Key West is an island down at the very tip of the Florida Keys, conveniently connected to the mainland by a series of bridges. Surrounded by tropical seas, we spend a lot of time playing on the gentle water. Some of my favorite things to do in Key West include watching our famous sunsets, snorkeling the living reef, dancing to reggae music and enjoying some Caribbean rum. Fury Water Adventures came up with the brilliant idea of combining these best Key West activities into one fun tour - their Rum & Reggae Snorkeling Trip.
Of course, I had to try out this trip so off I went, accompanied by my husband, Jefe. We check in at the Fury Surf Shack, located in the Westin Marina for our 3 hour adventure. For nearly 30 years, Fury has been sailing out of Key West and introducing guests to the tropical Florida Keys waters. The catamaran is spacious, with lots of seating and a large covered area for shade from the sun (locals usually hide here!). If you want to work on your tan, there is a large deck area to spread out on. There are also 2 large bathrooms on the boat and fresh water showers to rinse off the salt water.
Capt. Bill welcomes all of us aboard. A true local character, Capt. Bill is well known in Key West as a co-founder of a popular Key West bar - you can read more about him on Fury’s web site. Crew members Grace, Tomas and Nicole greet all of us and hand out the snorkeling equipment. After everyone has their snorkel gear and is seated, the crew provides a safety overview. It’s another perfect day in Key West and we head out of the harbor bathed in sunshine and warm tropical breezes, accompanied by the stirring sounds of reggae music - greats like Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Jimmy Cliff.
With prevailing winds out of the south, Capt. Bill heads to the south-west to a calm and clear snorkel area at Sand Key, 7 miles south from Key West. On the way there, the crew offers all of us icy cold water and soft drinks. Soon we see bait fish jump out of the water and a pod of dolphins are spotted off in the distance, enjoying the bounty of the sea. I’m glad to hear we are going to Sand Key - one of my favorite spots in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. The Sanctuary covers a huge area, 2,900 square nautical miles of waters stretching south from Miami westward to the Dry Tortugas. We are fortunate indeed to be able to play in these crystal clear waters which contain the world’s third largest barrier reef, mangrove-fringed islands and more than 6,000 species of marine life.
The coral reef is located to the south of the Sand Key Lighthouse. With shifting sand spits, this part of the ocean is treacherous to ships and in 1827 the first lighthouse at Sand Key was built on the sandy island. In 1846, the 60 foot brick tower was washed away in the Great Havana Hurricane. Construction of a new 109 foot light tower started in 1852, this time with a screw-pile foundation to attach the lighthouse to the reef and an open framework iron tower that allows it to survive storms. Locals frequent this beautiful Key West snorkel spot. Several rock fingers around the island provide shelter to many varieties of marine life including the loggerhead turtles that greet us as the catamaran ties up to a mooring buoy.
During our sail to the reef, Tomas and Grace conduct “Snorkel School.” In addition to an overview on how to use the mask and snorkel equipment, they talk about proper snorkel etiquette to protect the Sanctuary and its marine life. Before this trip, I did not know that Fury is a certified National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Blue Star Operator. Fury and its crews follow a voluntary program established by the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary to reduce the impact of boat operators and their guests on the vital coral reef ecosystem.
Having lived in the Keys for many years, I realize how fragile the living coral reef is and from the crew I learn how Fury is actively helping to protect the reefs. Fury donates a portion of each ticket sold from snorkeling trips to MOTE Marine Laboratory. MOTE is working on coral reef restoration programs in the Florida Keys. Not to sound like an ad, but Fury for the past 2 years has also held a beach and mangrove clean-up at Boca Grande and are in the planning stages for this spring’s clean-up.
Snorkel time is here - the moment we are all waiting for. With the polar vortex impacting even our waters, cooling it to 70 degrees, Fury smartly rents wet suits for only $10 (all other snorkel gear is included in cost of tour). While this may be warm water for our northern visitors - like those from Minnesota - for us locals, that’s cold! In summer, our turquoise water is in the tropical mid-eighties.
