The Florida Keys & Key West, with community efforts to sustain precious natural resources through the Connect & Protect initiative, continue to unveil ways to preserve the Keys’ environment and connect visitors who love the outdoors to the island chain’s unmatched beauty.
Efforts to replant and preserve coral along the Florida Reef Tract are ongoing. In addition, two new eco-stay properties, tucked off the beaten path in the Lower Keys and in the Flamingo region of the famed Everglades National Park, are among the new options for visitors this autumn.
Key Largo–based Coral Restoration Foundation, the world's largest non-profit marine-conservation organisation dedicated to restoring coral reefs to a healthy state, has reached a milestone through the outplanting of more than 100,000 critically endangered corals. So far this year, more than 23,000 corals — including diverse genotypes of staghorn, elkhorn, and two species of boulder coral — have been outplanted. The foundation’s offshore coral tree nurseries have more than 300 genetic strains across 11 coral species. The non-profit currently is restoring eight Florida Keys reef sites, stretching from Carysfort Reef in the Upper Keys to Marker 32 off Key West. Visit coralrestoration.org.
On Big Pine Key the new Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuges Nature Center opened in early September. With more than 1,800 square feet of exhibition space, it showcases the Keys’ four national wildlife refuges: National Key Deer, Great White Heron, Key West and Crocodile Lake. The National Key Deer Refuge was established in 1957 to protect and preserve the diminutive Key deer and other Keys wildlife resources. The centre’s hours are 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. from Tuesday to Friday, with expanded hours expected soon. Visit fws.gov/refuge/National_Key_Deer_Refuge/.
Also on Big Pine Key the four-room boutique-style Deer Run on the Atlantic, a Florida-certified green lodging programme bed and breakfast, has reopened in the heart of the National Key Deer Refuge. Utilising organically sourced bedding, supplies and food, the property is a 100 per cent plant-based vegan establishment. Guests can enjoy bicycles, kayaks, a daily plant-based full breakfast, an on-site beach and private porches. Visit www.deerrunontheatlantic.com.
Meanwhile Everglades National Park’s Flamingo region, located in the Florida Keys, is to offer 20 new furnished eco-tents for overnight camping for stays beginning on 1 October 2019. The 186-square-foot tents, erected on platforms, have a choice of queen or two double beds. Amenities include bed linens, electricity, a sitting area, a nightstand with lamps and storage bins. Rates range from $60 per night (approximately £48). Campgrounds have grills and picnic tables. Also at Flamingo, Concessionaire Guest Services Inc. offers overnight stays for a maximum of four adults and two children on 42-foot houseboats and boat rentals. Flamingo is about a 40-minute drive from the park’s entrance. Visit www.flamingoeverglades.com.
For more information on travelling sustainably in the Florida Keys, please visit: https://fla-keys.com/sustain