Top 10 of the Florida Keys

Don’t re-freeze if thawed. These instructions are important to heed if you are a frozen chicken breast, but they are hard to follow if you are a Minnesotan returning from a week-long Florida vacation in February. Frozen since sometime in November, we did indeed thaw while on vacation. Seasoned in sea salt and sand, we warmed up well in the Florida sunshine and Atlantic water. But now we are back home in the Frozen Tundra and diligently trying not to re-freeze because that would be so distasteful

While I still feel thawed and still have a little sand between my toes, I am eager to bask with you in the warm memories! I plan to serve up our family’s Top 10 of the Florida Keys. Of course, I don’t want to over-stuff this post with all the photos and stories from a week-long trip. That’d be too messy. A trip like this calls for several small courses! So do enjoy this one, and please come back often so you don’t miss anything!

Number One: Sea Turtles

“So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems… And God saw that it was good.”

— Genesis 1:21

Of the top 10 things we love about the Florida Keys, the sea turtles rank pretty high. The first full day we spent in the Keys, we devoted a large chunk of time to the Turtle Hospital in Marathon, FL.

Sea turtles happen to be my favorite animal — I fell in love with them while Michael and I were vacationing in the Cayman Islands several years ago. Anyway, sea turtles are Linnea’s favorite, too, which made the Turtle Hospital a must-see.

Touring the hospital and learning about sea turtle injuries was quite intriguing. I never knew sea turtles had so many health challenges!  Shark bites, boat propeller incidents and entanglement in fishing line are a few primary causes of injury for these captivating creatures. The hospital’s emergency room and operating room offer pretty impressive care, and the folks who work at the hospital are clearly devoted to helping these amazing creatures recover from whatever ails them. 

During a recent cold snap in the area, the water temperature dropped into the 50s and many sea turtles suffered from “cold stunning.” As a result, the hospital took in more than 170 turtles in January — that’s more patients than the hospital typically gets in a full year! Most of those turtles had already been released when we were there, but 20 or so were still there recovering in outside tanks like this.

The girls adored seeing the sea turtles up close! We saw Loggerheads, Hawks Bills, Green Turtles, and the rare Kemp’s Ridleys.

Without a doubt, everyone’s favorite turtle was Scooter, an adorable 1-year-old Loggerhead who is perfectly healthy.

Scooter goes with the hospital biologists when they visit schools, and he helps educate students about sea turtles and what the hospital does. While the tour guide was holding him, Scooter waved his fin at Laurel.

Toward the end of the tour, our guide passed around some catfish food for us to feed to the turtles. The turtles were anticipating this, so they followed us closely — they swam and we walked alongside the water.

After the tour, we visited the gift shop. Having saved up her allowance for weeks in hopes of buying a stuffed sea turtle, Laurel delighted in finally wrapping her arms around this one.

Notice it has an orange bandage — the tour guide/reptile biologist carefully treated Laurel’s little turtle before releasing it to her. So cute! Linnea had to have one, too.

Its fin needed a white bandage, as you can see.

I think these turtles are going to be well cared for, don’t you?

Thanks for joining us at the Turtle Hospital. Stay tuned for the next post, when we learn more about another favorite sea creature as our Top 10 of the Florida Keys continues!

Florida Keys Top 10 Series

Number 10: Sunsets

Number 9: Tranquility

Number 8: Seascapes

Number 7: Swimming

Number 6: Sand Castles

Number 5: Key West

Number 4: Seashells

Number 3: Sailing

Number 2: Dolphins

Number 1: Sea Turtles

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