Island to Island Charters,
Key West: Daily Updates

Posts Tagged ‘key west activities’

Key West: Sharks, Beaches, Sandbars, Sea Turtles

October 22nd, 2015

A family from New Jersey chartered me for a 6 hour trip on the water for a little bit of fishing, exploring & chilling on a sandbar. The weather was more than cooperative and I was really looking forward to a beautiful day. We started the day off well with a pod of dolphins playing around. I was pleased to hear the young boy, Jackson, admit he has never seen wild dolphins.

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After being amused by the dolphins rough housing each other we cruised to a channel to drop anchor and try our luck at fishing. Sometimes this channel produces & sometimes not so much. Generally light tackle fishing in the backcountry is better during winter months. It seems the bait fish come in & that brings our schools of larger fish to the channels. This time of the year should be when I start to see schools of Jacks, Bar Jacks, Ladyfish, Bluerunners. Both Jackson & his dad did catch Yellowtail Snappers, but not much else going on. So time to hit the sandbar.

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We traveled about 30 minutes west of Key West to an island on the Atlantic side with one of my favorite white sand bars. Usually I can find shallow water here regardless of the tides. More importantly the sand is amazingly soft. This is a great spot to introduce snorkeling to young kids & adults to get them comfortable with the gear. Jackson enjoyed swimming about looking for small fish and shells. His mother held his 18 month year old sister in the water while she splashed around. We were very fortunate to have some Southern Stingrays swim past us. Upon leaving the sandbar a Loggerhead swam right in front of the boat. My clients rarely get this amazing opportunity to enjoy the sight of such a magnificent creature because they are quite shy, incredibly fast, & blend well with their surroundings. This sea turtle was swimming over a white sand bar & not so quickly.

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Now it was time to head to the shipwreck and do some fishing. I was very happy to see large schools of fish swimming by. Jackson caught Grey Snappers, Blue Runners, Porgy, & a very large Bar Jack that gave him a heck of a fight. In the meantime his dad was struggling with losing bait & tackle to what we think is a large grouper at the bottom of the wreck. He didn’t have nearly the success Jackson did. Also we were lucky to observe lots of Barracudas, more stingrays & another Loggerhead Sea Turtle.

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We are so fortunate in the Florida Keys to be surrounded by beautiful waters for great fishing & encountering of marine life. We were headed back to Key West through the Lakes telling fish stories of course. I noticed something unusual floating in the water. To my surprise & shock when I got closer to see, it was a Bald Eagle. Thankfully it was still alive, but definitely struggling with being soaking wet & unable to fly. I called Tom at Key West Wildlife Center for advice. I didn’t have the necessary equipment to grab the Bald Eagle safely for me & my clients. She was absolutely huge & still very powerful. I then called Florida Wildlife Commission for them to retrieve the bird out of the water. We stayed close to her to protect her from predators until they arrived. With a large net & a towel, they successfully brought her on the boat. Truly one of the most wonderful experiences I have had on the water. My clients said the same. We are extremely fortunate to have such a great organization like Key West Wildlife Center in our community. She was released the following day in good health.

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3 Days Of Key West’s Best Adventures on the Water

August 19th, 2015

A wonderful family with 4 mostly grown children booked me for an afternoon of snorkeling, spear-fishing, dolphins…and whatever other fun stuff we could find to do. And believe me we found three days full of fun activities on the surrounding waters of Key West.

We started with snorkeling a patch reef just north west a few miles off Key West. In the summer the conditions are ideal for visibility & lots of marine life passing through. On our way there we came across a large pod of dolphins having loads of fun playing with each other. This is always a treat. This particular area they were in is crystal clear blue waters with a white sandy bottom. This means as the dolphins swim by the boat you can see every detail of them, even the expression on their face.

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After trying to photo their every move, we said good-bye to our amazing friends and headed to our snorkel spot. This place was full of the large Southern Sting-rays, Barracudas, loads of tropical fish etc… Also the oldest son was trying his skills at Spearfishing. This can be a great area for Snappers, Hogfish, & some Groupers. He was able to find a sizable Hogfish and successfully shoot it. Not bad for his first time!

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It was time to relax after a lot of snorkeling, so we found a sand bar to chill out on. That didn’t last long, the siblings soon started goofing around. Mom, however enjoyed floating around peacefully on her noodle while the kids were having their own fun. It is crazy to think you can stand in the middle of the ocean, that is one of the best parts of the Keys. All the beautiful shallow water.

