THE Adventure in our Big Adventure

We are visiting Key West for the first time as part of our Big Adventure.  We decide to take the day trip to Dry Tortugas National Park.  It has to be the most sublime experience either us have ever had.  This truly is a magical adventure that took us back into the past.

However, we will both readily admit that a key to the intensity of this experience was Jeff. Jeff was the tour guide from the Yankee Freedom ferry company.  His introductions and humorous commentary during the 2.5 hour ride to Dry Tortugas National Park made it easy to choose his guided tour of Fort Jefferson rather than the National Park’s Ranger’s – and he just made it so real.

Jeff's guided tour of Fort Jefferson

Jeff’s guided tour of Fort Jefferson

We started the day on a 2.5 hour ride on the Yankee Freedom catamaran ferry boat, with buffet breakfast included.  Jeff and the crew did an excellent job of looking after all, including those who were a bit green around the gills (not us).

Yankee Freedom III at Key West for Dry Tortugas NP

Yankee Freedom III at Key West for Dry Tortugas NP

Going to Dry Tortugas National Park, Louise looking for Dolphins

Going to Dry Tortugas National Park, Louise looking for Dolphins

You first see the Fort Jefferson at quite a distance, while Jeff explains that these “islands”, which are mainly sand bars, are continually changing with the current and storms moving the sand around.  However, the main key, Garden Key, is very secure on bedrock.

First sighting of Fort Jefferson, Dry Tortugas NP

First sighting of Fort Jefferson, Dry Tortugas NP

However, there is an alternate way to get to and from Dry Tortugas NP, a seaplane.  Much quicker than the ferry and better for those who maybe aren’t good sailors.

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We then went on the guided tour of the fortress with Jeff.  As the water wasn’t conducive to snorkeling for most of the other passengers Jeff expanded his tour – it took over an hour and a half.  Jeff is such an excellent raconteur and his passion about Dry Tortugas National Park just took us back in time to when it was being constructed and the Civil War.  But we understood why the largest structure in the Western Hemisphere (16,000,000 bricks) was built here in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico miles from land.

Fort Jefferson, despite being in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico, has a moat

Fort Jefferson, despite being in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico, has a moat

The other main reason for wanting to go to Dry Tortugas was the arrival of the Sooty Terns (Onychoprion fuscatus) at the end of their migration.  For their protection Bush Key, where they nest, was closed to the public.

Sooty Terns nesting at Dry Tortugas NP

Sooty Terns nesting at Dry Tortugas NP

 

Sooty Tern (Onychoprion fuscatus) at the breeding colony on Bush Key

Sooty Tern (Onychoprion fuscatus) at the breeding colony on Bush Key

The Sooty Terns (Onychoprion fuscatus) were also joined on Bush Key by some recently arrived Brown Noddys (Anous stolidus) which also come to Dry Tortugas NP to breed.

Brown Noddys ( Anous stolidus) feeding at Bush Key

Brown Noddys ( Anous stolidus) feeding at Bush Key

We also saw large groups of the Magnificent Frigate Birds (Frigata magnificens) – they almost look pre-historic.

Magnificent Frigate Birds (Frigate magnificens) soaring over their breeding colony

Magnificent Frigate Birds (Frigate magnificens) soaring over their breeding colony

Adult and Juvenile Magnificent Frigate Birds (Frigate magnificens) at Bush Key

Adult and Juvenile Magnificent Frigate Birds (Frigate magnificens) at Bush Key

We then made the 2.5 hour ride back.  The first 40 minutes of which were quite rough as we were heading into the waves.

Yankee Freedom III ready to depart Dry Tortugas NP

Yankee Freedom III ready to depart Dry Tortugas NP

We know if we revisit Key West again we will definitely do the Dry Tortugas NP trip again, maybe even camp there? One Ranger went out there on Christmas Eve to camp knowing that Christmas Day is the only day the ferry service doesn’t run (subject too storms).  Oh to be a National Park Ranger in Dry Tortugas National Park!

Gear: iPhone, Nikon D4s, Nikon D800, Nikkor 600mm f/4 VRII, Nikkor TC-17 EII, Nikkor 80-400mm F/4.5-5.6 VRIII, Really Right Stuff Tripod & Gimbal Head, Lexar Digital Film

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4 Responses to THE Adventure in our Big Adventure

  1. Tammy says:

    Thank you so much for the pictures and the up date on your travels . Nice meeting you in key west. We camped across from you at Boyd’s campground . Safe travels.

  2. Fred Schwering says:

    Louise, I just discovered your blog. The stop at Dry Tortugas looks very interesting.
    If you are going to be close to Lakeland FL please drop me a line. We are here until early April this year. It would be fun to catch up.
    … Fred

  3. Francis says:

    Hello you two.
    Thanks for the update. What was the reason for the fort having been built?
    My knowledge or lack of of the Civil War, or indeed America,is something not to be proud of so I need some history lessons with your blog.

    Francis and Alison

  4. Loren Dingley says:

    Your adventure seems so cool. I enjoy the updates. Keep them coming,

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