In its history, Tampa Bay has surely been one of the world's richest life-filled environments. According to WikiPedia, "As late as the early 20th century, visitors still reported huge schools of mullet swimming across the bay in such numbers that they "'impeded the passage of boats.'"
Subsequent development, industry and human habitation then went on to nearly distroy one of the world's great estuaries. "By the 1970s, the water was so murky that sunlight could not reach the shallow bottom, sea grass coverage (which is vital to marine life) had decreased by more than 80%, many previously common species had become scarce, and bay beaches were regularly closed due to unsafe levels of bacteria and pollutants." Wikipedia
But by 1988 when the city of Tampa stopped dumping raw sewage into the Bay, things began a gradual and dramatic improvement.
Today, the Bay is teeming with wildlife scarce just a decade ago and according to Captain Fred, "The water is as clear as it's been since the 1930s."
“There is not another estuary around the country, if not the world, where we’ve seen such a dramatic improvement of water quality,” said Peter Clark, President of Tampa Bay Watch. “We have a great story to tell. The story is that if the community can get behind improvements to water quality in the bay, they truly can make a difference.”
On your cruise you will see a lot of the story unfold. Birds like ospreys, the agile sea eagle, used to be rare, but now sometimes you can see a dozen on the lights of bay bridges. The ospreys are here because the Bay is providing them with a fine supply of fish which these eagles grab from the surface of the bay with their very efficient talons.
Bird life thrives at every level from ducks to eagles. A highlight of the cruise is a visit to Bird Island inside Coffeepot Bayou. There you are likely to see herons, pelicans, roseated spoonbills and many others.
Sea mammals dolphins and manatees are here year round. Manatees are sometimes shy and difficult to see, but dolphins on many days can't wait to show off to the passengers of the Dolphin Queen.
You will learn much about these intelligent and playful creatures on the cruise and get to observe them going about their lives doing things that most of us have only read about.
Rays are so plentiful that DQ passengers see them almost every day. You might see a school of sting rays or cow nose rays. The very large leopard rays are also common along with devil rays.
Finally, we are going to show you some of the edifices of human habitation.
The Coast Guard Station in St. Pete is said to be the largest drug interdiction base in the country. It currently operates 30 vessels, 12 C130 transport planes, and eight blackhawk helicopters. It's also a popular dolphin hangout. Who knows why dolphins like the Coast Guard.
And you will enjoy seeing some of the waterside mansions built along the Bay and in canals. It's a treat to see these houses from the back where the owners typically hang out.