The three main islands in Dry Tortugas National Park are Garden Key, Loggerhead Key and Bush Key. The other islands, which are considerably more hostile to human visitors, are Hospital Key, Middle Key and East Key. Garden Key has had the most human impact and also the location of the information desk and resource center for the park. While each island has glorious beaches, take care to adhere to the swimming rules, bearing in mind that certain areas aren’t suitable for swimming due to the force of the sea. There are many things to do in this area, including night sky watching, snorkeling and diving, as well as ranger-guided tours and paddlesports.
Located 3 miles from Garden Key is Loggerhead Key, distinguished by its lighthouse. It’s named thus because of the many loggerhead turtles which frequent the island. You can only visit Loggerhead Key during the day. There are guided hikes and tours available, but no camping site.
Bush Key is the place where two types of bird, sooty kerns and brown noddies make nests in masses between February and September of each year. For this reason, the island is completely closed to human visitors during this time. When you do visit it, however, make sure that you carefully adhere to the trails, to ensure that you don’t disrupt any natural life there.
And named for the island are the sea turtles themselves, which make them, part of the Dry Tortugas experience, if not the main attraction. Five distinct species of sea turtles – the loggerhead, the green turtle, the leatherback, Kemp’s ridley and the hawksbill, nest and breed in the area annually, but several of them are today, sadly, endangered species.
And if swimming and looking at wild life on a beautiful Edenic piece of nature is not your thing, Geocaching might be. It’s the world’s largest treasure hunt game, devised with GPS and cell phone technology to get people exploring this world, giving back to it, and discovering new things about it. The Dry Tortugas National Park has Geocaching sites for your pleasure. But remember that 99% of this national park is water, so if you’re not a water baby, you might lose out on seeing some amazing sites, including the ship wrecks under the sea, the astonishing living coral heads and historical Coaling Pier Pilings from the 1800s, among other things. Photo: Tim Markley/Fotolia
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