Florida Nature Experiences

Marathon, Florida, of the Florida Keys

About halfway between Key Largo and Key West in the Florida Keys is a great little place called Marathon. Marathon is set on 13 islands and is known for its beaches and barrier reefs. Coco Plum Beach and Sombrero Beach are two favorites. Curry Hammock State Park is also a great place to spend some time. The Dolphin Research Center and the Turtle Hospital are on the Gulf side. If you are looking for a great places to eat, you won’t be disappointed. While we were there, we never experienced a bad meal. Be sure to call ahead for reservations or possible wait time. After your meal there is nothing like enjoying a tropical cocktail while you sit, relax and watch the sun melt into the ocean at a Tiki Bar. Experiencing a Florida Keys sunset is a fantastic way to end your day’s adventure.

Snorkeling

The Keys offer a lot. If you do decide to spend your vacation in Marathon, you will never be bored. When there, you must take one of the snorkeling or diving tours. We spent an afternoon snorkeling with Captain Hook’s.

Snorkeling off Marathon, FL

Whether you are a novice or veteran snorkeler, Captain Hook’s can accommodate you. Before you leave the dock, you will get an orientation on what you need to know while on the boat and while snorkeling. The crew is certified in water rescue and safety is always in the forefront. You can bring your own gear, or you can rent gear.

Captain Hook’s regularly visits the Sanctuary Preservation Areas (SPA’s) that are a part of the Florida Keys Marine Sanctuary. The Florida Keys Marine Sanctuary is the third largest living coral barrier reef system in the world. These are biologically important areas that help sustain critical marine habitats and species. They offer beautiful coral reef formations and a diversity of fish and some of the best diving and snorkeling in the Keys.

For more information on diving with Captain Hook’s Dive Tours go to https://captainhooks.com/

A couple of things to remember. Please don’t touch the coral when snorkeling. You will kill it. Bring reef safe sunscreen, but not spray on.

Rehabbing Turtle

The Turtle Hospital

The Turtle Hospital is a fascinating place that you have to visit. The tour is highly educational. You learn about the threats to the sea turtles and how you can help keep them safe.

The tour takes about an hour. First you spend time inside where you get educated about the facilities and sea turtles in a classroom setting. The tour then takes you outside where you actually get to see the turtles that are currently being rehabilitated. You learn about how they treat various issues the turtles come in with. They will give you information on what to do if you find a sea turtle in distress.

The hospital is an amazing facility. They are successful in returning many turtles back into the wild. Some turtles have conditions that are so severe they end up living at the hospital.

For more information on the turtle hospital, go to https://www.turtlehospital.org/

Summary

Marathon Florida has plenty to do and see. Where Key West is often the ultimate destination when traveling the Keys, make sure to leave some time to enjoy some of the other islands on the way. A vacation in Marathon alone would be a wonderful time. Marathon provides plenty of sun, water activities and science.

Swimming with the Manatees of Crystal River

ManateeManatees are large, fully aquatic, mostly herbivorous marine mammals sometimes known as sea cows. These creatures, who are closely related to the elephant, are extremely unique. Viewing manatees is fascinating. Swimming with them is exhilarating.

Crystal River is located near Kings Bay. The water temperature in Kings Bay is consistently 72 degrees year-round. The springs in the area are the reason for this stable water temperature. Because of the 72 degree water temperatures, large numbers of manatees migrate to the Kings Bay/Crystal River area during the winter months to escape the cold waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Some of them stay in the bay through the summer months. This creates a perfect opportunity for you to get up close and personal with these gentle giants.

There are various vehicles which allow you to view manatees from a close range. You can view them from the shore, you can kayak around the bay or you can swim with them. Yes, you can swim with these amazing creatures and Crystal River is one of the only places in Florida where you’re legally permitted to swim with manatees in their natural habitat. But before you jump in the water, be advised there a specific rules on the do’s and don’ts of interacting with the manatees.

Swimming with Manatees: 

River Ventures is the tour we took when we swam with manatees. The bars you see are not cages. At the time we were there, they were in the process of re-establishing the sea grass in the area. The bars are protecting the sea grass restoration process. The manatees were free to come and go.

The tour is about 3 hours from start to finish. Before you leave for the tour, you will be fully briefed on rules surrounding this activity. You will be provided with masks, snorkels and wet suits. A photo package is available at the end of the tour, but you are welcome to take your own videos and photos.

You are brought out to the swim area by a certified Master Captain. While on the tour, you will learn many things about the manatees and the history of manatees in the Crystal River area. In the water you will be snorkeling with pool noodles which will help support you. While in the water you are only allowed to passively interact with the manatees. The pre-tour briefing will explain the do’s and don’ts of passive interaction.

River Ventures claims you will never be the same after meeting the friendly gentle giants of the sea. We can guarantee their claim is true. The experience was exhilarating and yet amazingly calming.

River ventures Tour Center is located at 498 S.E. Kings Bay Drive Crystal River, FL. You can go to http://www.riverventures.com for more information and learn how to contact them for more information, tour schedules, pricing and how to book.

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My Blog

IMAG1821.JPGMany years ago, just after getting married, I took my wife and her boys to Florida. First we spent a day at Universal Studios. Theme parks are always a blast. Then we visited the east coast. We spent some time on Cocoa Beach, Florida. The surf, sun and sand was wonderful.

Next we headed to the gulf side of Florida. We went over to Clearwater. My wife fell in love with the white sand, the surf and the sunset. That night she saw her first dolphin. We enjoyed other places during our stay, like Tarpon Springs.

Since then we returned to Florida on a regular basis. Each time we experienced amazing adventures. Our adventures do not revolve around the normal tourist attractions. Florida is so much more. Nature and wildlife are the real adventures. We loved our adventures so much we are retiring and will be living in Florida full time.

This blog will journal our adventures. Yes, some will feature the places everyone wants to go. Some will be of those hidden away gems. I hope our adventures will lead you to your adventures.