Monthly Archives: July 2014
The 16th annual Florida Keys Birding and Wildlife Festival, set for Tuesday through Sunday, Sept. 23-28, offers birders, outdoor enthusiasts and nature photographers a backstage pass to view native wildlife and explore one of Florida’s most precious ecosystems.
Anchored at Marathon’s oceanfront preserve of Curry Hammock State Park, mile marker 56.2, the family-friendly event characteristically includes field trips to national, state and private natural and backcountry areas of the Florida Keys.
Participants can enjoy behind-the-scenes guided walks and boat and kayak adventures to some of the Keys’ wildest places. They include Florida Bay by Everglades National Park, the National Key Deer Refuge, Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock State Park and Dry Tortugas National Park, located 70 miles off Key West.
More than a dozen birding and wildlife experts, guides and writers are to lead excursions, workshops and informative presentations. Topics include how to be a better birder, radar ornithology, raptor behavior, migratory birds and more.
The popular Wildlife Fair and Family Day is set for 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 27, at Curry Hammock. Admission to the fair is free.
Sunday, Sept. 28, is the signature all-day birding excursion to Dry Tortugas National Park. A ferry to the remote birders’ paradise boards at 7:30 a.m. in Key West and returns around 5 p.m. Reservations are required and space is limited to two groups of 20 people each.
Festival attendees also are welcome to join “hawkwatchers” daily as they monitor the flights of record numbers of peregrine falcons and other raptors from a perch at Curry Hammock State Park. The Florida Keys Hawkwatch team spearheads the southernmost migration count in the continental United States, documenting as many as 18 species and 25,000 diurnal birds of prey and more than 120 species of waders, shorebirds and songbirds.
Event registration fees apply for daily programs and field trips. Early registration is encouraged.
Event information: www.keysbirdingfest.org or Kristie Killam at 305-304-9625
Visitors to the middle Florida Keys now can enjoy an immersive experience with reef fish, invertebrates, stingrays and even sharks — without entering the ocean — at Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters. At the marine life attraction, recently opened in Marathon, they can learn about the importance of marine conservation while discovering the Keys’ complex underwater habitats.
The signature feature of the multimillion-dollar facility, located near the foot of the Vaca Cut Bridge at 11710 Overseas Highway, is a coral reef exhibit and shark habitat housed in a massive 200,000-gallon interconnected saltwater aquarium.
Following an instructional presentation, participants in the flagship 90-minute encounter can immerse themselves in the tank to hover over an artificial coral reef structure and interact with tropical reef fish, rays and other reef-dwelling marine species that are part of the in-tank ecosystem.
The encounter employs tethered diving technology, enabling individuals without prior scuba experience to enjoy the in-water opportunity with supervision from trained professional dive instructors. A large fortified Plexiglas window divides the coral reef tank from a shark and predatory fish tank, and participants can hand-feed those creatures through underwater feeding ports in the window.
Other interactive aquarium encounters include shallow touch tanks that feature starfish, conchs and horseshoe crabs, and allow feeding debarbed stingrays and docile baby nurse sharks. At each encounter, a staff marine biologist provides educational introduction and guidance.
Visit www.floridakeysaquariumencounters.com or call 305-407-3262.
Silver Airways has initiated daily nonstop flights between Orlando International Airport and Key West International Airport. Two flights are offered daily and take approximately 80 minutes. The airline is using 34-passenger Saab 340B Plus aircraft for the route.
As well as its nonstop Orlando/Key West flights, Silver Airways offers nonstop service between the island city and Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers and Tampa, Fla.
In addition, passengers can choose connecting flights to dozens of destinations beyond Florida through the airline’s codeshare and interline ticketing partnerships.
For more information and to book a flight, visit www.silverairways.com.