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Another part of the adventurous days, was to snorkel a large shipwreck. This they thoroughly enjoyed because they saw a ton of cool marine life all over the wreck. And again, the son had his chance at practicing his spearfishing abilities. This time prooved a little more difficult, because the target were lion fish. Which are quite small, but are invasive and need to be eradicated! They also discovered the remains of bombs & torpedoes. It is great when my clients take an advantage of the great snorkeling around Key West. They have only done the bigger boats loaded with too many people. This time they discovered that on a private charter all the time was strictly theirs and customized to what they wanted to do. These very active adult children spent the majority of the time swimming, free diving, and snorkeling all over the backcountry and saw an array of amazing things.

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In 3 days we explored over 30 miles of the best features of the backcountry (the shallow, calm inner waters just off Key West). We snorkeled 2 patch reefs, shipwrecks, encountered dolphins, stingrays, sharks, and sea turtles. We also enjoyed several sand bars and 2 remote beaches. And most importantly, they were able to enjoy each other before they headed back to the busy real world. For this mom, each of her kids were attending a different school & this was an important time that the family was together.

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A Chilly, but Beautiful Day!

February 27th, 2015

I had spoken to my customer, Tony the night before and I expressed concern about high winds and unusually low temperatures predicted for the day of our charter. I definitely am not a captain that takes clients out regardless of the weather. It is important to me that it be an enjoyable trip for everyone (me included). I guess you could call me a “fair-weather captain”. In the morning I called him and gave him the option to go out on the boat or not. The winds were a little less than predicted. He decided he & his family wanted to go. I am really glad now, knowing what a great trip it turned out to be! Tony & his wife & her parents visiting from China had never been to Florida before, much less cruising through the shallows, and mangrove islands of the Backcountry. They were amazed to say the least. The best part of where I go is even on a windy day I can usually find shelter behind the islands. Also since I travel through such shallow water, it is not real choppy.

I recruited my husband Tony, a charter boat captain as well, to accompany me on this trip. At the very start, lo and behold a large pod of dolphins playing in a area right off Key West. So much fun to watch them jumping around and investigating us on the boat. This was the first time my clients would see dolphins in the wild. This is one of my favorite things about what I do, introducing people to the extraordinary elements of Mother Nature at her best!

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We had to pull ourselves away from the dolphins because there was so much more to see. One good thing about a windy day is if you get to see the kite boarders surfing the flats. I always enjoy watching them perform maneuvers and jumps and catch some serious wind and fly across the water. I have a lot of respect for their sport, but no desire to learn it. I will stick with being a spectator.

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We came to our first island which is always full of a large variety of birds relaxing in the mangroves. We tried to do some fishing, but were not having much luck. After pointing out all the different bird species we left to the next island to hopefully have better luck fishing.

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While we were fishing one of my favorite spots, we probable saw at least 6 Loggerhead Sea Turtles. Amazingly they were quite large and enjoying floating on the surface. I think they were trying to warm themselves in the sun. The water temperatures dipped to almost a record low that week. My clients were thrilled with seeing this, another first for them. And miraculously we were able to catch some fish with the water being so cold. Especially since this was their first time fishing!

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We were having so much fun, but we were running out of time and I had one more place I wanted to show them. One of my favorite islands has a few narrow channels to cruise through and I can only get there on a high tide. It is positively beautiful boating through this island. I knew they would appreciate it and they did!

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On the way home we went exploring for stingrays in the shallows right next to one of the mangrove islands, instead we saw dozens of Barracudas. That was very cool. The water was quite clear and you could see them very well. My husband and I really enjoyed our time with these guys. In spite of the cold, we laughed a lot and they discovered a whole new world.

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A day to celebrate!

February 10th, 2015

Randy, Mike, and I enjoyed a day exploring the backcountry. We were very fortunate to have a beautiful, calm day to cruise around and take in the sights. Our only plans were to have a relaxing day. It was very cool to be a part of their first time in the ocean and seeing such amazing sights. I love being able to introduce people to the true beauty of the Keys. The shallow flats & mangrove islands just off the Keys are really something to see.

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We encountered all sorts of herons, pelicans, egrets, ospreys, & cormorants. We boated through small channels in the mangrove islands to get a close up view of them in their habitat. The ospreys have returned to their nests with their partners and have begun to lay eggs.

