Short Trips for Target Birds
DRY TORTUGAS: Seabirds and Spring Migration
BIRDS & WILDLIFE
2019 :: April 21 - April 24
2019 :: April 27 - April 30
2020 :: April 14 - April 17
2020 :: April 18 - April 21
2020 :: April 22 - April 25
2020 :: April 28 - May 1
From: $1,400 (See details)
Cost is per person, double occupancy from Key West, FL (EYW)
April 17-20, 2019 (2 spaces remain)
April 21-24, 2019 (4 spaces remain)
April 27-30, 2019 (3 spaces remain)
PRIVATE TOUR OPTION
This tour is available as a private trip for any size group. The tour cost will vary with the number of people and any custom requests.
Highlights of DRY TORTUGAS: Seabirds and Spring Migration
Description of DRY TORTUGAS: Seabirds and Spring Migration
The Dry Tortugas is a must-see experience for every birder! Located 70 miles west of Key West, Florida, Dry Tortugas National Park and historic Fort Jefferson attract thousands of nesting seabirds, along with myriad songbirds that use these islands as a stopover point during long journeys to the mainland.
We’ll journey to the seven tropical islands that comprise the Dry Tortugas, and anchor for several nights to explore this fascinating locale at the height of spring migration. We’ll enjoy vast colonies of Sooty Terns, Brown Noddies, Magnificent Frigatebirds, and Masked Boobies, as they create a cacophony of sound and flight swirling around the islands, the only place in North America where they breed. We’ll look for a Black Noddy amidst hundreds of Brown Noddys preening and flying around the coaling docks.
Highlights of the Dry Tortugas include possible large numbers of passerines and other migrants that drop-in for a much-needed rest and re-fueling. Caribbean vagrants are a possibility, such as Bananaquit, Yellow-faced Grassquit, Red-legged Honeycreeper or Bahama Mockingbird. Close-up views of warblers, tanagers, vireos, nightjars, shorebirds and other passerines make for an exciting three days of birding in this unique environment. We’ll look for pelagic species, and marine animals during our boat ride there and back. Snorkeling and sightseeing of historic Fort Jefferson, add to the many activities that make up this wonderful Dry Tortugas experience.
Length of Tour
Day 1 – Board the “Makai” 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 mid-afternoon
Day 1 – Meet in Key West, Florida
Meet in Key West early evening to board the “Makai” for the first of 3 nights.
Day 2 – The Gulf Stream; The Dry Tortugas
We 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 Gray and 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
All of Garden Key, the campground, shrub covered brick piles, coaling docks, and beaches, will be explored for additional passerines that may have dropped in, such as Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Black-whiskered Vireo, Ovenbird, Black-and-White Warbler, Wood Thrush, Common Nighthawk, and the Caribbean race of Short-eared Owl known as the “Arawak Owl”. Shiny Cowbird, Orchard Orioles, Indigo Buntings, Blue Grosbeaks, Common Yellowthroats and Bobolinks are all certainly possible as they try 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 by boat, from which we will view the Masked Boobies as they return to this small sand key from fishing forays. We will also utilize our zodiac to see Magnificent Frigatebirds nesting up close and view nesting Sooty Terns and Brown Noddies from the spit adjoining Garden and Bush Key. The Dry Tortugas being the only place in North America where these four species breed! A highlight will surely be finding a Black Noddy amongst the hundreds of Brown Noddies that roost on the coaling docks or on Bush Key. Not an easy task! For those with an interest in marine life, a walk around the moat walk can yield some fascinating creatures. Green Moray Eels, lobsters, jellyfish, starfish, octopus, tropical fish, Nurse and Hammerhead Sharks have all been seen lurking amongst the sea coral in these tropical waters. Anyone interested in snorkeling (only allowed around the outside of the moat) will have to bring their own gear.
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 aim to return to Key West between 3 and 4pm.
Note: The daily itinerary may change but we hope to be able to get to do everything mentioned during the course of our trip. The seas and weather conditions will dictate our sailing times and route. Should the weather be good when we set sail from Key West, we will venture into the Gulf Stream to look for pelagic species prior to arriving at Garden Key early afternoon, after lunch.
$1,400 per person, based upon double occupancy, from Key West, FL (Airport code EYW).
This trip ends in Key West, FL (Airport code EYW).
Single Supplement and other Cost Additions
If a single room is preferred, or we are unable to find a suitable roommate for you, a single supplement fee of $0 will be assessed.
