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Key West Birding

Sandbars and Key West Eco Tours: Heaven for Nature Lovers

Taking a Key West eco tour is all about getting out on the water. You can reach a few spots by car, and with a little exploring, you might find some gems in the Lower Keys. But nothing beats hopping on a boat and taking to the water to see what the Keys are all about.

There’s no shortage of activities in Key West for the nature lover, so long as you’re not averse to getting a little wet! The snorkeling and diving here are phenomenal—we
do, after all, have the only living coral reefs in the continental US. A Key West mangrove kayak eco tour is another great way to spot some wildlife. At Casual Monday Charters, we think one of the best ways to see the backcountry is with a combination Key West sandbar tour and eco tour. Here’s why.

snorkel trips key west fl

Why Is a Key West Eco Tour a Must-Do Activity?

You’ve got to get off the highway—and off the island—to experience what makes Key West so special. Sure, the bars are lovely and the sunsets beautiful, but away from the crowds and pavement, the thing that makes Key West unique is its island ecosystem.

You can’t appreciate the Everglades from Miami Beach, and you can’t enjoy Rockies from downtown Denver. Nope, it would be best to visit the sights that make these places special.

The Florida Keys are a chain of low-lying mangrove islands. They’re only connected to mainland Florida thanks to the ambitions of one man over 100 years ago: Henry Flagler. Flagler’s Overseas Railroad connected the islands, and the railroad eventually became a highway. In some ways, this is a shame. If Key West weren’t attached to Florida by the highway, it would be much harder to get to, but more people would appreciate the journey by water.

The waters around the Keys are busting with sea life. There are four distinct natural ecosystems to see and enjoy in the Florida Keys: inland hardwood forests, coastal mangroves, sea grass beds, and coral reefs. The coral reefs get all the fanfare. Those beautiful hard corals and big sea critters steal the spotlight every time.
But locals have learned to love some of those ignored ecosystems, particularly the mangroves and sea grass beds. It’s in these places where you can experience Florida like it always has been—weird, wild, untamed, and maybe a bit creepy.

Private Water Tour In Key West

Why Go To the Sandbar?

So, that’s all interesting, but why did we say that Key West eco tours should go to the sandbar? First, let’s talk about the different kinds of sandbar charters Key West captains might offer.

The typical Key West sandbar excursion is a day at the beach. You go to lounge in the sand and float in the water. It probably involves umbrellas, floatie noodles, Lily pads, and White Claws. If it’s a busy holiday weekend, you’re not going to be alone—you’ll be sharing the spot with the rest of the island, who are all out enjoying the beach. But there’s another side to a sandbar charter in Key West if you know what to ask for.

There are plenty of spots to stop on the sandbar, and if you schedule your trip for the morning or during the week, chances are you’ll have the place to yourself. The sandbars are an amazing spot to wander and get up-close looks at the life in and around the mangroves and sea grass flats.

And, of course, you can’t forget about the trip to and from the sandbar. Just cruising around the islands on a boat gives you access to wildlife sightings galore. On any given day, we might see bottlenose dolphins, spotted eagle rays, sea turtles, bonnetheads, nurse sharks, tarpon…the list goes on and on. And, oh, the birds!

Key West Birding

Birding Key West Sandbars

If you’re a birder, you’ll want to bring your binoculars and guides and that list you’re ticking off. The trip out to the sandbar will take us away from civilization and into the
backcountry. We’ll pass mangrove islands and miles of undisturbed Florida Bay wilderness.

Here’s a list of the birds of Key West, Florida, that we might see during a typical trip.

• Osprey
• Magnificent Frigate Birds
• Double-Crested Cormorants and Anhingas
• White and Brown Pelicans
• Herons, Egrets, and Night herons—including the Great White Heron, which only
live here
• Roseate Spoonbills
• Masked and Brown Boobies
• Northern Gannets
• Various gulls, terns, pipers, and plovers
• Hawks and eagles, Peregrine Falcons, and Kestrels
• Kingfishers
• Ducks and water foul during winter
• Lots of warblers

And, to pique your interest even further, here’s a list of some of the more uncommon —but not unheard of—visitors to our area.
• Flamingos
• White-Tailed Tropicbirds
• Wood Storks
• Swallow-Tailed Kites
• Oystercatchers
• Black-necked Stilts
• White-Crowned Pigeons (local endangered species)
• Monk Parakeets
Here’s a complete bird list from the Florida Keys Audubon Society.

If you’re a photographer, bring your camera equipment and let your captain know what you’re after. On a private charter, there’s no schedule to keep and no place to be.
We can drift quietly and get up in the shallows to get shots you’ve never dreamed of if you’re used to land vehicles.

Wildlife and Birding Key West with Sandbar Eco Tours

key west day trip snorkeling
Ready to book your Key West sandbar tour? Captain Zak on the Casual Monday is a wildlife and bird-nerd too. Grab your ‘knockers, and let’s get out there and see what we can see! Just let him know what you’d like to see and do on your trip, and he’ll make the perfect Key West eco tour that your whole family or group will love.

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