This morning I posted a story on Gadling about my trip to the Florida Keys last week. In that story I shared the details of a very unique, and fun, way to explore those islands that I had never considered before – by jet ski!
Now, before I go much further, let me address a couple of topics. First, I was brought down to the Keys by the fine folks at the Personal Watercraft Industry Association to introduce myself, and a couple of other travel writers, to their Blue Rider Program. Blue Rider is a joint venture between the PWIA and the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, in which they are working together to promote ocean awareness and a plan for the sustainable use of ocean environments.
A decade ago, the thought of using a persona watercraft, aka a “jet ski” in any body of water, let alone one that is protected, seemed laughable. But technology has brought us a long way in the past ten years, and today’s PWC are now 90% more efficient than they once were, and 70% quieter as well. The result is that the current generation of jet ski is now one of the most eco-friendly vehicles out on the water.
What makes these little watercraft even better is that they allow you to visit places that larger boats can’t go. For instance, while zipping around the keys last week, we were in water that was just 1.5 feet deep at times. We also maneuvered back into the mangrove trees, exploring natural waterways that lead deep into the groves, which creating a sublime feeling of being close to nature. And when we visited some more remote coral reefs, we could cut the engines and float, while fish swam all around us. I even had the amazing experience of watching three nurse sharks cruise by beneath me. It was great!
When you’re done communing with nature and enjoying the natural sights, you can take the PWC’s out into the open water, and really open them up. These babies can hit upwards of 50 mph, and when you combine that with choppy water, you’ll catch big air, which really gets the adrenaline pumping.
They are very fast and very fun, and the perfect way to explore the Marine Sanctuary, both above and below the water. At one of the coral reefs we donned snorkeling gear and hopped in the water, spending the next 20 minutes watching the fish play, miles from land or just about anything else for that matter.
I had the chance to take two different cruises in two different areas of the Keys, and both were spectacular. They were each more than 25 miles in length, which can actually wear you out after awhile, but I loved every minute of it. And when we returned to shore, there was plenty to see and do on dry land as well. I spent my time visiting an old lighthouse, a Civil War era fort, and the Key West home of Earnest Hemingway. It was a wonderful tropical get away with a nice mix of relaxation and adventure, and I recommend the Keys as an escape for anyone.
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