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Key West, May 2011 (Part 3a)

Row, Row, Row Your Boat

sunny 88 °F

For our first full day in Key West, we booked a four hour kayak tour with Lazy Dog, located on Stock Island just over the bridge from Key West. I cannot say enough good things about this tour. Our guide, Robin, was friendly and knowledgable and her love for the keys was evident. She was relaxed and toured at a comfortable pace. Besides Jay and me, there was one other person on the tour. It felt very much like a private expedition. Our tour buddy was a young guy from Montreal who was visiting Florida for 10 days with a friend. His friend went diving for the day so Yusef decided to come kayaking with us. He'd never kayaked before. He'd never snorkeled before. It also appeared that he'd never heard of sunscreen before. By the end of the trip every inch of his exposed lily white skin was fire engine red. I, however have no room to talk. I made two very poor choices this day and paid the price for it later. Somehow, in the process of lathering on the SPF, I completely missed my forearms. How!?!? An hour into the trip, just the lower half of my arms were flaming. Having not quite learned my lesson, I chose to snorkel without a rash guard after I had sweated out and rubbed off all the sunscreen on my back. Although my back wasn't as bad as my arms, I was feeling pretty crispy by lunchtime.

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Tandem kayaking with a spouse can be sketchy. I've actually heard these two person kayaks referred to as divorce boats. I admit that it is very difficult to give up control and just follow Jay's direction. In the past, it has taken me a good ten to fifteen minutes or so to settle in and follow commands without argument. This time, we were a well-oiled machine from the beginning. I think it must have been the fact that I was in island mode and feeling quite relaxed. I did have one encounter with a slimy prop root covered in muck because of poor communication with the captain. With that exception, it was all marital peace and harmony.

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This tour definitely had an ecological focus. We put in at Sugarloaf Key at the Bonefish Marina (I think that's what it was called). Before we even got in the water, we talked about the delicate balance between the islands, the mangroves, and the reefs. Once on the bay, Robin showed us how to tell the difference between red, black, and white mangroves and how each one eliminates salt from the water. Yes, we actually licked a black mangrove leaf - very salty. We looked at the sea grass beds and Robin pulled up different animals as she found them for us to touch and examine. We kayaked the mangrove waterways and spent some time wading in very shallow tidal pool-like areas. I loved this part. There was so much equatic life to touch and observe - sea anemones, sponges, sea slugs, snails, fish, sea cucmbers, tiny crabs. The wildlife was so abundant that I was afraid to move my feet for fear of stepping on some little creature. We snorkeled a bit over sea grass beds but didn't see much. There were just a few pin fish, grunts and juvenile yellowtail snapper. I did come across a large school of fry that shimmered in the sunlight like fairy dust. Finally, we did a hard push across the bay to get back to the marina. It was tough work but very invigorating. The whole adventure took about five hours.

P5190022.jpgP5190011.jpg Red Mangroves

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Upside Down Jellyfish (Cassiopea) This was a beautiful, delicate jelly.

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(Jay is notorious for stirring up the bottom so the pictures are a bit murky. The water was really crystal clear.)

From the highway, the mangroves just look like endless scrubby bushes. Upon closer inspection, they display an understated, peaceful beauty that is literally teeming with life. And their very existence guarantees the development of more keys and the protection of the reefs. Jay and I agree that kayaking is a great way to get up close and personal with the unique flora and fauna of the Florida keys.

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Posted by sjyoder 10:13 Archived in USA Tagged nature kayaking key_west

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