Natural Florida Keys
By Charlotte Flach
The Florida Keys are famed for their natural beauty, open spaces and abundant wildlife. Here are six ‘low-impact’ ways clients can travel sustainably and help to preserve the island chain’s unique marine environment
Help preserve the reef
Key Largo-based Coral Restoration Foundation (CRF) is one of several bodies dedicated to preserving the Florida Reef. CRF’s educational programmes enable visitors and divers to get involved in coral restoration alongside marine scientists. Other organisations playing their part in coral protection include I.CARE in Islamorada and MOTE Marine in the Lower Keys. coralrestoration.org
Enjoy a Islamorada sunset
Head out from Robbie’s Marina with Captain Sam Zeher of KeyZ Charters on an Islamorada sunset cruise. Explore mystical mangrove mazes, search for local wildlife before they go to rest for the night, and enjoy the spectacular last few minutes of the sun – cocktail in hand – before it sinks into the waters around the picturesque Upper Keys.
Visit the Turtle Hospital
Since opening its doors in 1986, the Turtle Hospital in Marathon has helped to rescue and rehabilitate more than 2,000 sick and injured sea turtles from around the Florida Keys. Visitors can go behind-the-scenes on a 90-minute tour to learn about five species of endangered sea turtles and join a feeding session. Whenever possible, rehabilitated turtles are released back into the wild.
Tour on two wheels
Explore the low-impact way, using pedal power! In Key West, Key Lime Bike Tours give riders a chance to discover the historic Old Town; further up the Keys, bike the newly-reopened 2.2-mile stretch of the Old Seven Mile Bridge, originally part of the Florida Keys Over-Sea Railroad. Or pedal the whole way from Key Largo to Key West using the 90-plus-mile paved Overseas Heritage Trail.
Kayak the Lower Keys backcountry
The Lower Keys are home to two national wildlife refuges, national marine sanctuary waters and a state park, all of which are filled with abundant marine wildlife. Recommend a kayak tour through the ‘backcountry’, a vast area of unspoiled shallows and mangroves teeming with plant and animal life. Lucky paddlers might catch a glimpse of the elusive Key deer. keyskayaktours.com
Take an eco-friendly boat tour
Hop on a Dolphin Watch and Snorkel tour with Honest Eco onboard SQUID, Key West’s first electric-powered charter boat. Equipped with Sunflare solar panels, SQUID provides an up-close wildlife experience while having little impact on the environment and marine life. The chance to observe the natural behaviour of wild dolphins is an unmissable, unique experience.