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The Dry Tortugas

Group at Fort Jefferson We’ll visit the Dry Tortugas National Park and historic Fort Jefferson, located 70 miles west of Key West, Florida at the height of spring migration. These seven tropical islands are home to a seabird colony of thousands of Sooty Tern and Brown Noddies, Magnificent Frigatebirds, Masked Boobies and Brown Pelicans. Highlights of the trip include possible large numbers of passerines and other migrants that use these islands as a stopover point on their journey to the mainland, as well as the possibility of a visitor from the Caribbean. Close-up views of warblers, tanagers, vireos, nightjars, shorebirds and other passerines make for an exciting three days of birding. Snorkeling and sightseeing of historic Fort Jefferson add to the many activities that make up a Dry Tortugas experience. Focus: Birds, Culture, Scenery, Photography Letter to Birder's World (now called Birdwatching): Birding the Dry Tortugas For the complete South Florida experience check out our full South Florida and Dry Tortugas tour  Bridled-Terns-BINNS-D64A0754-copy    
  • Tour Cost
  • Number of Days (Length of Tour)

    4 days / 3 nights

     

    Dates & Cost

    April 14-17, 2018

    April 18-21, 2018

    April 22-25, 2018

    April 29-May 2, 2018

    April 16-19, 2017  (Full)

    April 19-22, 2017  (Full)

    April 23-26, 2017  (Full)

    approx $1400 per person from Key West, FL

    Cost is per person, shared accommodations. No single rooms are available on board the boat. (see Additional Info tab)

     

    What is Included / Not Included in the Cost
    Included in the cost are 3 nights accomodations aboard the "Playmate" and all meals from breakfast on Day 2 through lunch on Day 4. Services of your professional leader.

    Not included is Trip Insurance; gratuities to the "Playmate" crew

     

    Deposit

    $500.00, check, paypal or credit card, along with your completed Registration Form

     

    How to Book
    In order to hold your space, you must complete the Registration Form found on-line, and submit it to us on-line, or download a copy and mail it to us, along with a $500.00 deposit per participant.

     

    Final Payment
    Full payment, by check, is due 120 days prior to the departure date

  • Itinerary
  • Brief Itinerary:

    Day 1: Board the Playmate in the evening in Key West

    Day 2: Set sail pre-dawn; AM pelagic birding; PM Dry Tortugas

    Day 3: Dry Tortugas

    Day 4: Dry Tortugas; AM journey back to Key West, arriving late afternoon

     

    Itinerary:

    Day 1 ~ Meet in Key West, Florida

    Meet in Key West early evening to board the “Playmate” for the first of 3 nights.

     

    Day 2 ~ The Gulf Stream; The Dry Tortugas

    We will set sail before dawn. Daybreak will find us out in the Gulf Stream (weather permitting), where pelagic birding should reward us with Bridled Tern, Audubon Shearwater, northbound Pomarine Jaegers and there is always the chance of a White-tailed Tropicbird (don’t count on it, though we did see it in 2004) Roseate Terns often are seen on the buoys, as are Brown Boobies. Nearing the Dry Tortugas, Sooty Terns, Brown Noddies and Magnificent Frigatebirds will become a common sight. This is the only place in North America where these 3 species nest along with Masked Boobies. Once we reach the 15-acre Garden Key, the second largest of the 7 islands that make up the Dry Tortugas, most of our birding will be done within the remains of the impressive 19-century brick Fort Jefferson. Here amongst the sea grapes, cottonwoods and Geiger trees we should encounter a wide variety of migrants, including Eastern Kingbirds, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, Gray-cheeked Thrush, Yellow-billed Cuckoos, Red-eyed Vireo, and numerous warblers including Blackpoll, Cape May, Black-throated Green, Palm and Magnolia. For those who are patient enough to sit by the water fountain, the only source of freshwater on the island, the rewards should be great, as all passerines will eventually make their way down for a drink or to bathe.

