FLORIDA KEYS - KEY WEST ECO TOURS AND ISLAND EXPLORATION

The clear pristine water of the Florida Keys Backcountry offers the most amazing collection of offshore islands which are rookeries, feeding grounds, habitats, and sanctuaries to countless creatures and the key to our delicate eco-system as we know it.
The Florida Keys are a chain of limestone islands that extend from the southern tip of mainland Florida approximately 220 miles southwest to the Dry Tortugas.  These islands are the remnants of ancient coral reefs and sand bars that were once underwater and flourishing with sea life.  As water levels began to drop and eventually exposed this reef system, the reef and sandbars fossilized and formed the rock that makes up the island chain we know as the Keys today.  These mangrove islands, grassy flats, and shoals are now part of one of the most diverse and complex Eco-systems in existence and are thriving with marine life that we can enjoy together on a backcountry adventure.

As we cruise through the islands known as our Florida Keys Backcountry, you will get to see first hand the abundance of marine life that calls our backcountry home.  These beautiful islands are covered with red mangroves which not only trap sediment improving water quality and preventing erosion, but at the same time offer an amazing habitat to an abundance of marine life that is absolutely breathtaking.  Some of the islands are even accessible to us to walk on and explore.  On these islands we can find white mangroves, black mangroves and buttonwood trees just above water level where the tide only effects them a few times a year.  These trees offer food and shelter to some land dwelling animals in addition to their role in preserving the islands.  On and around these islands we will be able to observe many aquatic birds such as heron, egrets, ibis, terns, osprey, sea gulls, pelicans, cormorants, and if we are lucky we may get to see a roseate spoonbill or even a bald eagle, all of which are known to inhabit our backcountry.  These mangroves are so critical to the existence of the keys themselves that in 1985 the Mangrove Protection Act was established to protect them.  This act made it illegal to dredge, fill or clear mangroves.  Nothing compares to exploring this magnificent and tranquil environment in person.

The shallow grassy flats and shoals provide the perfect habitat for a plethora of marine creatures, and this area can be explored on foot or by kayak.  The hard bottom is a good area to find marine life such as sponges, soft corals, hard corals, crabs, shrimp, lobster, starfish, shellfish (mollusks), sea urchins, sea cucumbers, fish, stingrays, sharks and dolphin.  The sea grass, largely turtle grass, offers a home to many young developing fish, crustaceans and mollusks.  Sea grass beds and mangrove areas offer everything these young creatures need to live and develop. Juveniles of many varieties of fish such as Snapper, Grouper, Hogfish, Cowfish, Puffers, Barracuda, Bonefish, Permit, Tarpon and more can be found here.  The larger fish, as well as stingrays, sharks and dolphin rely on this rookery as a food source to survive.  A multitude of wildlife creatures use the backcountry as their own personal feeding, breeding, and nursery grounds and we are lucky enough to be able to see it and enjoy it first hand.

The Florida Keys Backcountry provides us with a majestic place to relax and enjoy the peaceful and spectacular atmosphere, while watching the co-existence of a multitude of marine wildlife.  Each unique component of this delicate ecosystem is critical to the survival of our environmental community as a whole.  The mangroves, grassy flats, and shoals while trapping runoff, keeping it from intruding on our already fragile reef system, also provide a habitat for many of our marine creatures.  Our Florida Keys Backcountry is home to many aquatic birds, many species of fish, and water fowl and a few mammals.  These mangroves and shallow flats provide food and shelter for hundreds of species of our marine life.  Numerous marine creatures thrive in this fertile estuary of the Florida Keys.  Each species has its purpose, whether they aid in providing a cleaner habitat, or offer shelter and protection from prey, or simply are part of the basic food chain, all are necessary to the survival of our ecosystem.  This complex ecosystem provides us with crystal clear water to swim in, an incredible area to explore, and many creatures to play with and observe.  Come with me on a backcountry adventure and explore this unique tranquil estuary and experience it for yourself.

 

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