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Stop And Smell The Mangroves – The Florida Keys

Islamadora and John Pennekamp State Coral Reef Park 

One of my favorite travel writers, Pico Ayer, has given me great advice “…turn down the volume, get still, and go nowhere…” and “…travel gives you the raw material, but stillness gives you the meaning… So, collect these sights from around the world, and when you come home, turn them into insights….”What does this mean to me?

Travel isn’t just about checking off lists and bragging rights. One can travel to Paris, Venice, and Timbuktu, use monetary resources, time and energy, trying to find what is already in their own backyards, peace, stillness, knowledge, and then sharing new insight into that frame of reference, even if it just inside your own being. This upcoming week on Tuesday, people across the USA will be voting. The politics here are currently ugly, chaotic, and scary. I know that I will need to take a lot of nature baths and tap into peacetime.

Here are two experiences that have helped me to find peace, sit in still-quiet content with girlfriends.  When I left Islamorada area, I had more awe for this earth, inner stillness, and was freshly inspired to get out in my own backyard and try some nature kayaking close to home.

1) Kayaking in the Mangroves. I have taken boat trips but never spent time IN the mangroves seeing firsthand the stillness and wildlife that happens in the inner habitats of this area.


The water has a spectacular color in the shades of the mangroves. Florida Keys

In Mangrove

Kayaking through the Mangroves in The Florida Keys

Through the Mangrove Channels, we kayaked out onto the bay and although it was a windy day, the water was crystal clear near the shoreline.


Kayaking in The Florida Keys out into the sea

The kayaking was easy and I felt stable and safe…well, mostly.


American Crocodiles in The Florida Keys.

FYI-The American Crocodile has a range from the southern tip of the peninsula, with most concentrated in Miami-Dade County and into the Upper Florida Keys.  *See Blog >Destinations>Florida

I saw large birds such as White Ibis, Hawks, Cattle Egret, and Great Egret, Peregrine Falcons, Pelicans and, you get the picture. Even if you don’t know their names, trust me, in this setting, you will take notice.


Birds of the Florida Key Mangroves

 I also spotted (a) Manatee, 3 species of sharks, and humongous Tarpons.


Sharks of FloridaFlorida Keys


I spotted 3 species of sharks in The Florida Keys.

I paid a few bucks for my friends and me to feed the Tarpons, I was the five-year-old of the group. And speaking of five year olds, we did witness a kid getting “bit” by one of these gigantic tarpon fish, while the Grandfather told him to suck it up, he made his dad take a photo of the crying child saying “you have to get this, someday this is going to be a story and bragging rights.” They were from another country and I paid respect, being a former nurse and mom, I checked the wound and I agree with Grandpa, the kid was fine, quite scared but fine. Anyway, we all had a blast, so much so that we went two more times.

2) Coral Reef In A Glass Bottom Boat.

There were several places prior to Hurricane Irma that offered tours of the coral reef aboard a glass bottom boat. I love local, state, and national parks and this visit chose to take a glass bottom boat out from a State Park called John Pennekamp.   The entire week had been windy and all tours had been canceled. However, on the day that I visited the winds had slowed and only a mere 5-foot wave would potentially be a problem, seasickness type of a problem, but off we went.  The first portion of the trip was slow through the mangroves and as we headed towards the coral reef, things got a little rocky.

Luckily for me, while other people on the boat puked, I had this glass bottom area to myself. And what I saw just blew me away and rocked my world, to the extent that I will never be able to unsee the visions that I have seen.


Glass Bottom Boat Visions-Florida Keys. John Pennekamp State Park

My photos and videos did not turn out great but fortunately, there is a YouTube video under 1.17 minutes. John Pennekamp Coral Reef complete with park info.

A really fantastic tour with tour guides who went above and beyond the call of duty, both in knowledge and concern for the (puking) passengers, I mean passenger safety.

Not everyone has the material resources to travel, but the point is to have hope. Save for a special place that you have always wanted to visit.  Travel near and far, find peace in nature.  There are free places in nature to take a walk, take advantage of them and find the place that takes your mind to stillness. Take that stillness into this wide world and share it, practice conservation, wisdom, and peace.

MEGatips For an Islamorada area visit.

  1. I have already voted early. If you are an American citizen, VOTE. Check out  where it is a zip code and a click away to learn quickly about your candidates, pros and cons of issues on the ballot in your area, and helplines. Vote 411 Link 2018 Midterm
  2. Support your local, State, and National Parks!
  3. Do stop and stay in the Northern-Central Florida Keys. Most people want to hurry to Key West and simply miss a spectacular part of this earth.  A splurge is Cheeca Lodge.  There are lodgings from camping to resorts.
  4. In Islamorada, I can personally recommend Loralei’s Restaurant and Cabana Bar for lunch, drinks, dinner with live music, snacks etc. Bob’s Bunz and Bakery for breakfast, lunch, and Key Lime Pie.  Higher end Chef Michael’s for dinner or any of the restaurants in Cheeca Lodge.  Closer to John Penekamp State Park, Mrs. Mac’s for fresh seafood, chowders, and that Key Lime Pie.
  5. Kayak Rentals, Charter Fishing, Jet-skiing, Tarpon Feeding,  and Parasailing.  Lunch bayside dining at Robbie’s Marina.  They also have a live webcam so you can check it out that way! Robbies Marina Islamorada   It is a touristy place but I just had such a great experience here that I highly recommend.
  6. A visit during hurricane season is challenging.  The official season might be from June 1 – November 30. Just keep this in mind while planning your vacation to The Florida Keys.
  7. John Penekamp State Park John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park  Also, if you do plan to snorkel or visit the coral reef via glass bottom boat, do call ahead to be certain that the weather and waves are conducive to visiting.
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