The truth about snorkel tours in the Florida Keys, especially in Key West, is - all reef trips are not the same- What may be a dream come true for a college student on spring break could be a virtual nightmare for a couple on their long awaited honeymoon. Key West is a small island with a lot of people earning a living off tourism. On Duval street, every block has at least one “concierge “ trying to sell you a boat trip. If successful, they will collect 30% of the take and move on to the next opportunity. Its easy money for the concierge but not always a good thing for the customer. So what do you do?
Here is some local knowledge that will go along way in making an informed decision
Choice #1 -The “Cattle Boat” Tour
Cattle boats are most popular choice because they are inexpensive and provide free beer. The average cattle boat holds anywhere between 20 and 150 snorkelers and will cost you anywhere between $40 and $95 per person. Cattle boats will take you out to the most popular destinations which are saturated with up to 250,000 snorkelers a year. Once there you will encounter some reef fish, a few patches of live coral, and 250 other snorkelers. You will be allowed to snorkel for about 45 minutes, after which time someone will blow a whistle and “herd” you back to the boat (hence the term cattle boat). If this your idea of a fun time then by all means enjoy.
Choice #2 – Private Charter
The private charter is a great way to see the reef but can be a bit cost prohibitive, especially if there are less than 4 people. The boats range in size from 28 to 50 feet, and they typically serve good food and beverages. With a little advance knowledge and favorable weather, you can usually persuade your captain to take you to some of the better “locals only” reefs which are really nice. You will experience lots of fish, lots of healthy live coral, and most of all, no crowds kicking you in the face. Some captains and mates will accompany you in the water and, if you’re lucky, will point out some of the really cool reef creatures.
Choice #3 – Namaste Sailing/Keys Eco-Tours
Of course, we have saved the best for last. Yes, we are heavily biased about our product, but after 9 years of running snorkel excursions here, we have good idea of how to do it right. First off, unlike the cattle boats, we are not the cheap seats. We provide an excellent experience and must charge accordingly. Our mixed private coral eco-tour starts at $115 per person, and for that investment you will get a high quality experience that far exceeds anything else available in the Florida Keys. That is the truth, and all you need to do is check us out on Facebook and be your own judge.
Here is what we offer:
- In water ecology guides that are not happy until you see what all the fuss is about,
- No more than 8 guests per boat, guaranteed!
- Plenty of healthy snacks including fresh fruit, cheeses, and fresh bottled spring water,
- Comfortable and safe destinations that we hand pick for calm conditions, abundant ecology, and few people!
- “One-on-One” in-water instruction for beginners and timid swimmers.
All day excursions include a 30 minute reef ecology presentation of which we are quite proud. Basically, we have condensed 12 years of acquired knowledge into a short presentation complete with antidotal stories, props, and visuals. Its fun, informative, and complements your time on the reef.
Our Destinations- The best and most colorful reefs we travel to are the secluded offshore barrier reefs. These reefs are anywhere from 4 to 7 miles from our location on Stock Island. Barrier reefs are accessible and safe on calm days (winds less than 15 mph). On days when the wind and seas are higher we absolutely will not take you offshore. Quite honestly, on the rough days, the visibility at the offshore reefs is poor and the sea conditions are unsafe for snorkeling. On those rough days we will opt for an inshore destination. These inshore reefs, though not as large as offshore reefs, are equally abundant with reef ecology. Our inshore destinations offer plenty of quality snorkeling for both novices and experienced snorkelers. To increase your chances for a Barrier Reef experience here are some tips:
- Book with us well in advance (early planning will go along way to guaranteeing a spot on a offshore trip).
- When booking, pick the earliest date you can go out and leave a later dates in reserve in case we need to reschedule.
- If you are planning for the best snorkeling season then consider May through September
Mixed Private Excursions- $115 per guest (maximum 8 guests)
Mixed private excursions are well suited for smaller groups. This trip runs daily at 12:00 noon and returns by 4:00 allowing for approximately 90 minutes of snorkeling. Depending on our guest numbers and destinations, we utilize either our 53 foot sailboat, Namaste’, or our 18 foot powerboat, Safari I. We also cater a lunch for an additional $10 per guest.
Private Excursions- $649 (6 guests per boat)
Private excursions are great for guests who like the luxury of their own boat. The private excursion usually lasts for 4 to 5 hours and allows for at least 2 hours in the water. A big advantage to booking a private excursion is flexible scheduling. Many of our private excursion guests opt for a late afternoon departure, which allows for a nice snorkel followed by a sunset sail. We can accommodate groups up to 12.
All excursions include equipment, instruction, refreshments, fresh fruit, and bottled spring water.
Special Overnight Excursions
Our favorite trip is our weeklong ecology excursions which we limit to educational groups and Boy Scouts. We only book these trips in the late spring and summer months and limit it to no more than 4 trips per season. We can accomodate up to 20 students/scouts and utilized private charter boats with our own captains and ecology guides. This trip usualy averages between $900 to $1000 per person.
What makes us so special:
We are very proud of our excursions and give 150% to all our guests. We are self-admitted coral “geeks” and proud of it. We love sharing our passion, and if authentic coral discovery is your thing, then we certaintly have just the trip for you. We specialize in accommodating novices and are very adept with folks who may be a little skittish with the challenge of aquatic adventures. We customize each trip based on what see and hear from our guests and will never put anyone out in bad conditions. All charters are considered open booking’s and if the weather is not right for that day’s trip, we work with our guests and plan around their schedules and not ours. For us, the bottom line is not the money in our pockets but rather the smiles we see at the end of the day.