Eco Week Is Coming November 1st – 7th
Promoting eco-tourism and celebrating environmental preservation, EcoWeek 2010 showcases events, outdoor trips and healthful practices for body and mind, through activities planned from Key Largo to Key West.
Our post today was written by Vicki, our resident eco-environmentalist, who also works the front desk at Key Lime Inn. Here she tells us about her Eco-Tour trip aboard Java Cat Charters. Sounds tranquil!
“Key West’s surrounding waters offer locals and visitors respite from the August heat, a chance to relax, and a few moments to be in touch with nature, especially its wild side! The Eco-Tour offered by Java Cat Charters invites you to explore the National Wildlife Refuge established by former U.S. President, Teddy Roosevelt, in 1908.
It is summertime in the Florida Keys, so the blue spreading before us was laid out flat as glass. The Captain reminded us to keep an eye out for dolphins playing as we skirted out of the mouth of the Historic Seaport at Key West Harbor. Although we didn’t spot any dolphins on that particular day, the Captain noted that they do encounter dolphins in the wild in that area on about fifty percent of their trips.
The Java Cat is a small catamaran built in and for the Florida Keys. She was designed to enter into these shallow areas and has the ability to either motor or sail through the waters of the Keys. By differentiating the shades of blue green water one from another, the first-mate, George Robert, was able to assist his Dad in navigating the entrance to the Refuge and sailing us into the region known by local mariners as the “the Lakes”. Words to remember here, “Brown, brown run aground . . .”
As we made our way out to Mule Key, our first mate offered some insights into the birding and aviary life in the area. He let us know that Ospreys and Eagles go to battle over space and meals, sharing his guide book he identified some of the varieties of Herons which we would encounter, and the Captain hinted that we should keep an eye out for the ever elusive sea-horse. We dropped anchor about 50 yards from a large mangrove island. The Captain provided the basic instructions for paddling, set everyone up in their single or tandem boat complete with life vests, and away we went.
Leaving the Java Cat on anchor in the mucky bottom, we paddled toward the large mangrove island known as Mule Key. The captain explained some the science of mangrove formation and the differences between the two prominent types, the black and the red. Under Captain George’s guidance we met up with a small nurse shark, about 3 feet long, which put on a little show by swimming in a figure eight shape to exhibit to each paddler its magnificence. We paddled around the island at an easy pace and came upon an osprey nesting regally a high perch. We entered a sort of alcove in the mangroves by paddling up a small channel and pulling ourselves along the narrower portions by using the mangrove branches like hand rails. Inside, we had entered another realm; cool and green, with bits of light glittering off of the water and the trunks and branches of the trees. Perched among the branches was a beautifully peaceful Blue Heron passing the day in the coolness of this place. Overhead an American Bald Eagle glided by while adjusting his seating for the afternoon. An all white Great White Heron, known as a Morph and specific to South Florida, was also taking in the protection of this oasis in the Gulf.
After leaving Mule Key we paddled back to the Java Cat and refreshed ourselves, while the Captain and crew brought the Java Cat up into the wind and sailed us to our snorkel spot. Large formations, the size and shape of giant bean bag chairs and looking as though they had survived the fall of the dinosaurs, were ancient sponges that are a haven for Florida Lobsters. Gliding on the ocean floor, a baby sting ray came into view. A variety of tropical fish from Blue Tang to Yellow Snapper darted in and out of the sea fans, growing coral heads, and giant sponges. According to the Captain, this area houses many of the youngsters that are not yet ready to live out on the reef. They grow up in the backcountry and make their way to open water as adults.
As we headed back into the Historic Seaport it was as though we had come not only from another place, but another time; a time when life was simple and lemonade on the front porch was an event.”