As part of our Young Naturalists Guide to Florida study we took a recent trip to Key Largo to observe a coral reef at John Pennekamp Coral Reef park. Founded in 1963 it was the first undersea park in the United States.
Upon arrival we stopped at the Visitor’s Center to see their 30,000 gallon salt water aquarium tank and educational displays.
Afterward, we took a two and a half hour glass bottom boat tour that held everyone’s attention!
The next day we came back and walked one of the tropical hardwood hammock trails (Tamarind Trail).
Tropical hammocks are unique areas of hardwood forest that are found only in South Florida and the Keys. These unusual coastal forests were first exposed about 8,000 years ago as sea levels fell and coral reefs were exposed. The beds of coral died and left behind shelves of limestone bedrock which eventually fostered vegetation. Over many thousands of years plants established in these ecosystems as their seeds were carried by winds, tides, and migrating birds. Characterized by a closed canopy of low-growing hardwoods and palms with a fairly open shrub layer and sparse herb layer, the plants growing in these hammocks are a mix between tropical and temperate species.
Make sure you confirm that you are going out on the Spirt of Pennekamp glass bottom boat. The other boat is open air which makes it difficult to hear the tour guide, has viewing areas that children must stand to see over, and water sprays onto the boat causing some passengers to get quite wet! For better visability try to take the 12:15P or 3:15P boat. The park does have a concession stand and clean bathroom & shower facilities.
Books used on this portion of the study:
The Young Naturalists Guide to Florida by Peggy Lanz & Wendy Hale
Let’s Explore Coral Reefs by Michael Patrick O’Neill
Find it at the beach by Dee Phillips
Coral Reefs by Sylvia A. Earle
Water World’s Coral Reefs by Cheryl Hook
Water Habitats: Coral Reefs by Joann Early Macken
Quote taken from this website