We recently left the unpredictable Texas winter behind on March 4th and adopted the Sunshine State as our new home until May 24th. Key Largo, Florida to be exact. Here, at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park we 3 volunteer for 4 days and have 3 days off to explore. And explore we have! The definite highlight of our explorations for Mandy and I was a 3-day trip to Miami where we got an airbnb just off the beach in North Miami Beach to celebrate our 30th anniversary, but that is the subject for another blog entry. For this entry I will focus on the area around Key Largo, mostly within the confines of the park. We are loving having our son Levar with us. He is volunteering for the first time with us as well and loves it. He gets to work in the Visitor Center one day both answering the publics’ questions and performing aquarium maintenance (there are many small display tanks in addition to a central, 30,000 gallon saltwater tank), hunt for iguanas, pythons and boas on another day, and work on the grounds crew for his 3rd day of volunteering. The awesome Atlantic sunrise photo is his, from an early-morning excursion.
This Key is teeming with life. Life above the water and life below the water. We have been out numerous times to one of the 3 swimming areas here in the park to swim and snorkel. We have been rewarded with Needlefish, Blue Tang, Parrotfish, Mullet, Tarpon, Pufferfish, Grunt, Porkfish, Yellowtail, Crab, Lobster and many others. Mandy and Levar have been kayaking quite a bit through the waterways between the mangrove islands protecting the main island, all the way out to the Atlantic. Rays, Nurse Sharks, Eel, lots of jumping Mullet and Starfish have all been spotted along the way.
I have to add another photo of Levar’s from an Atlantic sunrise. He may be my son, but I think this is one of the most stunning photos I’ve seen:
The mangrove creeks surrounding the main island have telltale names such as Jellyfish Creek, Stingray Creek, the Limbo, the Cathedral, Deception Creek and so on. Navigation can get pretty interesting as the mangroves close in. I did go with Mandy and Levar, but right now we only have two kayaks, so we have to borrow a kayak for additional people.
We are anxiously awaiting the arrival of Mandy’s brother Allen in a week and then our daughter towards the end of the month. We are sure to revisit our favorite places with our family.
Now, Levar is the only one who has been lucky enough to spot crocodiles on some wrecked docks. We’ve been looking for them, but so far he’s the sole croc person. Not that you’d want to encounter one while swimming or kayaking! Luckily they are quite rare and keep to certain areas. We have been lucky enough to see Manatee in some of the areas we’ve been looking for crocodile.
Levar loves to photograph wildlife in its natural habitat. There are lots of fascinating native reptiles inhabiting the island in addition to the non-native iguanas, which were introduced as released pets.
We’re waiting on the calmer and warmer seas that come in May before we go on the snorkeling expedition. The glass-bottom boat had a great narrator and went right over the top of the coral reef. The way the glass was situated made it hard to photograph, but here is one to give you an idea of the incredible colors around the reef:
The rest of the pictures are Levar’s from the huge saltwater tank at the Visitor Center.