14677
Florida
Florida's Fragile Coastal Treasure: Snorkel the Coral Reefs
Learn about coastal ecosystems as you snorkel, kayak and beachcomb your way across the Florida Keys, enjoying expert-led discussions on the region’s coral reefs and natural history.
Rating (4.4)
Program No. 14677RJ
Length
7 days
Starts at
1,749
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7 days
6 nights
17 meals
6 B 5 L 6 D
Getting There
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DAY
1
Check-in, Program Registration & Orientation, Welcome Dinner
Key Largo Florida Keys
D
Ocean Pointe Suites at Key Largo

Activity note: Hotel check-in 4:00 p.m.

Afternoon: Program Registration & Orientation: 5:30 p.m. We will gather in our reserved room in the downstairs Welcome Center Area of the hotel for registration and to get your welcome packet containing your name-tag, up-to-date schedule that reflects any last-minute changes, and other important information. If you arrive late, please ask for your packet when you check in. The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. This program is staffed with a knowledgeable Group Leader who will also serve as our Study Leader. Transportation will be via 15-passenger vans unless noted otherwise. We will have breakfast each day at the same warm, friendly restaurant featuring traditional home-cooked meals.

Dinner: At a local restaurant, we’ll have a plated meal with soda, coffee, tea, water included; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: Continue getting to know your fellow Road Scholars, settle in, and get a good night’s rest for the day ahead.

DAY
2
Kayaking & Snorkel Practice
Key Largo Florida Keys
B,L,D
Ocean Pointe Suites at Key Largo

Activity note: Getting in/out of vans; in/out of sea kayaks. Kayaking approximately 1.5 hours in coastal Atlantic waters. Water provided during field trip; bring personal water bottle.

Breakfast: At a local restaurant, we’ll have a plated meal with juice, coffee, tea, water included.

Morning: We’ll ride to the kayaking location where our Group Leader/Study Leader will demonstrate kayaking basics and familiarize us with the kayaks and necessary paddling equipment. We will be assigned to tandem or single seat sea-kayaks according to ability. In the interests of safety, couples and companions may be placed in different kayaks as determined by the instructor. We will be out on the water for approximately 60-90 minutes with practice for beginners. During the field trip, we will learn about the natural Keys environment, the area’s history, and challenges going forward. We’ll look for wading birds and creatures of the sea as we paddle through mangrove forests, across tidal flats, and out along the edge of the Atlantic Ocean.

Lunch: At a local restaurant, we’ll prepare our own sandwiches and salads from a spread with all the fixings; iced tea, juice, water included, other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: In the hotel pool with our Group Leader, we’ll have an introduction to snorkeling and snorkeling practice. The session will cover important procedures plus getting in and out of the water safely from a boat at anchor.

Dinner: Restaurant plated meal.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
3
Pennekamp State Park, National Marine Sanctuary Snorkeling
Key Largo Florida Keys
B,L,D
Ocean Pointe Suites at Key Largo

Activity note: Walking approximately 1 mile through mangrove habitat; pathways, boardwalk. Snorkeling field trip approximately 2.5 hours including boat travel time.

Breakfast: Restaurant plated meal.

Morning: We’ll set out on a field trip to John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, the first undersea park in the country. One of our Group Leaders, a certified Florida Master Naturalist, will take us on a mile-long walk through mangrove habitat over pathways and boardwalk. We’ll learn about the importance of mangroves to the reefs and why the mangrove system is the second most productive bio-zone on the planet. Following our field trip we will have a slide presentation on reef fish, to help us identify those that we will see on this afternoon's snorkeling excursion.

Lunch: In the park, we’ll have a delicious and healthy lunch with fresh salad and sandwiches.

Afternoon: After transferring by van, we’ll travel by boat for our first reef snorkeling field trip to the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, one of 15 protected marine areas under jurisdiction of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. This living, shallow-water reefs teems with vibrant color and activity. The specific location will be determined by the boat captain based on weather, tidal conditions, and other pertinent factors.

Dinner: Restaurant plated meal.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
4
Everglades National Park
Key Largo Florida Keys
B,L,D
Ocean Pointe Suites at Key Largo

Activity note: Walking approximately 1 mile; pavement, boardwalk. Sunscreen and hats highly recommended.

