FloridaTrend.com, the Website for Florida Business

Bonding With Nature

Eighty miles away from the hustle and bustle of Miami, Everglades City stands at the gateway to the Everglades. It's also home to historic Ivey House Bed & Breakfast, a former lodging house for the workers who built the Tamiami Trail, and North American Canoe Tours. "We're kind of a one-stop shop for eco-adventure," says owner and Everglades enthusiast David Harraden.

For 25 years, Harraden has educated eager adventurers about the Everglades. He's also been known to talk about what he'd like to see happen to preserve the Everglades. His tours take many forms, from a daylong paddle trip through mangrove tunnels and sawgrass prairies to longer overnight camping excursions at secluded spots. There's always plenty to see -- from a night roost where thousands of ibis, egrets and other waterfowl come to settle in the evening to alligators, dolphins and manatees.

"We're not Disneyland. We're out in Mother Nature," says Harraden. "We take what we can get; in all my experience, we've never not had a lot to look at."

Harraden's guests range from families to executives. One of the most popular trips is the Overnight Skiff-Assisted Paddle Adventure, a minimum four-night/five-day camping venture deep into the Everglades. To preserve everyone's paddling energy, gear and kayaks are ferried by skiff to the camping site, about 70 miles away. From there, campers take to their kayaks and explore without having to undergo the physical wear and tear of paddling their provisions and gear there first. Trips start at $1,000 for two campers and run up to $1,250.

Harraden is the only one allowed to wear a watch on the trips. Cell phones, beepers, radios and headsets are left behind. Harraden sends out a reading list on Everglades topics in advance and encourages his guests to bring a book, a map and a travel diary.