Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Who's Viewing Whom?

On a glass bottom boat?  Specifically, the Key Largo Princess, a glass bottom touring boat. For 20.00 a person, (only if you go on the 10:00 AM cruise otherwise it's 30.00 a person), you get to take a nice 45 minute boat ride  out to the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park to see Molasses Reef up close and personal without getting wet. The Key Largo Princess has the largest "viewing salon in North America", they say. The viewing salon is the glass bottom part of the boat. It's 280 square feet of viewing space and distortion free because it's on the flat part of the hull.

You start out at the Holiday Inn in Key Largo, where you purchase your tickets. Right at the dock, there is something interesting to see....The original African Queen of Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn movie fame! It's such a tiny boat! Seems so much bigger in the movies...They are asking for donations to get the original boiler fixed and to keep this boat afloat. Guess this boat has been around the world twice...Judging by its condition, you just can't imagine how a little boat like that could make a world trip. Whoa! Guess you can rent the African Queen for a cruise! Except it's in dry dock waiting for repairs.....wonder how much they charge for the African Queen? Ask at the gift shop the next time you are there.....For you youngsters who haven't a clue what the African Queen movie is about, google it...it's a classic adventure/love story starring two wonderful movie stars from the good ole days......

And of course, you can see pelicans, they LOVE to hang out in harbors looking for fishermen filleting and boning their latest catch....Sparky will spare you the pelican photos. You've seen one, you've seen them all, right? But they are so COOL!

On the way out to the reef, you pass thru the harbor channel with the fantastic, multi-million dollar homes on each side. Lots of swimming pools, lots of huge yachts parked in the "front yard", some have beautiful sea walls....
Sea wall along a multi million dollar home leaving the harbor
The ride out to the reef is in air conditioned comfort if you choose to sit inside the boat. Otherwise, be like Sparky and Eldo, and sit up top and let the wind and ocean breezes rustle your hair and watch the waters change from the blue/greens of the Atlantic to the royal blues of the Gulf Stream.....The colors of the ocean were incredible! So many shades of blue!
The gulls came along side the boat, but nobody fed them.....Sparky pretended to have bread crumbs in her hand, but they weren't buying it!
Forty-five minutes later, we were at the reef....the Key Largo Princess boat has a 280 square foot viewing window in two sections surrounded by railings....The water was calm, so we saw the reef very clearly.  Photos give you some idea, but it was much clearer than it looks. It was a very, very cool way to see a reef if you don't plan on snorkeling or diving and that's why we decided to take the tour....The tour guide gave us lots of information about the Keys, the coral, the fish species. She really knew her stuff. Unfortunately, we just didn't see very many colorful tropical fish...this particular reef just may not attract the varieties, who knows?  You never know what nature has in store for you when you do something like this. The guide seemed genuinely excited about the varieties of fish we saw today, as if we were seeing more than normal. So that was good!

The little kids sat down and let their feet dangle over the railing...the adults stood above them. It was a little crowded for the adults to be able to see the reef below unless you parked yourself at the railing before the boat got to the reef. There was some excitement near the end of the 30 minutes at the reef. We were watching the fish swim around and the sea palms wave back and forth...THEN.....We saw IT! A VERY VERY big species----

All of a sudden, the tour guide started yelling, "NEUTRAL, NEUTRAL!!!!!" Apparently, running over the top of a diver doesn't happen all that often and is NOT supposed to happen even though they were quite a few feet below the boat. But they looked VERY CLOSE!  At first there was one, then two, then a couple more...The boats above can't always see them. Not sure if they didn't have diving flags or they ventured farther from the diving boat than they should have. There wasn't any explanation. They were exploring the reef from down below, we were exploring it from up above. We saw a total of four or five divers right beneath us today, and they looked like they were trying to hurry to get out of the way of the boat. They seemed just as shocked to see us as we were to see them!

Do you see lots of colorful, tropical fish at the reef on the glass bottom boat tour? You might, but we didn't. We saw a couple of barracudas, a couple of puffer fish, a huge grouper, lots of coral, lots of black and white striped fish called sergeant majors, and a couple of other species of fish. The day was calm, perfect for viewing, but expectations were set too high. As far as expecting to see lots of colorful, tropical fish, there just weren't any there.....Would we recommend this trip to others? Yes, if you don't expect to see all the varieties of tropical fish you see in an aquarium, you enjoy being out on the water, and you don't plan to snorkel or scuba dive while you are in the keys, AND, you've never seen a reef. Forty-five minutes out to the reef, actual time at the reef-- thirty minutes, then forty-five minutes back, total two hour trip. The weather and water were perfect today...it was a refreshing trip on an eighty degrees plus day, and the cost, we felt, was very reasonable. We enjoyed our boat trip today........See you later!


  1. Nice pictures! We enjoyed that park, but missed the excitement of running over a few divers:)

  2. Mui's the snorkeler in the family; I just enjoy the videos and photos he brings back.

  3. You used to see lots of tropicals in the Keys...especially Angel Fish of all colors. We noticed that also when we were kayaking, we saw only 2-3 tropical fish. I think too many people have collected them for their aquariums, but that shouldn't have been the case in Pennecamp. The reefs aren't healthy like they used to be..there is way too much silt and that hurts the food supply. It's a shame.

  4. A nice reasonable boat tour out and about to the reef. Thanks for sharing the journey.

  5. It could be the time of year with the water temperatures being cooler. During the warmer months (Hurricane Season) there seems to be more tropical fish but also oil spills affect all bodies of water not just the immediate areas and the effects last for years.

    It's about time.