Morgan McAtee couldn’t imagine doing anything else for summer camp other than going to Grande Tours Kayak and Paddleboard Center of Placida.
“It’s a great camp,” Morgan, 13, said. “I hope to be a counselor here some day.” Morgan’s been going to the camp for five years, according to her mother, Karen.
“We were so impressed with the instructors’ educational level and professionalism,” Karen, a Punta Gorda resident, said. “Bill (Godek) and his staff are so knowledgeable. They make it fun.”
Godek, senior director, has been doing kayak camps at the center since 2008. The center is located at Coral Creek on 12575 Placida Road in Placida.
“We do ‘essentials of kayaking,’ which teaches them the fundamentals, proper technique and what to do when they fall,” Godek said. “Within two days, they’re kayaking like pros. Children seem to pick it up pretty fast. Most of our kids are repeats.”
The center has two scheduled camp June 17-21 and July 15-19. Godek said due to lack of sign ups, a June 3-7 camp was canceled.
“Initially, we go out in the morning 9:30 to11:30 a.m. kayaking,” he said. “We then break for lunch then swimming before parents pick them up at around 1 p.m.”
The versatile instructors teach a variety of subjects in addition to kayaking including paddleboarding, sea life, estuaries and safety.
“We’ll start teaching them about the marine life on the second day and we’ll take them on an extended trip on the third,” Godek said. “The last day is parents’ day where they’ll paddle with their kids and we hold a cookout. I’m usually exhausted by the end of camp.”
Staff at the center are certified Florida master naturalists.
“My classroom is the water,” said Ashlee Doot, who’s been with the center for two years. “I like spreading environmental awareness and teaching good habits before they develop bad habits.”
Doot said she credits the ecotourism as part of the center’s success.
“Ecotourism is a big part of this area.” Doot said. “I like to embrace it. I grew up in this area and I want to conserve it.”
“The (kids) learn about wildlife and the environment,” Karen said. “It’s not like Disney. It’s a part of the real Florida, a unique experience in and of itself.”
For more information, go to grandetours.com or call 941-697-8825.