Breakfast: Restaurant plated meal.

Morning: We’ll take a field trip to Everglades National Park for a walking field trip and presentation along the Anhinga Trail led by a National Park Service (NPS) expert. From the NPS: “This trail winds through a sawgrass marsh, where you may see alligators, turtles, anhingas, herons, egrets, and many other birds... This is one the most popular trails in the park because of its abundance of wildlife.” The Anhinga, also known as the Water-Turkey and the Snake-Bird, swims with its long head and neck out of the water.

Lunch: In the park, we’ll have a delicious and healthy lunch with fresh salad and sandwiches.

Afternoon: Everglades National Park covers 1.5 million acres, the largest subtropical wilderness and wetlands in the U.S. From the NPS: “Water in south Florida once flowed freely from the Kissimmee River to Lake Okeechobee and southward over low-lying lands to the estuaries of Biscayne Bay, the Ten Thousand Islands, and Florida Bay. This shallow, slow-moving sheet of water covered almost 11,000 square miles, creating a mosaic of ponds, sloughs, sawgrass marshes, hardwood hammock, and forested uplands… By the early 1900s, the drainage process to transform wetland to land ready to be developed was underway. The results would be severely damaging to the ecosystem and the species it supported… preservation and restoration work continues today.” We’ll have an expert-led exploration including a presentation. We’ll visit one of the Visitor Centers for presentations on the Park and an opportunity to peruse the exhibits.

Dinner: Restaurant plated meal.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
5
Free Time, National Marine Sanctuary Snorkeling
Key Largo Florida Keys
B,L,D
Ocean Pointe Suites at Key Largo

Activity note: Snorkeling field trip approximately 2.5 hours including boat travel time.

Breakfast: Restaurant plated meal.

Morning: Free time. Take this opportunity for personal independent exploration to see and do what interests you most. Please refer to the list of Free Time Opportunities. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Lunch: On the hotel grounds, we’ll have a picnic and prepare our own sandwiches and salads from a spread with all the fixings; iced tea, juice, water included.

Afternoon: We'll return to the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary to see and learn more about the reefs there. In addition to the colorful coral and fish, we will have an opportunity to view a variety of seagrass, birds and other marine life.

Dinner: Restaurant plated meal.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
6
Windley Key State Park, Snorkeling
Key Largo Florida Keys
B,L,D
Ocean Pointe Suites at Key Largo

Activity note: Snorkeling field trip approximately 2.5 hours including boat travel time.

Breakfast: Restaurant plated meal.

Morning: Our next expert-led field trip is to Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park in Islamorada. Eons ago when Florida was under water, this was a coral reef. Today it illustrates both the ancient past and a block of 20th century history. In 1905, industrialist Henry M. Flagler, a self-made millionaire and one of the founders of Standard Oil, began building the Florida Keys Over-Sea Railroad — a gargantuan project with certain challenges similar to the Panama Canal. Portions of Windley Key became a quarry where workers mined coral stone for the railroad bed. Thanks to relatively clean cuts, areas of the park are like an outdoor museum exhibit where we can see fossils of plants and animals from more than 100,000 years ago. We’ll walk along eight-foot-high quarry walls and also see some of the quarry machinery preserved at the park.

Lunch: On Windley Key, we’ll have delicious and healthy lunch with fresh salad and sandwiches.

Afternoon: We’ll return to the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary for our third snorkeling field trip. As before, the specific location will be determined by the boat Captain based on weather, tidal conditions, and other pertinent factors.

Dinner: Restaurant plated meal. Share favorite experiences with new Road Scholar friends during our farewell dinner.

Evening: At leisure. Prepare for check-out and departure in the morning.

DAY
7
Adventure Recap, Program Concludes
Key Largo Florida Keys
B

Activity note: Shuttle to Miami Airport departs at 10:00 a.m. Hotel check-out by 11:00 a.m.

Breakfast: Restaurant plated meal.

Morning: We’ll have an informal wrap-up session to recap our adventures and to share and discuss what was most interesting, exciting, and enjoyable about the experience. The session will end by approximately 10:00 a.m. This concludes our program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Please join our Facebook page and share photos of your program. Visit us at www.facebook.com/rsadventures. Best wishes for all your journeys!






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