I felt like I was floating in a water glass last week, when I paddled across Medina Lake in a clear plastic kayak.
Below me, just green-blue water, pierced by flashes of sunlight. Above me, blue sky like a water color painting.
Former Olympic kayaker Ben Kvanli had met me at the lake to show me around for another story I’m working on. While he zipped around in a tiny whitewater kayak, I paddled the two-person “glass-bottomed kayak” by myself. It’s plastic, not glass, but did remind me of the boats I rode Aquarena Springs in San Marcos as a kid.
I was hoping to get a glimpse of sea serpents and mermaids, but all I really saw was some undulating aquatic plants, rocks and deep water.
Kvanli, though, offers guided tours in the clear boats on the San Marcos River. There, participants in his 2-hour eco-tours can check out the native and endangered Texas Wild Rice, and perhaps catch a glimpse of a few turtles or fish. He also offers evening “glow” tours, during which he attaches bright LED lights beneath the boats.
“There’s a tree where herrings gather, and especially at night its very interesting,” Kvanli says. “We paddle up to them and they look like they’re glowing. It’s the best beginning.”
Kvanli says he first saw the clear boats in Hawaii. He now has 10 of them, and can take out groups of up to 20. The trips are offered at 9 a.m. or 8 p.m., when the water is the clearest. Cost is $30 per person.
Customers meet at Kvanli’s place at 602 North Interstate 35 in San Marcos to gear up. They’re driven upstream, then paddle back down the river, getting kayaking tips and information about the local habitat, history and geology along the way.
To sign up for one of Kvanli’s trips, go to https://www.airbnb.com/experiences/284623. Come prepared to get wet; wear swimwear and river shoes, and bring water and snacks.