• Christina Wilson takes viewers "Island Hopping" though the Florida Keys' natural world during the television show currently being shown around the U.S. (Photo courtesy of Crawford Entertainment)

     

  • By: Carol Shaughnessy
  • March 3, 2021

For Christina Wilson, hosting “Island Hopping: Florida Keys” meant she could take a deep dive into Florida Keys adventures that even some longtime locals haven’t experienced — and share them with everyone who views the syndicated television special. The hourlong program, commissioned by the Keys tourism council, recently began airing across the U.S.

Island Hopping Florida Keys television production

Christina and the “Island Hopping” crew prepare to shoot a segment in an open-air Keys setting. (All photos courtesy of Crawford Entertainment)

Christina, a free-spirited six-year Keys resident, is a Florida Keys Mosquito Control District field inspector with a degree in biology and a commitment to conservation. During the program’s journey through the 125-mile island chain, she leads viewers on an exploration of the unique natural environment and ecotourism opportunities, water-based activities in the protected Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, and aspects of the Keys’ lifestyle and signature cuisine.

Traveling down the Overseas Highway from Key Largo to Key West, the show also introduces local guides who share their perspectives on the region’s appeal and philosophy of environmental responsibility.

“I was blown away by all the amazing individuals I met along my journey who are passionate about keeping these islands healthy and making sure they’re still here for future generations,” Christina said.

The program also immerses viewers in the Keys’ vast natural world and open-air experiences. And comments from the residents Christina meets illustrate their dedication to the island chain’s environment and close-to-nature lifestyle.

The adventures she undertakes include catching her first tarpon with Middle Keys Captain Jeff Malone, assisting with a dolphin photo identification survey with Stephen McCulloch of Key Largo’s Dolphins Plus Marine Mammal Responder, encountering bird life off Islamorada with Captain Samantha Zeher, and exploring the remote Lower Keys backcountry on an eco-tour with Captain Rob Oliverio.

“I couldn’t imagine a more personal eco-adventure than jumping off the beaten path and into these mangrove-lined waters,” Christina enthused.

Florida Keys lionfish dishes

John Mirabella, owner of Marathon’s Castaway Waterfront Restaurant, introduces Christina to delicious lionfish and other dishes.

She also invites viewers along on her quest to become dive certified, first swimming with marine life at Marathon’s Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters, then earning her certification and roaming the underwater realm with Captain’s Corner Dive Center in Key West.

“I wish I had started my diving journey years ago,” she admitted, “and I hope my experience in this aquamarine world inspires others to take the plunge.”

Christina’s land-based adventures include learning about invasive lionfish with John Mirabella at Marathon’s Castaway Waterfront Restaurant (and savoring dishes made with the delicious fish), enjoying a “flamingle” session with flamingos Rhett and Scarlett at the Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory, and discovering Key lime pie’s origins with author and Key lime pie expert David Sloan.

Hosting the program appealed both to Christina’s adventurous nature and her love of the Keys’ richly diverse environment.

“I want viewers to see that these islands are more than a destination — they’re a treasure trove of ecological wonders just waiting to be explored,” she explained.

“Island Hopping: Florida Keys,” produced by Crawford Entertainment, is confirmed to air in about 70 U.S. markets on local NBC, ABC, CBS and Fox affiliates. After that, plans call for it to be broadcast on Fox SunSports Network this fall and then enter the streaming world of on-demand television on “Discover Florida.”

So there are plenty of chances to watch the program. In fact, everyone who’s eager to explore the Keys’ natural wonders and “meet” some fascinating locals is encouraged to tune in — and join Christina as she goes “Island Hopping.”

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