The Florida Keys have long been considered an Ecotourism playground attracting nature lovers from across the world, as well as those just interested in seeing magnificent and diverse animals, flora and fauna. Thanks to its tropical climate, its many reefs both artificial and living and its acres and acres of reserves, state park areas, and protected sanctuaries; the Keys boast some of the most diverse and easily accessible wildlife in the western hemisphere. Here are just a select few of the hundreds (if not thousands) of species and animals that inhabit the land, sea, and air of the Keys.
Slightly terrifying but utterly majestic, Marlins can grow up to 16ft in length, and have few predators in the water except sharks and certain whales. These fish are deeply tied in with the identity of the Keys, perhaps in part to the oral and written legends surrounding the local fishermen’s (including one Ernest Hemingway) pursuit of them. Marlins are increasingly endangered due to overfishing, but both competitive fishers and island inhabitants are at the forefront of trying to protect this magnificent species of fish.
The Great Florida Reef (and everything it attracts)
Take a glass bottom boat or scuba dive and snorkel your way around the US’s only living coral reef. A large chunk of the reef is located in John Pennekamp state park, so heading here will be your best bet to witness the amazing underwater world of the keys. The reef itself is beautiful, and the astounding abundance of sea life it attracts is equally amazing. Expect to see brightly coloured angelfish, schools of barracuda, some pretty big goliath groupers and if you’re really lucky, a pod of dolphins might swim by.
Don’t be fooled by their Diminutive stature (with regards to other deer anyway) the Key Deer are not shy, and will not hesitate to approach you or your vehicle in search of food and attention. These endangered deer are entirely unique to the Keys, so catching a glimpse of one is a must – you’re best chance will be in the lesser populated areas such as Big Pine Key.
Aside from the impressive living reef, the Keys are home to a variety of shipwrecks and artificial reefs that play host to even more exotic sea life. A few of the wrecks, especially The Duane, are known to attract the really big ones however; sightings of great whites, although a rarity, are not outside the realms of possibility. Don’t let this put you offer however, as these beasts are extremely rare, and the other smaller sharks around are virtually harmless, but equally fascinating.