Our Bugeye Backcountry Adventure Eco Tour combines three great Key West adventures into one day: a Key West schooner sail, a guided kayak tour of mangrove islands and a snorkel tour of backcountry reefs. Discover the diverse ecosystem of the Florida Key’s backcountry in one awesome all-day tour.
This intimate nature tour is limited to only 16 passengers, providing you with ample seating and room to spread out for your relaxing day on the tropical water. Departing from Key West’s Historic Seaport, the Appledore Star’s sails are raised for an authentic sail experience on the way to Key West’s backcountry. If you always wanted to sail a tall ship, this is your chance to help raise the sails and take a turn at the wheel. We encourage passenger participation!
Your day is spent exploring Key West’s uninhabited mangrove islands in the Key West National Wildlife Refuge. The shallow-draft Appledore Star is the perfect design for your eco adventure, being a replica of historic bugeye schooners that dragged for oysters in the Chesapeake Bay. Keep an eye out for dolphins, sea turtles, manta rays and many other wildlife that call the Refuge home. Your captain knows where dolphins are frequently seen and will let you know if he spots any.
Upon reaching the mangrove islands, the schooner anchors and your exploration begins. Your day is divided between guided kayaking tours and guided snorkeling tours. For kayaking your crew will help you into your stable sea kayak, providing paddling instructions. Don’t worry if you aren’t used to paddling – the warm, shallow water is calm, sheltered by the uninhabited mangroves, making kayaking a breeze. This is where you will experience the best kayaking in Key West.
On your kayaking tour, the crew talks about the mangroves and their important role as nurseries to the sea. Learn how mangrove trees survive in salt water and about the varied marine life that inhabit Key West’s unique mangrove ecosystem. Did you know that several hundred species of birds call these mangroves home? On a typical day, you may see ospreys, frigates, blue herons, bald eagles and even roseate spoonbills. In the water, look for sea turtles, dolphins, manta rays and tropical fish.
You also have the opportunity to get in the water on a guided snorkel tour. Your experienced crew provides professional instructions on snorkeling along with information on the sponge gardens. Never snorkeled? No worries – the crew answers all your questions. Soon you are enjoying your snorkel tour of the shallow, calm waters of the sponge gardens. Take in the tropical fish, sponges, and marine wildlife that call the gardens home. Prefer to float on the surface or new to the water? Grab a noodle, lean back and watch the clouds drift by.
Conditions vary throughout the different areas of the mangrove islands. We pride ourself on providing our guests with the best experience possible and your experienced captain will chart a course for the optimal kayaking and snorkeling locations given that day’s tides and weather conditions.
After your tours, come back aboard and wash off with our fresh water rinse. Find a comfortable spot to relax on deck. Choose from plenty of complimentary cold drinks – frosty cold beer, wine, homemade sangria, chilled sodas and filtered water. This is the best of laid-back island living.
Lunch is also served on the boat, an all-you-can-eat fresh buffet feast. Start with peel & eat shrimp and delicious fried chicken. Move on to a selection of deli meats and cheeses accompanied by assorted breads and condiments.
Once the day winds down, its time to raise anchor and leave the mangrove islands behind. Refresh yourself with another tasty beverage, including our tropical homemade sangria. Enjoy an afternoon snack of freshly made chocolate chip cookies, chips and dip, and seasonal fruits. Relax and enjoy your sail back to the Historic Seaport as a memorable day in Key West draws to a close.
To re-board the schooner after snorkeling and kayaking you are required to climb aboard a platform secured to the boat just below the waterline, from there you climb a ladder back aboard the schooner. This activity requires a certain amount of physical ability. If you have questions or concerns about this, please contact us before booking.