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Jody & Ray Hetchka are founders and 'proud parents' of Kayak Amelia.
After moving to Amelia Island in 1996 to escape the cold of New Hampshire, we quickly realized this area was perfect for kayaking. Amelia Island is surrounded by state and national parks. These protected, 'wild' lands are perfect for wildlife viewing and just getting away from it all. We also realized that these fragile environments need to be protected from human encroachment. The best way to accomplish this is to get folks to spend time in the enviroment and learn the stories of the critters that live there.
"What you see with your eyes, you will treasure with your heart"
We are the official concessionaire in Talbot Islands State Parks, offering guided kayak, SUP and Segway ecotours as well as kayak, stand up paddleboard(SUP) & bike rentals, SUP instruction, SUP yoga and a summer kid's camp.
The International Ecotourism Society defines ecotourism as "responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people." It is vital that we keep this in mind when we take visitors out into the local environment. Kayaks by nature are low impact vehicles. There are no nasty fuel slicks following our boats and all of our adventures abide by Leave no Trace principles. More than just 'pack in and pack out' we usually end up picking up some trash along the way. We realize that we are visitors, it's the birds, dolphins and fish that live here. On tours we explain that if the animal you are observing changes their behavior (stops eating, startles or flies away)….you are TOO close, it's time to back away.
Our tours don't have a 'canned speech' but instead we let what's happening around us determine the conversation, using teachable moments to give folks an insight into life in the salt marsh. Seasonal bird migrations, jumping fish, osprey diving, dolphin sightings, each trip has a different narrative. All guides have naturalist training and they love sharing stories with guests.
We also enjoy giving back. 2% of Kayak Amelia's gross sales goes to supporting local and national organizations. In past years we've partnered with the national park staff to give inner city kids a chance to learn to kayak. Check out the Timucuan Explorer video. Once a month we supply kayaks for the Irish Water Dog Warrior program, who bring injured veterans and their families out to kayak. Our gift shop in downtown Fernandina Beach now carries Dog is Good T-shirts that support Freedom Service Dogs of America. This group rescues dogs from shelters and custom trains them for services to wounded warriors and veterans. Dog is Good is donating a portion of all sales to Freedom Service Dogs and Kayak Amelia will donate an additional $2/shirt to help more veterans get dogs.
"With four major State Parks, a National Park and miles of hiking trails, Amelia Island is the perfect place for any nature lover. Combine that with the 470 species of birds located in Florida, and you have a bird watchers dream spot. From painted buntings to bald eagles, the range of birds in this pristine setting is absolutely amazing." - HuffPost Dec. 19, 2015