You consider yourself to be eco-friendly, right? You recycle, take Uber Pools, observe Meat-free Mondays, and don’t print anything unnecessarily at work, home or, school. Your “green” pursuits help the planet and make you a positive contributor. And when you are ready to amplify your efforts, think eco-tourism – taking additional responsibility for the planet while traveling and vacationing.
The term eco-tourism was initially used to describe nature-based travel to relatively undisturbed areas, with an emphasis on traveler education. The movement has grown in response to the increasing depletion of cultural and natural heritage throughout the planet, particularly in naturally fragile environments. Successful eco-tourists minimize the adverse effects of traditional tourism by supporting conservation efforts; leave as little trace behind as possible; and increase their environmental awareness. Espousing an “eco-warrior ethos” while vacationing will enrich your personal experiences, and leave no or low impact on natural areas.
Luckily, millions of visitors to the Florida Keys accept the challenge to protect and preserve its fragile environment and precious resources. After all, the ocean and marine ecosystem are the biggest attractions, and require every bit of this attention and care. Following are some great tips for you to become a conscientious eco-tourist and help continue the legacy, plus eco-friendly activities to pursue during your Key Largo visit:
Tips to Becoming A Good Eco-Tourist
Becoming a good eco-tourist takes a little bit of effort on your behalf. You will become a pro eco-tourist in no time with these tips:
Did you know boat propeller contact could damage marine animals, seagrasses, and coral reefs? As you boat in the Florida Keys, be vigilant and respectful of fish, birds, and other animals as well as their respective marine habitats. While enjoying your boat ride, obey the speed limit in Manatee zones, stay within marked channels, and be attentive to where you drop anchor.
Avoid using plastic
When boating, camping, or hiking, don’t use plastic! Instead, choose reusable bags and carry reusable utensils. Plastic straws, shopping bags, and utensils are typically used once then discarded, but they remain on the planet for many years. Often, these plastics end up in the ocean where marine animals can ingest them, causing devastating consequences. Some of the most affected Keys marine species include sea turtles, dolphins, fish, and birds.
Use biodegradable sunscreen
During your vacation in the Florida Keys, choose your sunscreen wisely. Sunscreens that contain oxybenzone are not only dangerous to you, but are also harmful to our delicate coral reefs. As such, always use sunscreens labeled biodegradable, since they are safe for the environment.
Interact safely with marine animals
The Marine Mammal Protection Act federally safeguards marine animals, including dolphins. For their protection and conservation, you are not allowed to chase, follow, feed, or swim with dolphins. If you want to interact with and support these delightful animals, do so through accredited interaction facilities.
Choose “sustainable” seafood
Seafood plays a vital role in the conservation of the marine environment. During your vacation in the Keys, choose food labeled “sustainable.” That way, you contribute to pushing fishing companies to rethink their procedures and reduce bycatch. As a result, they will harvest fish from healthy regions, and you will enjoy dining in the Keys even more.
Beached or orphaned animals
If you see a distressed marine animal such as a dolphin or sea turtle, immediately report it to the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission stranding hotline at 1-888-404-FWCC. And don’t pick up or touch any baby animals that appear to be alone. Usually the parent has left to get food, or is watching the baby from a distance.
Becoming an eco-tourist can include volunteering with community or global organizations to assist in protecting endangered species and their habitats. In the Florida Keys, there are many conservation projects that you can join to make your vacation more impactful and fulfilling.
Fun Eco-Friendly Key Largo Activates
So, you’re visiting the Keys and searching for entertaining eco-friendly activities to partake in? Search no more; we have a round up of lively and environmentally safe activities you are sure to enjoy!
Kayak in Key Largo
Kayaking is a popular eco-tourism pursuit for many, because no prior experience is necessary! Paddle in the pristine regions of Everglades National Park and Florida Bay with no boat traffic, no crowds, and endless spectacular vistas. As you explore the backcountry, you may happen upon crocodiles, dolphins, and birds. And if you love fishing for tarpon, snook, or bonefish, you can do it all from a kayak.
Snorkeling at John Pennekamp State Park
John Pennekamp, the first undersea park in the United States, covers approximately 70 nautical square miles of coral reefs, seagrass beds, and mangrove swamps. The park was established to protect and preserve a portion of the only living coral reef in the continental United States. Eco-tourists can snorkel with park guides as part of a group, or charter a private adventure.
Visit the Coral Restoration Foundation (CRF)
CRF is one of the largest and most renowned non-profit marine conservation organizations in the world. It is dedicated and committed to restoring coral reefs back to a healthy state in Florida and globally.
The organization restores coral reefs through education, dive programs, and investing in research to improve coral reef monitoring strategies. During your visit, engage in dive programs that allow you to make a difference to local aquatic life.
Visit the Turtle Hospital
What better way to learn about conserving marine life than by visiting the Turtle Hospital? Among other goals, this charitable organization and veterinary hospital strives to rescue, rehabilitate, and release sea turtles back to their natural habitat in the Florida Keys.
As a guest, you will be treated with a guided educational tour of the facility and the rehab area. The tour is offered multiple times daily, and gives you the opportunity to feed the permanent residents.
Visit the Wild Bird Center
The Florida Keys Wild Bird Center is a well-known conservation organization committed to rescuing, rehabilitating, and releasing migratory and native wild birds that have been displaced or injured. The organization also provides a humane shelter for birds that cannot be released, and educates the public to appreciate the benefit of coexisting with birds.
As a conservationist tourist, you too can make a difference by supporting the organization through adopting a bird program, volunteering, and contributing. As you plan your Key Largo visit, make a date with the Wild Bird Center.
Swim with Dolphins Programs at Dolphins Plus Marine Mammal Responder (DPMMR)
Nothing in your Key Largo vacation can be quite as memorable as personally connecting with the dolphins at DPMMR, a not-for-profit stranding response facility. By participating in the program, you support the care of injured wild dolphins and whales.
The swim is also a thrilling adventure for you and your loved ones. Some of the programs you may wish to pursue include:
Connect to Protect
Splash and Wade
Snorkel with Dolphins
Private Group Experience
Dolphin Conservation Demo
Caring for Dolphins Demo
Rendezvous with a Dolphin
Garl’s Coastal Kayaking
Kayak with experienced guides who know the Everglades backcountry like their own backyard. The naturalists will unveil magnificent views of Florida’s largest wilderness. Many of our guides are trained wildlife biologists, which means they know exactly where to look should an alligator, owl, dolphin, spoonbill, or flamingo be in the area. Whether you are young or old, Garl’s tours offer eco-tourists a wide variety of memorable experiences.