Included in the cost are 3 nights accomodations aboard the “Makai” and all meals from breakfast on Day 2 through lunch on Day 4, and services of your professional leader(s).
Cost does not Include
All meals, flights to/from destination city or marina, trip insurance, gratuities to the “Makai” crew, or anything that is not specifically mentioned in the itinerary.
If fewer than the minimum number of participants are registered the trip can still run with a small-group supplement fee per person determined by the number of participants.
A $500 deposit per person is required to hold each space on this tour. Deposit may be made online by clicking the "Book Your Trip Now" button and using any credit card. If you prefer, you may call us at 888-875-9453 to pay by phone. You may also mail us a check, however, remember that all space is held on a first come-first served basis as deposits are received.
How to Book
In order to hold your space, click the "Book Your Trip Now" button above and complete the deposit process, including payment of the deposit through our Paypal portal using ANY CREDIT CARD. Upon completion of deposit, please visit our secure, online CLIENT INFORMATION FORM to complete your registration.
For all land-based tours: full payment by check is due 120 days prior to the departure date.
For all boat-based adventure cruises of 7-days or longer: full payment by check is required 180 days prior to departure.
NOTE: If you prefer to use credit card for final payment, a 3% fee may be added to cover the credit card merchant fees we incur.
Boat: 3 nights aboard the “Makai“
The 80 foot “Makai” has 4 separate air conditioned cabins that sleep 11 guests, all with bunk beds. There are no single rooms. All rooms are shared.
Two of the cabins have 2 bunk beds, one has 3 bunks and one has 4 bunks. The rooms with 2 bunks beds will be reserved for couples on a first come first served basis. The remaining cabins may have to be mixed sexes depending upon the group makeup. If you do not have a roommate, you will be assigned one.
There are 2 heads (bathrooms with showers) on board.
Bring a towel and wash cloth with you, as these are not provided on board. Linens are provided.
Activity Level Rating: 3 (Note: 1 is easy and 5 is difficult)
You will need a certain degree of mobility and flexibility to embark on and off the boat. Participants need to climb ladders to the second level, keep balance (holding on) on a rocking boat, and maneuver themselves in and out of a zodiac boat (tender/skiff) when we arrive at Fort Jefferson. Depending upon tides, you may need to sit on the dock, and drop into the zodiac, with the help of crew hands.
On the islands, the terrain is flat and mostly even. Brick pathways can be uneven, and caution is needed while walking around the moat. Avoid areas around the helicopter pad and coaling docks that are in disrepair, with piles of bricks or debris. Walking is a little tougher on the sand-coral beach.
National Geographic Field Guide to Birds of North America, (7th edition, 2017)
– includes the possible Carribbean strays
Sibley Guide to Birds: Eastern (small and compact).
The Sibley Guide is also available as an App.
This trip is for non-smokers only. Smoking is not permitted at any time during our tour.
Arrival & Departure in Key West
You will need to be at the marina in Key West to board the “Makai” at 7pm on Day 1. On Day 4 we expect to dock back in Key West between 3-4pm. 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.
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.
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.
One can snorkeling around the outside of the moat at Fort Jefferson, on Garden Key, in the Dry Tortugas, but you will need to bring your own equipment.
– Our U.S. Coast Guard Inspected motor vessel, m/v Makai, is 80 feet long with a twenty foot beam.
– 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. Shared 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”)
Do not purchase your flights until the trip has been confirmed to go.
Detailed Trip Information
Upon notification that final payment is due (120 days prior to departure for land based tours / 180 days for boat based tours), you will receive a trip package of detailed information for your tour.
Any additional information about the trip, including lodgings, contacts, participants, meeting locations, etc., will sent about 2 weeks prior to the trip departure, or after final payment is received for late registrants.
As with all tours, we highly recommend purchasing Travel Insurance to cover your investment. Please see our section on Travel Insurance.
Passport & Visa
US Citizens may require a visa to enter certain foreign countries. See above for any required visa information.
Participants arriving to the USA from a foreign country may need to get a travel visa to enter the United States. Be sure to check the requirements for your country of origin.
The trip itinerary is developed many months ahead of time. Occasionally, despite our best planning, changes may occur during the trip, or we may be forced to alter our plans. Changes may occur because of weather, road conditions, safety concerns or other circumstances. In these situations, it is the leader(s) responsibility to carefully consider and implement appropriate alternatives. Any additional costs incurred because of changes will be the responsibility of each individual participant. Refunds will not be issued as a result of itinerary changes.