Here are eight places to help you get wild in the Keys. For each of these places, more detailed information and photos are available through the Florida Rambler guides linked at the end of each section.
The Turtle Hospital, Marathon
The Florida Keys wildlife you see here is all underwater. This is one of the most popular snorkeling spots in the continental United States. Snorkeling trips head to the reefs every day of the year. If you want to stay dry, there are glass-bottom boat tours. For those who want to see a few fish but not spend the money or time for a boat trip, Pennekamp offers very good snorkeling from its man-made Cannon Beach. The park has placed remnants of an early Spanish shipwreck about feet off the beach. Fish congregate under and round the sea-life encrusted cannons and anchor.
Its charm is in its informal, volunteer vibe. The shady mangrove forest is sectioned off via wire caging to create enclosures for injured birds.
After hurricane, fate of sea turtle nests uncertain on Florida coast
But the place is full of birds outside the cages, too, with pelicans, herons and egrets hanging around hoping to snatch a little food. Donations welcome. These are among the great saltwater game fish, prized for their fight but not as food. There are a lot of different ways to experience dolphins in the Keys: there are several swim-with-the-dolphins programs, Theater of the Sea in Islamorada offers entertaining shows and several tour boats in Key West offer wild-dolphin-viewing trips.
The focus of the Dolphin Research Center , a not-for-profit facility, however, is on education. Rather than choreographed shows, trainers hold informative sessions as visitors stand on the dock around open-water tanks. At a small group session, a staff member demonstrates how they train younger dolphins while visitors ask questions and watch dolphins swim immediately in front of them. The facility is built along the waterfront with beautiful views of Florida Bay and visitors are free to linger.
While the tour and information sessions can be experienced in an hour or two, many visitors stay for several hours watching the dolphins and talking with the friendly, well-informed staff. Located in a former motel on the Overseas Highway, the Turtle Hospital supports its program of rescuing and rehabilitating about injured sea turtles a year through the admission price paid by visitors. Reservations are recommended: Driving through Big Pine Key, you are sure to see the warnings to slow down for Key deer — but it may take some effort to see the deer themselves because there are so few.
In , there were only 27 Key deer left.
With the establishment of the National Key Deer Refuge and its preservation efforts, the population has rebounded to an estimated If you get lucky, you might see them by the side of the road on the Overseas Highway. You can visit the visitor center for the National Key Deer Refuge for maps and information that will help you explore.
With this WagJag, two kids and two adults can visit Scales Nature Park, a 21 hectare conservation area just south of Orillia. Come see all the freshwater turtles of Canada, touch or hold a live snake, learn about fabulous frogs or walk in the woods and enjoy nature's sounds and smells all without a computer in sight. All creatures are safe, clean and easy to handle with help from Scales Nature Park staff. With outdoor trails, a dynamic and knowledgeable staff and a great nature centre building featuring interactive exhibits, homes for live animals and facilities for birthday parties, Scales Nature Park offers a naturally beautiful setting to escape from the everyday in.
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Rescue, Rehabilitation, Release: Visiting The Turtle Hospital, Marathon FL – Between England & Iowa
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