Robert Silk’s book, “An Ecotourist’s Guide to the Everglades & Florida Keys,” is an insider’s view of the hot spots any ecotourist should visit while traveling in South Florida. This quick, easy read shares historic and ecological details that give the reader a broad understanding of the Everglades ecosystem and its rich history of drainage and restoration.
Silk starts north of Everglades National Park in Everglades City and Big Cypress National Preserve taking the reader south ending in Dry Tortugas National Park. On the way, he stops at gems like Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve, the largest in Florida’s state park system and home to the famous ghost orchid and some of the best preserved bald cypress and pond apple communities. He brings the reader through Everglades National Park mentioning must see spots like the Anhinga Trail, a boardwalk walking through Taylor slough’s tree islands and sawgrass prairies. During the winter, the wetland surrounding the trail stays wet becoming a refuge for wildlife and a great opportunity for visitors to see alligators basking in the sun, Anhinga and Cormorant birds fishing underwater or feeding their young, and numerous other fish, bird, and reptile species all in one spot.
As a Florida Keys resident, Silk is well versed in the myriad of attractions found as one travels south from Key Largo to Key West. As he details the Keys’ hot spots, he mentions museums and attractions like the Florida Keys History and Discovery Center, which has exhibits on the history of Keys sports fishing and Tequesta and Calusa Indian Keys populations. He points out beaches and camping sites like Bahia Honda State Park where fishing, paddling, snorkeling, and camping on white sand beaches and clear turquoise waters is considered some of the best nearshore experiences in the Florida Keys. Silk points out put-in spots so paddlers can create their own adventure exploring offshore keys, snorkeling, and finding their own private fishing and lunch spots. He mentions scuba diving sites like The Gap, a vertical wall of large coral heads, and the Loo Key Reef Complex, among others.
No Florida ecotourism book would be complete without discussing Dry Tortugas National Park, one of the best outdoor experiences in South Florida. The Dry Tortugas’s clear, blue Caribbean water, snorkeling, kayaking, and the deep history of Ft. Jefferson leaves one wondering what took them so long to make the 2 and ½ hour trip west of Key West. This ecotourist guide is complete and full of adventures that will leave the traveler feeling no rock was left unturned in their nature tour of South Florida.
Kristie Wendelberger, Ph.D., has been a plant ecologist in South Florida for 13 years and is the Outdoor Education and Outreach Coordinator at The Everglades Foundation.