Located in beautiful DeSoto county, Florida, less than an hour from many Gulf Beaches, FRE has been an integral part of the fossil hunting tour circuit since 2015. Based on the Peace River as well as other secluded creeks and tributaries in the area, we revel in the gift of being able to give visitors, as well as locals, many unique ways to experience the "Olde Florida" that is all but vanishing in the present day. With centuries old Spanish moss draped live oaks, amber colored waters and a plethora of local wildlife as the backdrop, we use modern methods of transportation to bring you and your group to the "honey holes" in style, and then we get to the best part- finding the fossils! We provide all equipment so worry not! Just bring your sense of adventure and curiousity, and enjoy the hunt!
Each season varies but for the most part we run from October to May depending on the seasonal rains and subsequent water levels. You keep all fossils you find-and our licensed guides will help dig, identify and explain each one.
Current owner of FRE, Chris is beyond excited to take this to new levels! Growing up in a small suburb on the south shore of Lake Ontario near Rochester, NY, Chris Mandell grew up in the creeks and fields fishing, hunting arrowheads and finding local Devonian fossils, such as brachiopods and trilobites. After meeting his wife in 2009, while raising their three boys, they often traveled to Caspersen Beach in Venice in search of fossil shark teeth, completely unaware of the potential to find so much more with just a short drive inland. After joining an FRE tour in 2020, a fire was lit and Chris dove in full speed, networking with local fossil hunters, clubs and eventually partnering with Ken into FRE in early 2022. He finally became the full owner in April of 2023 and is thrilled. With his background as a USCG charter captain for the last 16 years, tour guiding was nothing new and FRE became his new passion. Chris relishes in helping people learn what they find, searching hard in every nook and cranny and hopefully finding you the "big one." He currently resides in Venice with his wife and three boys, spending his off-time selling antique books and fishing in the summers on beautiful Lake Ontario in Western NY.
Originally from Lombard, Illinois, Kenneth Follmann is the founder of FRE. After raising his three sons in Illinois, he moved ro SWFL in 2010, whence his fossil journey began. He became an NAUI certified diver shortly after. After diving the legendary fossil deposits off of Venice, FL in search of megalodon teeth, amd networking into local fossil clubs, Ken's search for fossils expanded inland. Once he explored Arcadia and located dozens of fossils in various waterways, FRE was born . Ken began fossil hunting tours and started the experience you are on today, which he sold and passed to the Mandell family in spring of 2023. Ken spends his spare time and the off-season making his award winning fossil sculptures from shark teeth and other fossils he found, known as Bite Me Fossil Sculptures (these can be seen in detail under the Store link). He has been featured at the Museum of Art and Science in Daytona, and has won a blue ribbon at the Cape Coral Art Festival in 2016.
Rob is a fossil maniac! Originally from Pennsylvania, Rob has been hunting fossils in Florida for over 4 years and guiding professionally for fossils with our friends in Mudslingers up in Gainesville for two. Rob grew up a military "brat," traveling across the states growing up, himself becoming a military vet of 5 years in the US Army. By far his passion for fossils, as well as his knowledge of local finds, qualifies him as a "rural paleontologist," of sorts, being something he has self taught since he was a child and indulged in for years. On his spare time when he is not scouring creeks and rivers for fossils, he spends time with his wife and kids as well as his side business, Primal Expressions. Working with bones, fossils, reptile remains and more, he creates art that truly is unique and one of a kind ( check out his patented 'snakelodons!'). Rob looks forward to guiding you and your group through our beautiful waterways seeking earth's treasures.
Our newest guide, Sean is a trained chef who originated his career in the restaurant and liquor industry for 20+ years, after collecting a double major in college with art history and graphic design. Sean came to FL to be with family recently and dove into the passion he always had for sharks and geology by joining the FRE team. He spent much of his spare time NJ fossiling at Big Brook Preserve, but appreciated the wild diversity of FL enough to uproot and make FL home for good. Sean delights in sharing his passion with our customers while enjoying the mecca of fossils we know and love collectively.