A tiny island paradise at the southernmost tip of the USA, Key West is surrounded by cerulean waters and gorgeous natural scenery and is home to one of the most unique places and people on earth. When you’re planning your next Key West vacation, you’ll undoubtedly want to include activities that allow you to experience all the eco-treasures in the area. Here are the best eco tours in Key West:
The Dry Tortugas and Fort Jefferson National Park
One of the most extraordinary places on the planet, the Dry Tortugas National Park is about 70 miles west of Key West in the midst of the Gulf of Mexico. This secluded natural oasis is home to the ancient Fort Jefferson, the largest masonry structure in the United States. It’s also home to hundreds of bird species, sandy white beaches, thriving coral reefs and a variety of wildlife. To get there, book your seat on the Yankee Freedom, the official ferry of the Dry Tortugas. The spacious catamaran is equipped with an air-conditioned cabin, an expansive deck, fresh water showers and bathrooms. While en route, the captain and crew will share with you some fascinating facts about the park, its history and the eco system of the area. Keep an eye on the water; it is not uncommon for dolphins and sea turtles to swim alongside the boat. The Yankee Freedom will dock for the day and provide you with snorkel gear, cold beverages and a lunch buffet. Explore the massive Civil War Fort, step inside the cells of the prisoners and check out the one that held their most famous inmate, Samuel Mudd. Then be sure to refresh in the crystal waters surrounding the fort, walk along the beach and snorkel the reef that is just teeming with tropical marine life. You can also go kayaking, soak in the sun or simply lounge in the shade of a palm tree. The Dry Tortugas and Fort Jefferson National Park is one of those places you’ll never forget visiting—a true eco treasure.
One of the most popular residents in Key West are our friendly bottlenose dolphins. There’s an estimated 200 of them living in the waters that surround the island and many who come to visit cannot wait to catch a glimpse of them. For a fun, relaxing and responsible way to view these gentle creatures, hop on a Dolphin Watch Tour. Fury Water Adventures offers a Dolphin Watch and Snorkel Tour that takes you out in the Gulf of Mexico aboard their fast catamaran. Their onboard naturalists offer fascinating facts about the Key West Dolphins and how Fury is a part of the Dolphin SMART program, which protects and promotes the responsible observance of dolphins. As the playful creatures swim, play and feed, you’ll get to witness them in their natural environment. Then, the boat heads over to the Key West wildlife refuge where you can snorkel in the backcountry. Its shallow warm waters are home to a myriad of sponges, coral and tropical fish. One of the best ways to enjoy the eco-attractions in Key West is to spend a day out on the water.
Kayak Key West’s Backcountry
The shallow waters of Key West’s backcountry is one of the most serene spots in the Florida Keys. Kayaking is a great way to truly enjoy the scenery, see wildlife and relax in the sun. In a kayak, you can go at your own pace, glide across the water, explore the mangroves and witness a variety of wildlife that inhabits the area. You’ll see egrets, herons and other bird species and if you take a guided tour, you’ll learn about the many animals and marine species that live in Key West.
Snorkel the reef
Home to the only living barrier reef in the continental United States, Key West offers unforgettable snorkeling experiences. Because the water is warm year-round and the climate is nearly perfect, Key West snorkeling can take place during any season. For beginning snorkelers the shallow waters of the backcountry are a great place to start. Although for any level, from novice to veteran, the variety of snorkel tour options are abundant, with tour companies offering professional instruction, top-of-the-line gear and easy ways to get in and out of the water. Once you’re in the water, the sight of the vibrant, thriving reef with its colorful inhabitants will awe you. From sea turtles, tropical fish and the coral itself, to many marine species you cannot see anywhere else on earth, snorkeling in Key West is an extraordinary eco-experience.
Visit the Key West Aquarium
The Key West Aquarium first opened its doors in 1935 and was Key West’s first attraction. Millions of people visit each year to get a closer look at the marine life that is indigenous to the Florida Keys. For those who wish to learn more about the wondrous underwater world that exists in Key West, this is a must do. The aquarium has a variety of exhibits showcasing a variety of sea species including tropical fish, game fish, sea turtles, sharks, stingrays and alligators. The giant touch tank is your chance to hold some of these amazing creatures including conchs, sea stars, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, giant hermit crabs, horseshoe crabs and more. There are also shark and sea turtle feedings and the opportunity to pet an infant nurse shark.On your next Key West vacation, don’t miss these beautiful and exciting eco tours.