People don't typically speak of penguins when discussing nature in Central Florida, but that's about to change.
Penguin Paddling Mount Dora will open its first Florida location in Mount Dora on New Year's Day. The company will provide paddle board and kayak rentals on Lake Dora every Friday-Sunday, as well as offer kayak nature tours for groups. The Simpson Cove venue will be the company's third location with the others two being in Virginia.
Novice paddlers can learn to kayak, while those with experience can rent the narrow boats and explore on their own. The stand-up paddle boards are also for available for rent, but will not have instructors available.
Single kayaks rent for $16 an hour or $43 daily. Double kayaks are $21 an hour. Special weekend and weekly rates are available, as well as group pricing.
Katherine “Kat” Harnest, an avid outdoorswoman and certified kayak instructor, will run the Mount Dora location. She'll share her experience as an Advanced Florida Master Naturalist to provide nature tours of the lake. Harnest is also certified in Adaptive Paddling which has allowed her to assist disabled people and wounded veterans to learn to paddle and focus on their abilities, rather than their limitations.
Harnest's partner, Danny Barker, started Penguin Paddling in 2013 because of his passion for kayak tours. He later opened kayak and paddle board rental shops in Woodbridge and Occuquan, Virginia. Barker discovered the new Florida location while visiting his family in Mount Dora.
With a history of community service in Virginia, Penguin Paddling will be hosting water clean-up events and other community service projects that will benefit the community, according to Harnest. Schools and clubs can also book tours on Lake Dora.
The Penguin Paddling trailer will be located near the city's oversized adirondack chair near Simpson Cove's boat ramp on Tremain Street.