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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Everglades Adventure in Key Largo

Photo by Claudia Miller
Capt. Joyce Little expertly guided the hard-bottom Zodiac across the shallow waters of the Florida Bay. We passed into Everglades National Park just minutes after leaving Key Largo. As our guide on the Caribbean Watersports Enviro-Tour, she encouraged our group of five to fine tune our vision to the subtleties and nuances of nature. It wasn't long before we spotted a brown-and-white osprey chasing a dark Turkey Vulture in the morning sun. We followed it back to its nest above the mangroves. Binoculars were passed, and the heads of two fluffy babies came into focus. Across the channel, I felt the fierce gold eyes of its other half watching from a high perch. Living up to its nickname, Fish Hawk, something silver twitched in the black talons. I had a feeling this bird wouldn’t hesitate to chase us away either. 

Drifting into a shaded mangrove tunnel, Little used her underwater flashlight to spotlight the vibrant sponges, worms and algae living among the mangrove roots. Juvenile snapper and barracuda darted in and out of the shadows. On the other side of the tunnel, she dipped a blue net into the seagrass bed and gently pulled out two Cassiopea jellyfish that live upside down on the ocean floor. Perfectly camouflaged to match the silt-covered bottom, they pulsed gently, looking like a sea anemone with dark yellow plumes waving. I wondered what else was lurking below. As if reading my thoughts, Little pointed down and said, “That’s not just muck; it’s home.”

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