Friday, 6 December 2013

Random Thoughts and Photos from the Keys

It's been a fairly relaxing week here in the Keys. We've really enjoyed our little rental home in Marathon -- great location close to many of the things we wanted to see and do, and we've actually sat out on the deck for a bit each afternoon, read our books and enjoyed the warm weather. And read Facebook posts from friends at home about the bitterly cold weather. We'll be there soon enough!

We went diving for two days with Abyss Dive Center. With the new underwater housing and strobe for Andrew's camera, he got some more great photos.  It's interesting how dive places differ. On the first day there was a dive master on the boat but we realized later it was only because the other couple with us (less experienced) hired one. On the second day we were the only divers and the boat captain simply described the reef and away we went. Thank goodness we both have reasonable navigation skills because we definitely needed them!

When we got back to our place, we used the hose by the fish cleaning station to more thoroughly rinse off our dive gear. The great white heron that we've seen on occasion got brave and came in quite close. Once we finished with the gear we realized he thought we must have been fishing! In the second photo he's standing on the cleaning station and looking straight at me as if to ask "Where's my lunch!"
The friendly neighbourhood great white heron.
"Hey! Where's my lunch?"
When we were in the Keys several years ago (~2006) we don't remember there being so many iguanas. They aren't native to Florida and have reproduced to the point of becoming pests who eat everything in sight. Mangrove bushes seem to be one of their favourite places to hide (Where's Waldo?) and munch on the leaves.
A colourful iguana on rocks by the water.
Can you spot the iguana?
The little iguanas blend in really well!
Where is he? Can you see him doing the splits with his back legs?
On Thursday we spent the day in Key West. The Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory was probably one of the best butterfly gardens we've been to. So many beautiful butterflies (that actually cooperated somewhat for photographs!), nice water features, and lots of colourful flowers and plants. 

Our second stop was the Key West Aquarium which was built during the Depression in 1933 as part of the Works Progress Administration Program in order to create jobs. It started out as an open air building with a roof being added in the 1960's. In 1943 it was leased to the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard to use as a rifle range. It was restored to an aquarium again in 1946 but having been battered by hurricanes several times it's definitely seen better days.

We also visited the Key West Tropical Forest and Botanical Garden which had several really nice trails.
I liked the pattern of the middle of this palm leaf.
We had hoped to get out kayaking today but it was fairly windy so we spent the morning at the Dolphin Research Center.  Our recollection of this from our previous visit was that it was quite touristy but today it didn't seem too bad. The shows weren't as "flashy" or entertaining as most dolphin shows but more educational focused and we saw very visible signs of the researchers and students doing their work.
Posing for the camera all on his own. (i.e. not during a "show")
Dolphins checking us out.
Alas, all good things must come to an end. Tomorrow we head back to Miami and on Sunday start our train journey toward home.

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