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The stuff that dreams are made of

December 4, 2019
By NATHAN MAYBERG ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Near the end of "The Maltese Falcon," Humphrey Bogart's character is asked by Ward Bond about the falcon. "The stuff that dreams are made of," Bogart replies.

Estero Bay Express may not be able to deliver the falcon or fulfill your dreams precisely the way you imagined them, but for those who may have wished to be within a few feet of a dolphin in its natural environment, their daily tours have to come close.

The guided boat tour, one of several different tours offered at Fish-Tale Marina on 7225 Estero Boulevard, has to be considered a must for any visitor to the Beach.

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A dolphin jumps in Estero Bay.


On this particular dolphin tour, Capt. Justin Paulauskis showed the way through the Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve, the first-of-its-kind in Florida. Paulauskis, who is a certified Master Naturalist, tries to keep the atmosphere light with jokes. He points to a group of pelicans resting on the docks and notes they look bigger than they really are. "They are all feather and fluff," he said.

He is able to spot the fins of the Atlantic bottlenose dolphins from hundreds of yards out and is careful to guide the boat slowly to where they congregate in shallow waters without disturbing them. After allowing boaters to snap a few photos and enjoy the mammals, Paulauskis will rev the motor up and head deeper into the waters which can get a rise out of the dolphins. Some will follow the boat and start jumping out of the water.

On this occasion, Paulauskis found one spot where six dolphins were joined. They included a mother with her juvenile offspring and another pair who appeared to be either mating or wrestling.

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Every person on the tour looked on with fascination as some of the dolphins approached within a foot of the boat. The dolphins seemed to be aware of how close they could get and Paulauskis was careful not to go too fast.

After leaving the bay and its red mangroves in the distance, the tour crossed into the Gulf of Mexico, which was busy with boats on Thanksgiving weekend. The tour allowed for a wide-range view of Fort Myers Beach along Lovers Key State Park and beyond with Bonita Beach in the distance.

At the end of the ride, Paulauskis floated the group close to a family of manatees resting near the dock as more cameras started flickering away.

Stephanie Wilke was on the edge of the boat watching with her husband Gregg and four-year old son Charlie.

"It was fun. I saw what I came for," Mrs. Wilke said. "It's very neat, very whimsical," said the Milwaukee native.

Cathy Schuette, of Ohio, was with her husband Joe. They visit Florida often and said this boating trip went better than expected.

"We saw more dolphins and active dolphins than we've ever seen," Mrs. Schuette said. "Last year, we went to Hilton Head on a dolphin tour. Boy were we disappointed," Mr. Schuette said.

With red tide levels being reported at low to non-existent levels in the area during Thanksgiving, there was a sense of relief in the fresh air that made rides like this much more pleasurable than they would have a year ago.



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