The Florida Keys offer scores of earth- and sea-friendly options for visitors to enjoy, guided by residents who cherish their close-to-nature lifestyle and strive to preserve it. They include sustainable fishing and dive charter operators, coral restoration innovators, trailblazers in “voluntourism,” wildlife rehabilitation experts and leaders of eco-tours and cultural excursions.
There are a million reasons to love the Florida Keys, but without the spectacular coral reefs that surround the place, those reasons wouldn’t exist. World-renowned for unmatched beauty, with coastal waters protected within the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, the island chain offers underwater adventures that can be enjoyed only in the Keys.
Ken Nedimyer, an Upper Keys–based director of Reef Renewal Foundation International, is globally recognized as a father of reef restoration, creating strategies to rebuild coral reefs around the world. He oversees three coral nurseries in the Keys — off Tavernier, Big Pine Key and Marathon — that house 21 coral species with 1,000 genotypes.
Allyson Gantt inspires others to care for the Florida Keys’ two national parks and their unique environments. A National Park Service ranger for over 25 years, she directs communications and public affairs for Everglades and Dry Tortugas national parks — and is overseeing a year of activities for Everglades National Park’s upcoming 75th anniversary.
The Florida Keys & Key West are known around the globe for their unmatched natural beauty, laid-back atmosphere and year-round warmth. But they also offer environmental, cultural and adventure activities that can’t be enjoyed anywhere EXCEPT in the island chain. Make lasting vacation memories by undertaking 10 extraordinary “only in the Keys” experiences.
The largest shipwreck available for sport diving in the Lower Keys remains a popular stop on the Florida Keys Wreck Trek for divers, and a relatively easy introduction to wreck diving for novices. The 210-foot-long Adolphus Busch, sunk intentionally in 1998, lies between Looe Key and American Shoal, southwest of Big Pine Key.
Jordan Budnik is the executive director of the Florida Keys Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center in Tavernier, a nonprofit facility that takes in over 900 native birds in need of rehabilitation every year. Driven by a lifelong fascination with avian species, she’s passionate about advocating for wildlife and encouraging people to protect the environment.
Visitors to the Key West Tropical Forest & Botanical Garden might spot scarecrows peering out from among the 15-acre habitat’s plants and trees during a lighthearted exhibit of recycled art creations. The “Scarecrows in the Forest” exhibition features figures crafted from natural and recycled materials by local artists, students and other community members.
Harry Appel co-owns Big Pine Key’s eco-friendly, boutique Deer Run on the Atlantic, the Florida Keys’ only “Four-Palm” Green Lodging Property — a designation earned for a steadfast commitment to protecting natural resources. An avid animal activist, he’s president of the nonprofit Save-A-Turtle of the Florida Keys and is a Key Deer Protection Alliance advisor.
Vessels intentionally sunk to create artificial reefs serve as refuges for fish, delicate corals and invertebrates — and provide fascinating sites for divers to explore. Within the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, which protects the waters surrounding the entire Keys, lie nine notable wrecksites that are part of the popular Florida Keys Wreck Trek.