Ecotourism in the Florida Keys
"Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike."
— John Muir, naturalist
Not that long ago, the wild wonders of the Florida Keys were something most visitors experienced almost by accident. On the way out to catch a sailfish, a fisherman might spot the angular silhouette of a frigate bird hovering overhead. Or, the captain would point to a pod of dolphins playing in front of the bow. Maybe a school of dark shadows would glide gracefully over a patch of white sand, as spotted eagle rays often will.
Today, more and more visitors are stepping, paddling or snorkeling through the Keys specifically to see these and many other sights. Preservation is a priority in the Keys. A local non-profit group, Reef Relief, is working to protect our nearshore waters and offshore coral formations for eco-tourists, divers and snorkelers.
The interest in ecotours should not be surprising. From Key Largo to Key West, natural tidal creeks meander through easily accessible mangrove forests. Green herons hop among the roots, and mysterious splashing sounds echo from deep within the watery forests. The luckiest paddlers might even spot a 200-pound goliath grouper lolling lazily in the crystal-clear creek. Out in the open water, a huge loggerhead sea turtle pokes its head out of the water, and a 4-foot lemon shark swaggers along the edge of an uninhabited key looking for a meal.
Back on dry land, nature trails lead hikers among the same tropical plants and hardwood trees that Native Americans called home. Meanwhile, birders stalk the edges of the woods looking for the elusive mangrove cuckoo. They find flocks of white-crowned pigeons, a bird they will see nowhere else in North America.
For a few days or weeks, these ecotourists have experienced nature in the quiet way that was once reserved for poets, philosophers and naturalists like Muir. Our site is designed to help you plan just such an ecotour of your own anywhere in the Keys.