On the morning of our tour, we were pleasantly greeted by Captain Matt upon our arrival at the dock. After brief introductions, our group soon boarded the 33-foot Beach Cat catamaran and was ready to begin the adventure. It was a beautiful sunny day in Key West with temperatures in the mid 80's and a very mild breeze. The 25 minute ride out to the back country waters of the Gulf was very relaxing and we got to see a few pods of dolphin. Captain Matt gave us some educational information about the area where we were going to snorkel and paddle. After we anchored near a coral reef, we were given a brief safety orientation and then soon donned our snorkeling gear. The water was crystal clear and although we didn't see anything very exotic, we were able to see a variety of fish, including a few barracuda.
We also observed some sea turtles. Captain Matt snorkeled with us for a bit and actually caught a few spiny lobster. After about an hour of snorkeling, we boarded the Beach Cat, and were then shuttled to another natural area where we anchored again, and then received instructions for the paddling portion of our excursion.
Captain Matt helped us into our clear kayaks one by one, until we were all soon exploring the clear waters around a small mangrove island in a protected ecosystem. Paddling in the clear kayak provided an amazing view of the underwater wildlife. Although the water was a bit shallow and there was alot of sea grass around the mangrove island, members of our group saw a number of rather large sea turtles and a variety of fish. At one point, I observed a small shark glide in the shallow water alongside my kayak ... I was glad it just passed by! As we circumnavigated the island in our kayaks, we saw lots of pelican, and also spotted a roseate spoonbill wading on a shallow patch of shoreline.
After about an hour of kayaking, we boarded the Sea Cat again, Captain Matt loaded up the kayaks, and we were soon on our way back to the dock. Although we didn't want our adventure to end, on the way back we enjoyed some snacks provided by the captain, and some icy cold ones from the cooler we packed specifically for the end of our tour. It was a great way to end a great day on the water!