By John McNamara
If you are like most Americans, when you think of the Everglades
and Everglades National Park, you think of alligators looking for
prey and airboats skimming across the Florida sawgrass. You may
also visualize some swampy area in South-central Florida where humans
rarely visit, the wildlife still rules and survival of the fittest
was still in order. What if I was to tell you that the Everglades
was full of Dolphins, Fire Sponges and Sea Horses? Would you believe
It is True! Everglades National Park not only covers the swampy
lands of South-Central Florida, but also extends down into the crystal
clear, blue water paradise of the Florida Keys. This is where you
will spot dolphins and seahorses living in harmony among the mangroves
trees and hidden islands of the Keys and Florida Bay. Salt water
and fresh water combine to create an incredible habitat for water
dwellers of all kinds. The best part is that you can experience
it all on the Caribbean Watersports, Enviro-Tour of the Everglades
and Florida Bay.
We left the docks of the Key Largo Weston Hotel on an 18- foot
inflatable powerboat and headed into the Florida Bay. As we raced
towards the mangroves, Captain Duane informed us of some interesting
facts about the Key Largo waters. We were told how many of the islands
off the coast of Key Largo were man-made. Many of them were developed
when builders blasted dynamite to create a path for industry ships.
This path is now known as the Intercoastal Waterway. The Intercoastal
is approximately 8 feet deep; the rest of the Florida Bay averages
three to four feet in depth. As the sand moved, the islands formed.
The different mangrove trees and islands made there appearances.
The mangrove islands propagate themselves by dropping long seed pods
into the water which, in turn, float away until they collect on
nearby sandy or muddy shoal areas and grow into other mangrove
islands. The mangrove trees are
the only trees know to be able to grow out of salt water. The tree
actually has the ability to separate the salt from the water. The mangrove
does this through a sacrificial yellow leaf that collects
the salt from the salt water and sends the newly unsalted water
to the rest of the tree. This sacrificial leaf is then released
from the tree for a new one to grow, collect salt and also be sacrificed.
From this point, the trees grow and spread across the low levels
of water to create a home for birds and water creatures of all kinds.
Along the trim of the mangroves and in the crystal clear waters live
dolphins, manatees, seahorses, sponges and various fish. We toured
along the edge of the mangrove tree islands and through the naturally
created mangrove tunnels. All the while observing the beauty of the
Everglades and its inhabitants in their natural environment.
Dolphins were swimming along side the boat as we searched for manatee
in the shallow waters. We stopped by the mangrove islands to observe
the Osprey making nests on the top of the channel markers. We scooped
some sand to see the seahorses swimming throughout the clear waters.
It was amazing to be a part of nature while being careful not to
About two hours later we were back at the dock. Back to the developed
land that overlooks the peaceful everglades. Captain Duane informed
us of a great local restaurant, called Mrs. Macs, where we could
go to get a taste of the Keys. We finished off a beautiful morning,
learning about the Everglades beyond the swamps, with a fantastic
Everglades National Park is a unique place to visit. The crystal
clear, blue waters of the Florida Keys provide the perfect atmosphere
to spot Dolphins and Manatees among the Mangrove trees of
Florida Bay. The rare combination of salt water and fresh water
create a special habitat. You can experience it all on the Caribbean
Watersports, Enviro-Tour of the Everglades and Florida Bay.
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