Looking to add a few more things to that burgeoning bucket list of yours? Key West is full of firsts, including some of the world’s best diving, fishing, cuisine and cultural tours. Take your Key West experience to the next level and hop the Yankee Freedom to the nearby Dry Tortugas. Touted as a diving and snorkeling wonderland, the accolades for this beautiful collection of islands are exhaustive. Islands Magazine calls the Dry Tortugas “One of the Top 10 Things to Do in the Florida Keys”, celebrity talk show host says making the trip is “One of the coolest things you can do in Key West”, and USA Today says its, “One of the ten great places to explore nooks and crevasses”. If that isn’t enough to convince you to spend the afternoon in this oasis, you have no idea what you’re missing out on.
If you’ve had the chance to do some snorkeling in Key West, and you’re heading out to the Dry Tortugas, you're probably going to want some snorkeling gear in tow, because it offers some of the best offshore snorkeling North America. With shallow waters of just 5-15 feet, this is the best place on earth to try snorkeling for the first time. Novice snorkelers and families with small children not only love the shallow depths, but the waters are so clear, and warm, it’s like floating around in a giant bathtub! Once you arrive in the Dry Tortugas, snorkeling spots can be found mere steps from the sandy shores. Fort Jefferson snorkeling spots offer an abundance of tropical fish, queen conchs, starfish and several other unique species that thrive in the protected sanctuary marine sanctuary. You can bring your own gear if you wish, but fins, masks and snorkels are complimentary if you don’t have it with you.
Once you arrive in the Dry Tortugas, the crew of the Yankee Freedom will distribute equipment to those who need it. To the left of the docked boat lies a beautiful picnic area, and a brief walk down the way, lies the network of designated snorkel areas. Snorkelers and swimmers can find myriad tropical fish, lush sea grasses, spectacularly large coral heads and numerous other marine animals. For experienced snorkelers, the South Coaling Dock Ruins make for interesting and challenging exploration. Mere yards from the western edge of the moat wall is a great place to start your snorkel adventure! This area contains beautiful large coral heads, tropical fish, sea grass and various marine life that call the Dry Tortugas home.
It’s no secret that the Dry Tortugas is home to some of the most impressive coral reefs in United States, and with that in mind, you also need to remember that you are in one of the most ecologically sensitive areas in the world. It takes thousands and thousands of years for a natural reef to form, and because reefs are home to so so many different plant and animal species, even the slightest disturbance can throw the entire system out of whack. Just as you would off the coast of Key West, it’s important to do everything you can to maintain the preservation of these coral reefs. It’s important to preserve the future for the generations behind us, and we can start by admiring all the splendor of Dry Tortugas in a responsible way