when the sun sinks into the Gulf. As darkness gradually enfolds you, begin the leisurely return cruise through the back bays of the reserve, becoming immersed in the sights, sounds and sensations of night in a mangrove-forested estuary. If the tide permits, you will ease by the rookery island where hundreds of herons, egrets and ibis gather for the night. Participants must have the physical ability to step down into, and up from, the boat at a dock. Pre-registration is required. Cost is $109, includes same day admission to the Environmental Learning Center.
Dec. 12, 9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Essentials of Digital Photography Workshop This workshop helps photographers get the most out of their digital camera. Learn how to use the camera’s shutter, aperture, ISO control and the drive modes to create images with impact and creativity. No previous camera or photography experience is necessary, just a desire to learn. Sonny Saunders has over 35 years of experience in photography and instruction and is renowned for his ability to communicate to a wide variety of students. Cost is $55, registration is required.
Dec. 15, 2 – 5 p.m.
High Points Boat Tour Come along on this small boat cruise through back bays and winding creeks to visit a particularly unusual place in Rookery Bay Reserve. After disembarking, take a short hike to one of the highest points in Collier County, an ancient sand dune relic from the Pleistocene Era. Your naturalist guide will help you see and appreciate the geologic history of Sand Hill as you enjoy the remarkable view. You will also learn about the specially adapted trees, shrubs and wildflowers that survive in this coastal scrub ecosystem. This tour allows guests the opportunity to experience a place few visitors get to see. Participants must have the physical ability to get into and out of a boat tied to shore. Cost is $109, includes same day admission to the Environmental Learning Center. Also offered Dec. 30.
Dec. 16, 2 – 5 p.m.
Treasure Island Boat Tour The treasure on this interesting island isn’t gold, silver or pirates’ booty. It is the amazing ecological treasure of a rare tropical hardwood hammock. You will enjoy a leisurely boat trip through the estuary to the island, disembark, and hike about 1/2 mile on a primitive trail in a shaded forest dripping with ferns and bromeliads. Your naturalist guide will introduce you to the fascinating plants that make this community of life unique and will share interesting stories of how human history and coastal ecology intertwine. This tour requires the physical ability to step down into, and up from, the boat at a dock and walk 1/2 mile on uneven terrain. Cost is $109, includes same day admission to the Environmental Learning Center. Also offered Dec. 23, 28.
Dec. 17, 8 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Southwest Florida is a critical stopover site for thousands of migrating and wintering shorebirds. In this class, Adam DiNuovo of Audubon Florida will discuss the life history of these birds and the amazing journeys many of them make annually. Winter shorebirds are notoriously difficult to ID, so practicing the skills learned in this class is essential. You will learn how to use plumage, size, and behavior to help with identification. The classroom session will be followed by a trip to Tigertail Beach, one of the most important winter shorebird sites in Florida, where we will see many of the birds discussed. This class is geared toward those with some birding experience. Cost is $40, registration is required.
Dec. 21, 2 – 5 pm
Essence of Estuary Boat Tour Have you ever visited a place with the hope you might come away with a profound understanding of its essence rather than just a snapshot? This tour is designed to “get you there.” You will drift through the bays and backwaters of Rookery Bay Reserve, learning about plants and animals, but more importantly, how they fit into the complex tapestry of this special place we call an estuary. Bring your curiosity and be rewarded with discovery and insight. You will journey back in time and learn how human history and natural history intersect. Your guide adapts the tour to changes in weather, tides, and participants’ interests so no two tours are ever the same. Participants will be on the boat the entire time and must have the physical ability to step on and off of the boat at our dock. Cost is $109, registration is required. Also offered Dec. 26.
Dec. 26 (Monday) Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center is closed in honor of the Christmas holiday.
Jan. 2 (Monday) Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center is closed in honor of the New Year.
Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, adding Saturday hours October through April.
Enjoy two-story visitor center, film, art gallery, gift shop and nature trail with viewing platform. Themed naturalist programs offered daily on
topics such as manatees, sharks, sea turtles, marine life touch tank and more. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for kids 6 – 12, and free for kids
under 6 and Friends of Rookery Bay members 300 Tower Road, one mile south of the intersection of US41 and Collier Boulevard.
239.530.5977 • rookerybay.org.
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