Ken Bambery is a tough, 60 year old, wiry outdoorsman. His armada of kayaks is most often seen at the Safety Harbor Marina. In addition to renting kayaks and giving tours of the harbor front, he is also a teacher at Bayside High School. He is married to former Safety Harbor Council member, Kathleen Bambery.
At Bayside High, Ken is involved in project HOPE, an acronym for Health, Opportunity through Physical Education. Essentially, he is part of the team of teachers there to work with "At Risk" students in drop out prevention.
His alternative job is as head of Tocabaga Adventure Outdoors. Most often Ken shortens the lengthy title to Tocabaga Tours. His primary goal with the company is also his company motto: Looking Back at Safety Harbor.
Ken wants to call attention to the city's beauty from a prospective not everyone has been able to share. By touring the harbor area, folks can see the natural beauty of the shore line and learn the ancient history of Safety Harbor. Most of his tours extend from the Indian mound at Philippe Park in the north down to Cooper's Point in the south. Ken is available on Third Fridays to talk with prospective clients about his tours and to show off the various types of kayaks that he has in his fleet.
Ken has a fleet of 25 kayaks of different types. He has sit-on tops, which are extremely stable, Eskimo style sea kayaks, tandem boats and paddle boards. He teaches paddling skills, gives ecological instruction about how to preserve the Tampa Bay waters and explains the history of the Tocabaga Indians who were the original inhabitants of Pinellas County. He also passes along some of the tales about Count Odet Philippe, who in the 1840s and '50 was the pioneer developer of what became Safety Harbor.
Bambery is well qualified for his job of interpreting and leading tours along Olde Tampa Bay. Working with the Safety Harbor Museum and Cultural Center Ken headed up the local study group sponsored by the Tampa Bay Estuary Organization. He generously took the stipend offered by the estuary fund to teach the instructional course and returned it to the museum for its operating expenses.
Ken is a certified kayak instructor trained under American Kayak Association guidelines. He's had training with the stringent requirements demanded by the British Canoe Union. Ken is certified in life guard training, CPR and Red Cross first aide.
His enthusiasm for what he does was evident in the conversation he had with this writer during our interview. He pointed out there is so much to see while touring with him. He knows where to find the manatees. He leads his clients past the two hidden springs where the large aquatic mammals gather to drink. He points out the various bird populations that hide in among the mangroves. He knows the habits of the osprey, herons, spoonbills, egrets, seagulls, and pelicans and is thrilled to share his knowledge with others.
Ken points out this is one of the safest areas to learn kayaking because of the sheltered waters, mild currents and shallow depths. Ken books his tours with youth groups, church groups and corporations. He can be reached through the Safety Harbor Spa or through the main phone number for Tocabaga Tours: 727-389-8687.