We drove to the next set of mangrove islands to stop at my favorite sand bar. I jumped on the white sand bar probably in no more than two feet of water. At that point they shared with me that they had never been in the ocean. How lucky was I to be a part of a significant moment in their lives. Hesitantly they followed me and were absolutely amazed to be standing in such shallow water in the Ocean for the first time in their lives! I think I almost cried. How awesome! As you stand and scan the surrounding water from the sandbar the colors vary from every shade of blue to green imaginable. It is truly a magnificent area. Rarely do I even see another boat while I am there. All you hear is the sound of birds.

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The next set of islands held a wonderful surprise for us. A pod of dolphins were feeding in the shallows all around us. We spent a significant amount of time watching their every move in utter amazement. (As you know they are one of my favorite things in this world)

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In addition to the fabulous display from our dolphin friends we saw Southern Stingrays as well.

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After losing track of time, we realized sunset was right around the corner. We found a sandbar just off Key West to chill out and watch the famous Key West sunset. Lucky for us it was completely unobstructed. We relaxed and discussed the highlights of the trip. Mike mentioned that he learned quite a bit about all the marine life. I learned about farming & being a bee keeper from them. Also how important it is to enjoy life. I could really tell they were celebrating it!

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Thank you Mike & Randy for allowing me to show you the beauty of the world I live in.

Dolphins, snorkeling, & more

January 26th, 2015

We started the charter cruising west to do some snorkeling, chilling on a beach, and exploring the beauty surrounding the mangrove islands. I was chartered by a family with three generations on board. So much fun. We snorkeled an area full of sponges which host small colorful fish and lobsters. It is definitely an easy place to snorkel, sheltered from the wind and quite shallow. Great for beginners or people needing a refresher coarse.

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We proceeded through the Key West National Wildlife Refuge to check out some cool sand bars after deciding it was a bit too bumpy to snorkel the coral heads just off one of the islands. We dropped anchor and enjoyed the beautiful scenery of nothing but water and remote islands.

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After a bit of relaxing and quite a few laughs we continued our adventure to the next island. Well luckily we were interrupted by a playful pod of dolphins. Which made us all very happy. One of the females had a very young calf attached to her side so we were careful to stay clear as not to worry the mom. What an incredible sight to see the baby follow the mom and mimic her every move.

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Dolphins are always the crescendo of any trip, but we dedided it was time to hit the beach. The remote island is the only island with a natural beach regardless of the tide. The beach is definitely a local’s favorite. It also has quite a few shells and a lot of hermit crabs. They enjoyed a picnic lunch and relaxed in the sun for awhile.

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Just off the island is a substantial shipwreck where I took them to snorkel. Usually full of large schools of fish. At one point a very large Goliath Grouper had a residence there. This time they saw several very large Southern Stingrays and a multitude of fish.

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To conclude our fabulous day on the water we headed back to Key West to watch the sunset. While doing this we encountered another pod of dolphins that swam right in front of the bow of the boat. This was the closest and most memorable experience they have ever had with dolphins. We are so fortunate down here to have so many of them and especially when they are seeking attention from their human friends.

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I am grateful to have shared such a wonderful day with my clients. Anytime I introduce the beauty of the backcountry to people, I get to fall in love with it all over again. This trip was definitely one of those days. I love Key West, but I love the surrounding waters even more.

A Great Day on the Water!

November 12th, 2014

Luckily for a November day, the water was flat clam & crystal clear. I was chartered by a young couple, Alison & Ross, to explore the beauty of the backcountry. We had clear blue skies above us & clear blue water all around us, my favorite conditions for spending the day on the water.

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After discussing what they wanted to see and do, we decided that dolphin watching was a huge priority. Luckily I was able to find a handful of them frolicking around. Alison & Ross were really surprised at how much they played right next to the boat. This group was very playful & fun to watch. Sometimes when I encounter them, they are too busy traveling or eating to engage with the boat. Not this time, they were quite pleased with providing entertainment for us. Alison took 90 pictures in just a few minutes hoping to capture it on film.

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We cruised to a patch reef just off of Man Key to do some snorkeling. We were fortunate that the visibility was good considering most of the water from the gulf was murky from some storms. They snorkeled for sometime hand in hand. I was quite preoccupied watching the poker run boats to make sure they saw my snorkel flag. Some came too close for my comfort. Alison & Ross noticed me yelling & jumping up and down with my flag and thought it was quite funny.

