Biscayne National Park - Orlando / Florida Guide
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Florida is home to three National Parks, maybe not as well known globally as say Yellowstone, Yosemite or the Grand Canyon National Parks, but they certainly possess their own natural beauty.
Probably the best known of the Florida National Parks is The Everglades, although this tends to be fairly inaccessible to the average tourist, with no main highways running through the park, only around the periphery. In many ways equally inaccessible is the Dry Tortugas National Park; a cluster of seven islands some 70 miles West of Key West – which puts them well into the Gulf of Mexico and can only be reached by embarking on a boat ride which takes two hours in each direction.
The third, and most easily accessible, is the Biscayne National Park that lies just south of Miami and abuts the John Pennecamp Coral Reef State Park and the Key Largo Marine Sanctuary. Unlike most other National Parks, which focus on the natural beauty of the land, Biscayne’s assets are the sea, the seashore and the huge range of creatures which inhabit those areas. This area is paradise for sea birds, marine life, fishermen, boaters, swimmers and divers alike, with refreshingly clean and extraordinarily clear water. In fact in 1895 a biologist, Hugh Smith wrote; “The water of Biscayne Bay is exceedingly clear. In no part can one fail to clearly distinguish objects on the bottom. . . , " and this is still true over 100 years later.
With a Caribbean like climate providing the park with year round sunshine and plenty of rain water, tropical life thrives in this area. On the shore, an abundance of unusual trees, ferns, vines, flowers and shrubs is to be found. Whilst the forest areas are lush, dark, and humid, and home to many birds, butterflies and other animals. The extremely shallow waters surrounding the mangrove islands in the south of the Biscayne Bay are well suited to foraging birds which are drawn here all year round. White Ibis can be seen meandering across mud flats, probing for small fish and crustaceans, while Brown Pelicans skim the surface of the waters, diving frequently to catch their food.
Biscayne’s underwater world is no less diverse and, unlike deep oceans that can be dark and often seemingly lifeless, the shallow waters of the reefs are saturated with light and abundant with life. Brilliantly colourful tropical fish with such exotic names as, goosehead scorpionfish, stoplight parrotfish and peppermint goby populate the reefs along with other curious creatures and swim amid the oddly named ‘finger garlic sponge’ and a variety of other corals and sponges. If you enjoy snorkelling you can easily spend hours drifting lazily in the waters of the reefs and watch a procession of some of the sea’ s most fascinating inhabitants passing by.
So if you are in the area ‘dive in’ – there is something for everybody.
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