A Day in the Life of a KeyZ Charters Customer

Capt. Samantha Zeher- Island Jane Magazine

Imagine relaxing on a boat with seating like a comfy couch, enjoying the scenery as you explore the waters of Islamorada. All of a sudden, your Captain alerts you there was a dolphin that came up in front of the boat. Your heart skips a beat and you can’t wait to catch a glimpse of its fin break the surface again. As the boat approaches the pod slowly, you can see the dolphins gliding through the water, breaking the surface every so often to take a breath of air. They seem so graceful and elegant swimming alongside of the boat. Suddenly, the dolphin have turned curious and playful, and are now wanting to play in the wake. As the boat moves forward, the dolphin begin to follow in its wake. One jumps on the left side, another on the right; the show goes on and on. It seems as if you were watching trained dolphins in a theater, but then you remember, they are wild and you are on a boat in the Florida Bay. A dream come true!

After playing with the dolphins, your tour continues. The captain guides you to this mangrove island where birds can be seen flying around it from a distance. The mangrove island is magnificent in height and fullness. Observing the birds, as you approach the entrance to a little channel in the island, you see pelicans resting on the branches, cormorants swimming in the water, and frigate birds soaring above. The scene is something from out of a movie. You don’t believe it, but the captain is driving the boat right through the channel into the middle of the island. Once inside the island, the sound is amazing. You can hear hundreds of birds conversing with one another. Out of nowhere, a great white heron flies in front of the boat, screeching at another bird that took a rest on a branch too close for comfort. The baby egrets are chirping away, calling for mom to bring them some food.

After being in the mangrove island a while, your focus goes from the birds, to the water below. Tons of small fish are swimming in and around the roots of the mangroves. Along the bottom, in the seagrass, are several jellyfish called Cassiopeia, pulsing with the flow of the tide. From the corner of your eye, you notice a shiny flash swim by and dart into the roots. As you look, you see a juvenile barracuda snacking away on one of the smaller fish he just caught for lunch. The wildlife is abundant and continuously passing by, as the boat travels through this mangrove channel.

After exploring some of the trees, the captain drives the boat to an island that is a state park, with a history dating back to the 1800s of shipwrecking and salvaging. Now, for a chance to get off the boat and explore this island, that once was a living coral reef, but now holds the remains of a village that was destroyed in an Indian attack. As you walk around the island observing the artifacts, the story of Indian Key is told.

Back on the boat, the captain drives back to the mangroves for a chance to spot some more wildlife. Cruising down a canal lined with mangroves, the water again becomes filled with critters passing by. Up ahead is a muddy area disturbed by some creature below. As you approach, you can make out a large shadow. Not sure what to think, the stare down to figure out what it is, begins. After a few minutes of waiting, up pops the nose of a large manatee. It takes a deep breath, and back down it goes. Patiently watching for a few minutes, you can now make out the full image of the manatee on the bottom, eating away at the seagrass beds, causing the water surrounding it to cloud up. The manatee comes up for several breaths of air as it continues to eat. An amazing animal to watch and be able to see up so close and personal. Your day is complete!

As the owner/operator of KeyZ Charters in Islamorada, I get to share the beauty of the waters that surround me, and the wildlife that inhabits them, with numerous people daily through my tours. KeyZ Charters is a one of a kind boat tour company. Our tours are customized to the desires of our clients. We offer ecotours, sightseeing, snorkeling, historic island tours, sunset cruises and more. On many of our tours we spot dolphins, manatees, sharks, turtles, rays, tons of birds, and more. I always tell my customers, every tour is different and the possibilities of wildlife sightings are unlimited. If you have never taken a boat tour in the Florida Keys it is definitely something to put on your bucket list. The waters that surround our chain of islands are not only beautiful, but have amazing wildlife and tons of history. Each key has its unique story, and Islamorada surely has its own.

Owner of a sightseeing eco-tour business out of Islamorada. Samantha grew up playing on the waters off of Lower Matecumbe. She learned to fish and snorkel at a young age. She loves being on the water and enjoys educating people about the importance of the marine environment.

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