Under the watchful eye of Capt. Bill, snorkelers take the big step off the catamaran into the clear, sparkling blue water and swim towards the nearby reef. Others use the easy access Stairway to the Sea. Fury takes safety of their guests and of the reef seriously, keeping 2 crew members in the water at all times, ready with life buoys to assist anyone in need. Noodles are provided to guests that may be uncomfortable in the water. Sand Key comes through again, with snorkelers seeing loggerhead turtles, schools of snapper, vivid blue tang, colorful parrot fish, goliath groupers, striped grunts, crabs, spiny lobster, purple fan coral and myriads of other marine life. For non-snorkelers, the complimentary bar opens and soon guests are enjoying Fury’s signature Rum Punch, champagne, Michelob AmberBock, Bud Light, blush wine and chablis.
With the sun ready to start it's nightly descent, crew members on the boat assist people out of the water and take the snorkel gear. Fresh water showers feel great as we rinse off the salt water. Jefe and I are ready for some drinks and try the delicious Rum Punch. As snorkelers dry off, the crew comes around and offers up refreshingly cold drinks.
Soon, we are under sail back to Key West and anticipating this evening’s final act - the magnificent Florida Key’s sunset paired with awesome reggae songs and Rum Punch. Nothing beats watching the fiery sun descend into the sapphire ocean as the sky intensifies into brilliant shades of orange, yellow and pink. So sublime - it’s time for another Rum Punch! Drinks keep flowing as we sail back to port. We enjoy meeting new people, swapping snorkel adventures and answering questions on daily life in Key West - no, we don’t get to just play in the sun; yes, we really do work! I have a chance to talk to crew member Nicole about her favorite moments with Fury. She shares that her most memorable times are on Fury’s Key West Dolphin Watch & Snorkel Tours. It sounds like a fun trip. With 18 or fewer guests, it’s a small intimate tour where they head out to the Gulf of Mexico to watch wild bottle-nose dolphins in their natural habitat and then snorkel in a different area. I’m glad to hear that Fury participates in DOLPHIN SMART, a program that promotes responsible observance of dolphins. I love seeing the graceful mammals swimming and playing in the water. Plus, I grew up watching Flipper on TV and dreaming of having my own dolphin companion!
All too soon, Key West is in sight and as Capt. Bill expertly docks, we gather our belongings, refreshed with delightful new memories to last a lifetime, and say good-bye to our new friends. As I suspected, a few of my favorite things really do combine to make the perfect Key West trip.
Locals tip - Allow time before or after your tour to enjoy the area around the Westin Marina. There’s lots to see and do, being located just behind the Key West Westin Resort on the corner of Front Street and Greene Street. I like to get there a bit early, browse the many stores and walk around the marina to see what beautiful private yachts and cruise ships are in town. If you are hungry, there are plenty of restaurants, everything from sit down to ice cream and snacks.
Fury Water Adventures
There are so many things to do with Fury Water Adventures and you will see many of their boats (large and small) all over the island. For the Rum & Reggae Snorkel & Sunset Combo, check-in is at the Fury Surf Shack in the Westin Marina, located just behind the Key West Westin Resort on the corner of Front Street and Greene Street, Key West.
Fury Surf Shack - Open daily 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Fury’s Surf Shack is conveniently open late, so you can stop off after your tour and buy one of the fun Rum & Reggae crew t-shirts (and lots of other great stuff) to remember your brilliant day by.
The Rum & Reggae Snorkel Sunset Combo is part of Fury’s coupon offer in the Key West Vacation Pass where you buy one adult ticket and get the 2nd free. Fury Water Adventures offers a wide range of Key West water sports tours as well as private charters.
To experience more of Key West’s best watersports, be sure to use your Key West Vacation Pass coupons to save on offers from Barefoot Billy's Water Sports, Capt. Moe's Lucky Fleet Charters, Danger Charters, Key West Eco Tours, Sebago Watersports, Schooner Appledore, and Sunset Watersports.