Wetland Wilderness Tours Takes You to the Underbelly of South Walton
December 12, 2012 by Gwen Break
Kent Mundy delights in showing people the part of South Walton most can’t even imagine. Mundy is owner and operator of Wetland Wilderness Tours, a one-man, one-boat tour company that explores the outbacks, sloughs and bayous of the Choctawhatchee River, IntraCoastal and other four waterways that spill into the Choctawhatchee Bay.
On his tours he visits places full of frogs, crickets, birds, exotic plants and an array of animals that fly, swim or just travel across land. The vibrant colors, the thousands of shades of green, brown and blue, are punctuated by flashes of red and white as animals go about their daily rituals. The smell of earth and water mix together in a heady cologne that seems to cling to one’s skin and invade one’s imagination. The sounds are buzzing, flapping, cawing, yowling, whispering, rustling, rattling, a quiet symphony of peaceful excitement. With Mundy’s help, you catch Mother Nature doing her day-to-day work and become part of the landscape for a brief time.
A licensed Captain, a Certified Outfitter by the Walton County Tourist Development Center and a Master Naturalist, Mundy has spent a lifetime on the water, both in Walton County, the Florida Panhandle and in the wilds of Alaska.
He has taken birders out and in a single tour during the October migration identified more than 80 different species of birds including Osprey, Swallowtail Kites, Pileated Woodpecker (second in size only to the possibly extinct Ivory-billed) and of course all colors and kinds of Herons, including the Great Blue Heron.
Plant life along the tour sites include the wax myrtles, yaupons, cypress, calla lilies, bamboo, cat tails, Carolina bay, swamp lilies and natural azaleas, depending on the time of year.There are distinct sights in each of the seasons Mundy explains. Fall and winter provide unique advantages for spotting wildlife, says Mundy.
“With us being in northern part of the state, we have the four seasons. (With) all the leaves down you can see further into the islands and see how the trees are grown, and you have a better chance of seeing a white tail deer, a feral hog, or even a bobcat, or even anything that may be out there.”
Spotting alligators is not an uncommon experience.
Tours are done on a 22-foot Sea Arc skiff with a six-foot beam. Most of the trip is done at idle speed to allow Mundy to explain what guests are seeing and answer questions they may have. Silence, however, is sometimes golden, as Mundy kills the engine and one can hear only the sounds of nature, a quiet buzz accompanied by a soft swishing of air and water swirling by. “I can get it as quiet as you want it to be,” Mundy says with a chuckle.
Eco tours are the norm but arrangements can be made to include other activities such as fishing, paddle boarding or even taking a romantic junket into the wilderness. He especially enjoys teaching children to fish and is toying with the idea of someday possibly starting a day camp geared to just that.
Prices start at $200 for a two-hour tour for up to six people. Tips are appreciated. Hours are “set by the customer so as to be convenient for them.”
“Like one of my customers told me, ‘There’s a lot more to it than just alligators, isn’t there, Kent?’”
To reach Wetland Wilderness Tours, visit www.southwaltonrivertours.com, or call (850) 865-0333, and like Mundy’s answering machine message says, if he’s not out catchin’ ‘gators, then he’s out fishin’ and will call you back later.