• Low-impact watersports include dolphin-watch and snorkel tours on the Keys' first electric-powered charterboat, SQUID. (Photo courtesy of Honest Eco Tours)

     

  • By: Julie Botteri
  • July 31, 2019

Calm summer seas in the Florida Keys mean easygoing and easy-on-the-environment watersports — powered by people or by the rays of the sun.

The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary is an environmental treasure that protects the waters surrounding the entire island chain.

Plus, this year the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries is hosting its fifth national “Get into Your Sanctuary Days” celebration Aug. 2-4.

Through a series of special activities, the event raises awareness about the value of national marine sanctuaries as iconic destinations for responsible recreation.

Whether you’re already an avid outdoors person looking for a new adventure or you’ve never been kayaking, fishing or taken advantage of an amazing underwater park, this weekend is for YOU.

In Key West, NOAA’s Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary is hosting a Get Into Your Sanctuary Eco Fair from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 3, at the Eco-Discovery Center at 35 East Quay Road.

There you can learn about the Keys sanctuary’s underwater habitats and animals, coral reef restoration efforts and how to responsibly enjoy the marine environment that drives the island chain’s unique way of life.

The fair is open to the public and admission is free. (Please note, though, that the event is weather dependent.)

Connect & Protect Florida Keys

Like Keys residents, visitors too can connect with and protect the island chain’s fascinating natural world.

Summer months in the Keys feature warm, clear waters that make it particularly comfortable to explore the intriguing natural environment. So it’s no surprise that standup paddling or paddleboarding is surging in popularity for visitors attracted to active-lifestyle pursuits.

Paired well with other “unplugged” on-the-water relaxation like kayaking, paddleboarding appeals to a wide cross-section of people. Board sales and rentals are featured at nearly every watersports and outdoor outfitter throughout the island chain — and boards are included in the amenities at some Keys resorts.

The long boards can be used as a fishing platform, or just for quietly enjoying secluded eco-tours through the backcountry flats. Or try a nighttime paddling trip through shallow Florida Bay waters using an innovative see-through paddleboard or glass-bottom kayak — equipped with waterproof LED light bars that illuminate the underwater environment.

Also powered purely by human effort, hydrobikes are making their way into the Florida Keys. And they’re wonderfully fun! Average cruising speed is about 4 to 6 mph as cyclists on the stable, pedal-powered nonmotorized water bikes cruise calm waters — and it’s easy to take a break to snorkel in an enticing spot.

Florida Keys hydrobikes

Hydrobiking is the latest low-impact water activity to sweep the Keys.

Guided and unguided tours are offered by Islamorada’s Islander Girl Snorkel and Tours, located inside the Islander Resort at mile marker 82, and Key West Hydrobikes, whose tours depart from Lagerheads at 0 Simonton St.

Interested in a dolphin watch and snorkel tour? Book it with Honest Eco Sustainable Nature Tours and hop aboard a new eco-friendly option: SQUID, Key West’s first electric-powered charter boat.

SQUID is a lithium ion battery–powered hybrid charter boat with electric motors for four-hour tours. The solar-powered boat’s electricity stores can be recharged at shore through Sunflare solar panels or, when necessary, a diesel generator.

The boat burns three gallons of diesel fuel per trip, or about one-quarter gallon of fossil fuel per guest — so SQUID gives passengers an extraordinary wildlife experience while having minimal impact on the environment.

These options, of course, are just a few of the eco-activities and opportunities in the Florida Keys. To find out more, simply click here.

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