Ecotourism in the Florida Keys

Excerpts from Bill Belleville's article published in AAA World
April 1993

Off the southern cape of Florida, a splattering of islands, designed in the shape of a half moon, offers the rare opportunity to explore America's most tropical isles.

The road ends at Key West, but this is just a starting point for those who want to get a taste of the Keys' "backcountry." Islands inaccessible by bridge are scattered throughout the biologically rich Florida Bay and Gulf of Mexico. One of the best ways to experience this backcountry is aboard Capt. Victoria's 25-foot charter boat.

A native "conch" Capt. Victoria has spent most of her life on these waters; she also holds a marine science degree. She guides tours that include fishing, snorkeling, nature identification, and photography.

On these shimmering green waters, visitors see a side of the Keys that few visitors ever experience: a natural world in which nesting sea turtles, pods of bottlenose dolphin, and great white herons prevail - where spiny lobster hide in little limestone caves under the edges of mangrove islands, and bright purple sea urchins nestle in beds of sea grass. Capt. Victoria explains how important each plant and animal is to the ecological health of the Florida Keys and how each person can play a part in protecting there island habitats.

When your eco-tour of the Florida Keys is finished, you'll leave with more than a T-shirt and a suntan. You'll have a new appreciation for a national environmental treasure, anchored by mangrove roots and bound by the timeless constraints of a rising and falling tide.
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