Schooner Eco Tour
Your backcountry adventure eco-tour encompasses a schooner sail, guided kayak tour through mangroves and a snorkeling at sponge gardens. Discover the varied, diverse ecosystem of Key West's backcountry in one amazing tour. This up-close and intimate nature tour is limited to a very small number of participants, providing you with professional and trained guides who will give you their full attention.
Departing from Key West's Historic Seaport, your historic schooner's sails are unfurled for an authentic sailing experience on the way to Key West's backcountry. If you have always dreamed of sailing aboard a tall mast wooden ship, here is your chance to help raise the sails and take a turn at the wheel, all guests are encouraged to participate.
Relax onboard as the crew prepares a fresh continental breakfast to start your day, offering such delights as fresh pastries, quiche, tropical fruit and fruit juices. Your destination is Key West's uninhabited mangrove islands in the Key West National Wildlife Refuge. The shallow-drafted schooner is the perfect design for your eco adventure, being a replica of historic bugeye schooners that dragged for oysters in Maryland's Chesapeake Bay. Keep an eye out for dolphins, sea turtles, manta rays and many other wildlife that call the refuge home. Your captain knows where dolphins are frequently seen and will let you know if he spots any.
Upon reaching the mangrove islands, the boat drops anchor and your exploration begins as the day is divided between guided kayaking tours and guided snorkeling tours. For kayaking, your crew will help you into your stable sea kayak, providing paddling instructions. Don't worry if you aren't used to paddling, the warm, shallow water is calm, sheltered by the uninhabited mangroves, making kayaking a breeze. Your crew will speak about the mangroves and their important role as nurseries to the sea. Learn how mangrove trees survive in salt water and about the varied marine life that inhabit Key West's unique mangrove ecosystem. Discover there are several hundred species of birds that call these mangroves home where on a typical day, you may see ospreys, frigates, blue herons, bald eagles and even roseate spoonbills. In the water, look for sea turtles, dolphins, manta rays and tropical fish.
You will also have the opportunity to get in the water on a guided snorkel tour. Your experienced crew provides professional instructions on snorkeling along with information on the sponge gardens. Never snorkeled? No worries, the crew will answer all your questions and be in the water with you. Soon you will be enjoying snorkeling the shallow, calm waters of the sponge gardens. Experience the tropical fish, sponges, and marine wildlife that call the gardens home. If you prefer to float on the surface, grab a noodle float, lean back and watch the clouds drift by. Conditions vary throughout the different areas of the mangrove islands and your tour operator prides itself on providing their guests with the best experience possible as your experienced captain will chart a course for the optimal kayaking and snorkeling locations given that day's tides and weather conditions.
After your adventure, come back aboard and wash off with a fresh water rinse. Find a comfortable spot to relax on deck and then choose from plenty of complimentary cold drinks including frosty cold beer, wine, homemade sangria, chilled sodas and filtered water. This is the best of laid-back island lifestyle living there can be. Lunch is also served on the boat as an all-you-can-eat fresh buffet feast is provided. Start with peel and eat shrimp and then try the delicious fried chicken, selection of deli meats and cheeses accompanied by assorted breads and condiment and don't forget the side salads!
Once the day begins to wind down, it's time to raise anchor and leave the tranquil mangrove islands behind. Refresh yourself with another tasty beverage and snack and find your perfect spot on the boat to relax and enjoy your brisk sail back to the Historic Seaport as a lifetime of memories have been made during your day on the calm waters off Key West.