     

    Day 3 ~ The Dry Tortugas

    Garden Key will be explored for additional passerines that may have dropped in – Gray Kingbird, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Black-whiskered Vireo….. The campground often holds Ovenbird, Wood Thrush, Common Nighthawk and Black-and-White Warbler. We’ll visit the largest of the islands, Loggerhead Key (weather permitting) where the Caribbean race of Short-eared Owl known as the “Arawak Owl” can sometimes be found. The vegetation here is different, and Orchard Orioles, Indigo Buntings, Blue Grosbeaks, Common Yellowthroats and Bobolinks can often be found hiding amongst the low scrub trying to avoid one of the many raptors such as Merlin or Peregrine that can be seen perched on one of the few trees. During our stay we will visit Hospital Key to see the Masked Boobies as they return to this small sand key from fishing forays; take a skiff ride to see Magnificent Frigatebirds nesting up close; view nesting Sooty Terns and Brown Noddies from the spit adjoining Garden and Bush Key; check the coaling docks for Black Noddy and a moat walk around Fort Jefferson might yield some of the fascinating marine life that can been seen lurking amongst the sea coral in these tropical waters. Green Moray Eels, Lobsters, jellyfish, starfish, octopus, tropical fish and Nurse and Hammerhead Sharks have all been seen.

     

    Day 4 ~ The Dry Tortugas; Return to Key West

    After breakfast, we’ll make a short visit to Garden Key to check for any overnight migrants before heading back to Key West. Along the way we should encounter Brown Boobies perched on buoys along the park perimeter boundary; Bottle-nosed Dolphins; Loggerhead Turtles and Gannets, Royal, Sandwich and Roseate Terns, as we get closer to our destination. We expect to return to Key West approximately 5-6PM.

     

    Note: The daily itinerary may change but we hope to be able to get to visit all of these places during the course of our trip. The weather conditions will dictate when and or if we are able to go into the Gulf Stream for the pelagic. Should the weather be good when we set sail, we will go to the Gulf Stream prior to arriving around lunchtime at Garden Key.

     

  • Accommodations
  • Our Boat

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    - Our motor vessel, M/V Playmate, is 60 feet long with a twenty foot beam.

    - The vessel, a Gulfstream, is U.S. Coast Guard Inspected and powered by twin 8v92ti Detroit Diesel engines.

    - Experienced and well-seasoned crew of 3 to 4, (2 licensed Captains)

    - She sleeps 11 guests in four separate air conditioned staterooms, all with bunk beds. Share accommodations; no single rooms.

    - There are two heads (toilet, washbasin, shower).

    - Cuisine is prepared from the finest quality produce, meats and of course the freshest seafood you can get!

    - Sundecks Fore and Aft

    - Shaded back deck

    - Ice maker

    - Fresh water maker storing 250 gallons

    - Dual Engines and generators

    - Satellite phone for emergencies

    - TV DVD/VCR and Stereo

    - 1100 Gallon fuel capacity

    - Emergency oxygen and first aid equipment

    - USCG Ceritified each year (stability rating is "excellent")

  • Additional Info
  • NatGeoBirds6thRecommended Field Guides:

    National Geographic Field Guide to Birds of North America, 6th edition (includes the possible Carribbean strays)

     

    Sibley Guide to Birds: Eastern (small and compact)

     

     

     

     

     

    This trip is for non-smokers only. Smoking is not permitted at any time during our tour.

     

    Trip Insurance is required for the boat

     

    Playmate Boat:

    3 nights aboard the Playmate.  

     

    There are 4 small cabins, all with bunk beds. 2 of the cabins have 2 bunk beds, one has 3 bunk beds and one has 4 bunk beds. The rooms with 2 bunks will be reserved for couples on a first come basis. The remaining cabins may have to be mixed sexes depending upon the group makeup. Linens are provided.

     

    There are 2 heads (bathrooms with showers) on board.  Please bring a towel and wash cloth with you, as these are not provided on board.

     

    Arrival & Departure in Key West:

    You will need to be at the marina in Key West to board the "Playmate" at 7pm on Day 1.  On Day 4 we expect to dock back in Key West approx 4pm. This is not a guarantee as sea conditions play a factor in the length of the journey and it could vary by an hour or more.

     

    Parking at the Marina:

    You can leave your vehicle at the marina at no charge.

     

    Luggage:

    Space on the boat is limited. Please bring a small soft-sided duffle-type bag for clothes, and toiletries/medications. It is also advisible to bring a back pack for day use on the island.

     

    Meals:

    All meals on the boat, from breakfast on Day 2 to lunch on Day 4, are included in the cost. If you have any dietary restrictions, please let us know at the time of registration, and these can be accomodated by our excellent chef.

     

    Snorkeling: 

    Snorkeling is available on the Dry Tortugas, and equipment can be rented at Fort Jefferson, on Garden Key.