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At last we found a white sand bar nearby & dropped anchor. They walked off hand in hand exploring the area. There was just 2 other boats some distance away. It is always very peaceful & relaxing to just sit and view nothing but endless water all around you. Mother nature at its best! Hearing only the sounds of birds & the tide coming in. When they returned to the boat we chatted & laughed about all sorts of stuff. The sun was beginning to set & we were at least 30 minutes away from Key West. So we began to head in. The colors were extraordinary. Alison commented that she couldn’t decide which way to look because it was all such a great view.

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We stopped just off of Sunset Key to catch the sun dropping in the water hoping to see the mysterious green flash, but to no avail. I have only seen it a handful of times in the 20 years that I have lived in Key West. After really enjoying their day & their trip to Key West, I imagine they will be back.

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Thanks guys for such a great day!

Key West Fishing & Snorkeling

September 3rd, 2014

I had a family visiting Key West interested in chartering Island to Island Charters for a day of snorkeling & fishing. We were able to successfully do both, and had a lot of fun on top of it! In Key West we are fortunate to have a lot of snorkeling options, from shipwrecks to reefs, etc.. We traveled to a patch reef in the Gulf of Mexico just a few miles west of Key West. On this day we were very lucky to experience clear, calm blue water with good visibility. They were able to see an assortment of marine life, from small colorful fish to a large Nurse Shark and & curious Barracuda.

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After all the activity of snorkeling we decided to relax on a nearby white sandbar located next to the mangrove island of Cottrell Key. One of my favorite places to spend time. Generally, depending on the tide, stingrays, tarpon, & sharks cross this flat in pursuit of food. It is neat to observe this in such shallow clear conditions.

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Next on our adventure was to try some fishing. In the backcountry sometimes your best bet for fishing is in the small channels that travel through the Key West flats. I found one I hoped would produce. Well today was a lucky day for that. We had managed to entice several good size grey snappers and 2 Nurse Sharks. We saw other large schools of fish swim by with no interest in our lines.

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After snorkeling, sandbars, and fishing we were running out of time so started our way back to Key West. We were interrupted by a pod of dolphins playing in the area. We marveled at their antics and watched them carry on in their travels. Never a dull moment with these creatures around. Our Key West dolphin watching is always a new experience, they continue to surprise & amaze myself and my customers. I am very grateful for their presence.

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We crossed the channel to Key West and traveled past Sunset Key before arriving to my marina. Thanks to a very cool family for making my “job” so much fun. I am so glad they decided to book a private boat charter for a family activity while on vacation in Key West.

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Key West Boating

August 9th, 2014

I had a lovely newlywed couple from Wisconsin charter me for a fun day on the water in Key West. The summer days in the Florida Keys are our favorite time for boating. The water is calm, crystal clear, & quite warm. So we started out snorkeling a patch reef just a few miles West of Key West. This reef in the summer is full of very large Southern Stingrays. They also saw a Nurseshark, Barracudas, and loads of tropical reef fish. It is quite nice because the large boats usually don’t go there so there are very few people. Also as a private charter you are free from the crowds.

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We definitely had to hit the beach after snorkeling. My honeymooners were able to enjoy a remote island all to themselves. How romantic is that? Not another boat in sight. It is a beautiful island with a natural beach just 15 miles West of Key West in the Key West National Wildlife Refuge. At certain tides the Boca Grande has hermit crabs cruising the beach. Also stingrays enjoy the white sand bottom. This is the true beauty of the Florida Keys. Calm blue waters surrounding lush green mangrove islands. Nothing but the sound of birds and the rippling of the ocean. I can understand why my customers tell me my trip is the highlight of their Key West vacation. I never get tired of experiencing days like these.

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Just a minute from the island is a large shipwreck. They snorkeled the shipwreck for sometime and discovered a large school of parrotfish, starfish, stingrays, and various colorful fish. We have a lot of wrecks in the surrounding waters of Key West, but this one is usually full of the most marine life.

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We returned to the boat, relaxed and cruised back towards Key West with plans of stopping at a sand bar along the way. We came across some dolphins en route. Stopped and enjoyed their antics. Nothing is quite as wonderful as dolphin watching! It amazes me how many people have never seen them in the wild, I am so lucky to expose them to such a wonder.

