Learn about our Key West ecosystem as you Kayak through Mangrove Islands and Snorkel. Our 4.5 hour trip departs from Old Town Key West and explores the distinct habitats of the Key West National Wildlife Refuge.
Learn about our diverse animals and plants when you kayak a mangrove island and snorkel with sponges and corals. Your captain is your guide, leading you through mangrove tunnels and around a calm snorkeling spot. He will point out animals that make our ecosystem unique and answer any questions that you have.
Keep reading for more information or Book Now to reserve your spot on what reviewers are calling the “Best Part of Our Trip!” Our Honest Eco™ tours combine knowledgeable, passionate, and friendly captains with small groups aboard a custom tailored boat. And, we take our time- our Genuine Eco Tours take 4 ½ hours so that you can Discover Your Nature.
Our Six Passenger Maximum ecotours often sells out in advance. Weather Cancellation Policy
Kayaks are Great for Exploring the Refuge.
To experience the best the Wildlife Refuge has to offer, you have to get shallow and you have to get close! Kayaks are stable, easy to use and are environmentally low impact.
Before we venture out, you’ll receive a tutorial on how to maneuver your kayak.
We typically kayak for an hour or more and you can bring water bottles from our cooler.
• Stable Tandem Kayaks
• Instruction Provided
• See birds, fish and more
• About 1 hour of Kayaking
Discover many different Species of Fish, Birds and Plants.
Peer into the water to see what fish or invertebrates like to hang out in the protection of the mangrove roots. Gaze over the shallow flats at low tide to see the herons and wading birds, patiently working for their meals, or maybe you’ll get to see a horseshoe crab as it labors by.
The best part is, you never know what you’re going to see, and sometimes it’s more about the serenity of the surroundings than checking a list. The only thing we really know is that you’re going to love it.
Slip off of our swim platform and into another world, where you’ll observe a wondrous diversity of life in the last habitat that we haven’t made our own. You’ll be captivated by the snappers, angelfish, eels, crabs, lobsters, sponges and corals amongst others, and your understanding of our world will deepen. Your captain will accompany you, casting an experienced eye on the surroundings, there to help explain and unmask this novel ocean setting.
Our snorkeling spots change by the season and sometimes by the day. Our experience has taught us that our guests have the best time when we take them to a location offering the calmest and the clearest water for the weather conditions. Sometimes this is a barrier reef or a gulfside patch reef and other times a shallow water sponge garden; wherever we decide to snorkel, our guests, both beginners and experienced, enjoy the experience so much that they often stay in the water for up to an hour.
“Ours is truly a blue planet - Water covers most of the world’s surface. Here, we are outsiders” -David Attenborough Life of Fish
• Learn to snorkel
• All gear -including flotation provided
• Cressi® snorkel masks
One of the oldest Wildlife Refuges in the country, KWNWR was established by Teddy Roosevelt in 1908, to protect a crucial habitat and breeding ground for birds, turtles and other wildlife. The refuge’s size is 300 square miles and only 1% of that is comprised of the mangrove islands, yet their canopies provide shelter for 250 species of birds, their trunks house the mangrove crabs and their roots exhibit a microcosm of life as juvenile species, both prey and predator, begin their lives here.
The Waters of the Refuge
Under the shallow waters of the refuge and overtop the seagrass meadows, you can find all kinds of animals cruising by- from young and old barracuda, stingrays, turtles, small bonnethead sharks to conchs and many more.
Scattered throughout the seagrass are sponge gardens and hard bottom communities where you’ll find invertebrates like lobsters and crabs, an assortment of fish some camouflaged, some colorful, many in their juvenile state as they try to survive to adulthood. We often times get to snorkel these sponge gardens in the winter months and sometimes the summer months, depending on wind conditions, they provide nice and calm conditions and are tons of fun to explore, even when the wind howls.
The Air Above
Above the water the wildlife refuge is host to vast numbers of birds. Some are year round residents, some are here for winter, while others may be like our guests and only in town for a few days. The variety of birds in the area is what made John Audubon fall in love with the territories we explore. He visited twice as he worked on his famous series “The Birds of America”. The White Crown Pigeon and Florida Cormorant provide beautiful examples of his work, both birds you can catch a glimpse of in the refuge.
Lots to See!
• 250 Species of Birds
• Watch as birds nest and hunt
• Great White Heron, Ospreys, Frigates, Pelicans, et al.
Conveniently located in Old Town Key West, our guests can get to our departure location by walking, biking, driving or taxi.
While many bike or walk from their guesthouses and hotels, if you have a car and are planning to drive, then there is plenty of free parking. A cab ride should be affordable from anywhere on the island too.
Our Backcountry Explorer
E.O. Wilson is the perfect boat for a Key West Eco Tour in the shallow backcountry waters of the Key West National Wildlife Refuge. There is an old adage that says, “every boat is a compromise” but we struggle to find any on E.O. Wilson. She is quick enough, shallow draft, fuel efficient, comfortable, and can haul all the Kayaking and Stand Up Paddleboard gear we need, and she looks great doing it too! We customized her for exactly what we need, so whether you want to do SUP Yoga, a Kayak tour, or a dolphin tour - E.O. Wilson is the boat for you!
First off, Billy and Stephanie were amazing. They immediately made us feel at home and started sharing their extensive knowledge of their home and the surrounding ecosystem. On our way out to the Key West National Wildlife Refuge on the E.O. Wilson, they talked about everything that we were passing including the various species of sea birds, how the gigantic cruise ships navigated through the area, the history on how the refuge came into existence, and even why E.O. Wilson was a very fitting name for the vessel we were on. On the outskirts of the refuge we snorkeled through a gorgeous sponge garden full of beautiful fish, rays, and crystal clear water. On our next portion of the adventure they led us on a kayak trip through the mangroves that would make anyone contemplate going back to school to become a biologist. Billy shared his extensive knowledge about the mangroves and how they moved, their importance, and all of the various animals that called them home. We were able to see horseshoe crab, various heron and osprey, turtles, and even a small species of shark. Billy and Stephanie made sure that everyone was comfortable throughout the entire trip and my wife and I couldn’t have asked for a better tour!
We were in Key West for 2 days and did not have any plans. We were happy when this trip was recommended by our guest house host and booked it right away. We were not disappointed. The boat ride, the kayaking and snorkelling were all amazing. We saw many different kinds of birds, fish and wildlife. It was the most relaxing and fun activity. Billy was very knowledgeable and he sure knows how to serve up refreshments! We would definitely recommend this to our friends and family. Loved it. Thanks again Captain Billy! All the best from Windsor, Ontario Canada.
Captain Evan took us out on a phenomenal trip that included kayaking, snorkeling as well as a nature tour. We chose this company again after having a great experience with them and Captain Stephanie in December.
The smaller group size enabled Captain Evan to snorkel and kayak with the group, pointing out stingrays, sea turtles, birds and fish species that you miss when you’re on your own with one of the larger companies.
We’ll definitely choose them again next time we visit Key West!