“Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle!” thus the Earth Day slogan encourages everyone to do. To take part in becoming good ambassadors of conserving and preserving natural resources, my boyfriend and I joined the month long activities for Earth Day 2013 held at the coasts of the Florida Keys. Taking a break from our work as banking professionals for a financial institution in New Orleans, we chose the Keys as our destination to push our advocacy for the love of Mother Earth. Enjoying a leisure vacation and making everyone aware of the importance of taking good care of our environment was what made our two week holiday a fulfilling and memorable experience that we both treasure as long as we live.
After a four hour flight from New Orleans we reached the Key West International Airport in Florida. We came armed with three things, our trusted camera, diving essentials, and our passion for taking care of the world we live in. Upon arrival, we hailed a cab that took us to the Ocean Key Resort and Spa. In the afternoon we started our tour by watching an indie film at the Tropic Cinema. This four-screen theater is a gem in the history of Key West. It is well kept and aesthetically designed with an iconic wind blown white gowned Marilyn Monroe statue at its entrance. The cool and comfortable lounge of the cinema also boasts of a snack bar that has a wide selection of popcorn toppings with a choice of beer or wine to go with it. From inside the walls are adorned with vintage pictures of famous Hollywood celebrities during their heydays. It stands as an actual reminiscent of Art Deco buildings that is a common structural design in Miami. After the movies, we hear mass at the simple but beautiful Saint Mary Star of the Sea Catholic Church. I could not believe that I will find a lovely and peaceful spot surrounded by a beautiful garden on a busy city. A cold breeze from the sea while hearing the gospel made our Sunday obligation as a Christian more solemn.
On the second day we had a fun time with the butterflies at the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory. Inside we go through a small greenhouse where butterflies of all colors live. A guide explains the importance of having a clean environment for these little beings to exist. It was magical as the almost one thousand butterflies of all colors flutter free in the clean air of the well kept greenhouse. To shoot a video of these little beauties is the most appropriate way to appreciate them in close detail. A real experience for all ages the nature preserve is a plethora of lovely butterflies in its natural habitat with turtles and birds, a good learning center with loads of information about butterflies and other animals. It is an oasis of tranquility and colors, full of flowers and orchids with a butterfly motif store that is a joy to shop with. The entrance was a bit expensive but it was all worth it!
The next day we took a ferry that brought us to the island of Dry Tortugas National Park. The crew and the boat were perfect. The tour comes with both a breakfast and lunch buffet including drinks in unlimited quantity. When we reached Fort Jefferson, we rented snorkeling gears and jump right into the sea to enjoy the view of its ocean floor. We saw a great selection of colorful fishes and corals up to three meters deep. Our three hour tour of this island was rewarded with a relaxing spectacle for our eyes. We found a corner of paradise with two wild beaches of modest size but suitable enough to accommodate a maximum of 150 people who eagerly crowd the island. While on board we constantly remind the people to keep their trash in little bags and not on the crystal clear waters. The crew with a ready smile always satisfies our needs and was attentive to our safety and comfort during our trip. Our day ended with watching a stage performance of Tennessee Williams’ “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” at the amazing Waterfront Playhouse. A free drink is given during the intermission and a chance to meet and greet with the stage performers after the show. With outstanding performers, it truly lives up to its name as the best professional theater in Florida. It was a wonderful way to end our busy day in the Keys.
The next day we visited and got well informed about the different elements that make up the landscape of the Keys at the Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center. This free entrance museum teaches a lot about the ecosystem of the island like the formation of sea corals, wave currents, and ideal reef locations. The small and large aquariums plus the interactive exhibits were interesting especially for families and kids. At their small theater we watched a movie about the ecosystem and the efforts being done all throughout the island to protect its marine life. They gave reusable cloth bags and information materials as part of their Earth Day event participation. After lunch we made a quick visit to the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum. Being great fans of this famous American author, inside his home we learn so much about him, the history of the house, and the island. There were cats all around the house and the guide said they are descendants of his cat that has six toes on their paws. It was nice to walk through the gardens and visit the museum shop where we bought two of his books, postcards, and other memorabilia. It is not just for fans of great literature but for cat lovers as well.
On our second week we availed of the Keys Shuttle that took us to Key Largo. For starters we checked out the adventures offered at the Dolphins Plus. I felt like being a kid again as I enjoyed swimming with the dolphins at this marine park. It was pure happiness as they push us in the water, show acrobatic stunts, jumped through the hoops, interact with the visitors and holding on to their fins as we swim. Before we swam the handlers gave a brief introduction of the dolphins and the sea lions. It was evident that the staffs assigned to supervise our activity with the dolphins were professionals and it shows. The swim with the sea lion involves being a guest inside the basin of Wono the amiable seal of this attraction. I marveled at his well trained behavior and force, the farewell kiss at the end was memorable. We also get to enjoy a good swim, snorkeling, and simply dive with the dolphins at their home pool. After here we visited and joined a beach clean up drive for Earth Day at the Florida Keys Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center. Most cases were sick, blind, or missing a wing. Each bird has a story to tell on this center. I donated an amount to help the center on their worthy cause.
Our last vacation days were spent exploring the Keys of Islamorada. We got more enlightened about our favorite sport at the History of Diving Museum. The one hour visit tells the history of the exploration of the seabed with beautiful period pieces. After here we admire the whole view of the Florida Keys as we ride a boat and get unhooked to fly at 1,500 feet at the Paradise Hang Gliding Tour. This thrilling experience completes our tour of this marvelous island.
Florida Keys holds the memory of having our Earth Day goals accomplished as well as enjoying loads of fun in between our tour. We will definitely go back again this summer.