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We enjoyed a nice boat trip back to Key West along the Atlantic. Past the islands in the Lakes. Caught a glimpse of a few sea turtles. All and all a successful day boating the Key West shallows.

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Key West Snorkeling

July 22nd, 2014

I had a superb day with a family from Texas visiting Key West for the first time. Luckily for me, they decided to book my private boat charter for 2 days. We were able to explore a lot of the Key West backcountry all the way from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean. We started our wonderful day together dolphin watching.

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We proceeded West of Key West to a patch reef to do some snorkeling. First we stopped at a sandbar to practice because it was their son’s first time snorkeling. Both parents were advanced scuba divers and were anxious to show him all the amazing marine life.

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We had excellent visibility for snorkeling. They saw Stingrays, tons of tropical fish, Barracudas, Nurse Sharks, and various forms of coral. The son was an expert in no time!

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I decided with their enjoyment of snorkeling to take them to a wreck just off of Boca Grande. They saw a large school of Parrotfish, Tarpon, and a lot of large Southern Stingrays. After that we relaxed on a remote island with a beautiful natural sandy beach. They had their picnic lunch there. While relaxing on a shallow white sand bar we noticed a very large dark area in the water moving. It was a bait ball full of small brown fish!

Several tarpon were feeding as well. None of us had ever seen anything like that. It was amazing to witness! They grabbed their masks and snorkeled in the midst of thousands and thousands of little fish swimming all around them.

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We left the island and cruised the Atlantic past Woman & Ballest Key. We did stop to enjoy the very soft sand. That is where they found dozens of gorgeous Queen Conchs, Sand Dollars, and Bonnethead Sharks. We were lucky to view a Bullshark swim by the boat.

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We headed back to Key West after a full day of adventure, and exploration of the Key West shallows, flats, remote beaches, mangrove islands, wrecks, reefs, sandbars & more. I am grateful to have been a part of their Key West vacation and hope to do it again.

A Great Day Boating in Key West

June 27th, 2014

I really enjoy being a charter boat captain in Key West always cruising our gorgeous waters, but this day was especially nice. Two couples from Illinois wanted a relaxing day on the water so they booked a day with me, Capt. Ally of Island to Island Charters. We left the marina and headed for an area hoping to spot some dolphins. Lucky us we found a pod of maybe 8 to 10 dolphins just a few miles off Key West in crystal clear blue water. Visibility was incredible!

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After dolphin watching we headed further towards the Gulf to snorkel a patch reef. We had calm fabulous conditions for snorkeling. We snorkeled two areas of the reef and they saw a ton of tropical fish, a large barracuda, a Nurse Shark, large Southern Stingrays, etc. Overall a very successful snorkeling experience in Key West.

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We proceeded to cruise the Key West Wildlife Refuge along the Gulf and headed towards a remote island with a natural sandy beach. We were the only boat there to enjoy beachcombing for shells, floating, and laying on the sand bars. Their own private island in the Florida Keys. (just a few miles away from the craziness of Key West.) We saw sharks and sea turtles along the way.

Sand bar therapy!

Sand bar therapy!

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Susan is a really good floater!

Susan is a really good floater!

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Funny enough, I brought fishing rods and bait for some backcountry light tackle fishing, but relaxing on the beach seemed to be a strong priority. You gotta admire people that prioritize well! We left the island in search of another pod of dolphins in a different area and we found them immediately. This pod is a little larger and came swimming right underneath the boat when Susan and Debbie were sitting on the bow. They were super excited to see dolphins that close, they definitely never experienced anything like that before. I am still thrilled anytime a dolphin graces me with their presence. It is humbling to see a creature that magnificent! We are very fortunate to have such a large amount of dolphins who reside year round in the waters surrounding Key West.

We headed back towards Key West from the Atlantic to the Lakes past all the Mangrove Islands. After crossing the channel I showed them Sunset Key and all the beautiful homes before returning to the dock. I am really happy they found my Key West charter boat business on trip advisor for the top Key West activities. They appreciated having a day to themselves on their time, not on a big boat full of people. We went most of the day with just seeing a few other boats in the backcountry. Coming back to Key Weston our way to Garrison Bight Marina, they saw the crowded boats and were reminded how great their day was on their own private charter boat away from everyone else exploring areas larger boats can’t get to!