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Reviewed 3 days ago

We had a phenomenal time with HonestEco during our Key West vacation. We did the dolphin and snorkeling tour. Captain Kate's keen eye spotted three dolphins: a mother/baby pair and a juvenile. The dolphins came so close to the boat and we were able to take great photos! Captain Kate told us all about the dolphins, their behavior, and their intelligence. Then we went snorkeling in a beautiful sponge garden. HonestEco provided the flippers, the masks, and wet suits. Everything underwater was beautiful and it was so peaceful to lie on the surface and just look below at the sponges, fish, and corals. Once we got back on the boat Captain Kate had prepared a delightful fruit salad to eat on the ride back to Key West.

The boat is an electric-hybrid. It plugs in at the dock just like a Tesla. I'm not sure how Key West gets its electricity but I assume this is a more environmentally friendly way to operate a watercraft and I hope other boats will follow suit! Captain Kate was also careful to not bother any of the wildlife. She drove the boat very carefully to avoid getting too close or to damage anything.

There were two other couples on the boat with us and they were so friendly! We even saw one of them at the post office the next day and were greeted. We will recommend HonestEco to anyone who goes to Key West. It was a major highlight of our trip!

Date of experience: January 2019
Thank W7590MLdanielo
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed 1 week ago via mobile

4 hour boat ride. Great staff. Beginner friendly instructions for beginners. I couldn't recommend this enough. If you are considering this, especially as a 1st time scuba diver, I urge you to pull the trigger on it. And even if you don't dive, it's a beautiful and relaxing ride and one hell of a value in my eyes.

Thanks again. I'm grateful that I was able to come along

Date of experience: January 2019
Thank Adrian C
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed 1 week ago via mobile

My family thoroughly enjoyed our time with Honest Eco and unreservedly recommend booking with them. I have general comments immediately below and more detailed descriptions of the outings after that.

Quick tips:
1. Bring extra layers or a change of dry clothes. It is cooler out on the water especially this time of year and you might feel chilled after getting out of the water and being exposed to the wind.
2. Use reef-safe sunblock
3. Bring a hat but be sure to hold on to it as it can get windy
4. If you bought an underwater camera practice using it before taking out into the water. Use its underwater setting for better color exposure
5. If you have an SLR bring a circular polarizer filter to reduce reflections on the water surface.
6. By the same token, polarizing sunglasses will do the same thing.

We had made our booking 2 months ago for two separate trips, one a snorkel and kayak outing the other a dolphin-watch and snorkeling trip. Email queries were answered promptly by Jennifer Litmer. Arrangements were made online and reservations went through without a hitch. About a week prior to our trip Jennifer emailed that the snorkel/kayak trip needed to be rescheduled for an earlier date due to a technical issue; a full refund was offered if we couldn’t make it but fortunately we had some flexibility built-in to our schedule.

Both outings took place within the Key West National Wildlife Refuge about 3 miles west of the main island, perhaps a 40-45 minute trip before we started looking for dolphins or snorkeling. We were impressed by our captain/guides, Katie and Rachel. I wish I could declare that clouds of seabirds filled the air, pods of dolphins frolicked around the boat and that the water below teemed with schools of fish. I will, however, guarantee that you will have friendly and knowledgeable guides who will gladly answer your questions, share stories, give you tips on snorkeling and kayaking, and do their utmost to provide you the best possible experience on and in the water. We have been on many wildlife tours and understand there are no assurances of National Geographic-style sightings; and we did see waterfowl, fish and dolphins on our outings.

The first trip was led by Katie on the EO Wilson, a former lobster boat, that carried our bright yellow kayaks on the roof. The boot was moored at the Garrison Bight Marina, about a 20-minute stroll from our harbor-front lodging. Go to the entrance of Thai Island restaurant and head left to around the building. Katie was waiting for us there and took us to the boat. There was only one other guest in addition to our family so there was lots of room; this tour is apparently limited to 6 persons. Katie introduced herself gave us safety instructions, assured us that the there was a bathroom on board (but I do not think any of us availed of the tiny “head”), offered us water from metal water bottles (no plastic bottles here) and we were on our way. From the onset she was pointing out seabirds, other boats, telling us about passing islands (Wisteria Key), the creation of the Key West National Wildlife Refuge (1908, by President Ted Roosevelt, to stop further destruction of seabird populations decimated for their feathers used in the hat and clothing industry at the time). The native flamingo population, for example, was exterminated. Cormorants and frigate birds were everywhere, the cormorants frequently perched on channel markers where they had a good viewpoint from which to dive for fish as well as to dry out wet feathers after their dives. We learned about the difficulties of navigating in shallow waters and shifting channels. Once in the refuge at anchor Katie gave a quick refresher on snorkeling. Personal flotation devices, snorkel gear and a limited number of wet suits were available. We entered the water from a wood The water was only mildly choppy and only 5-6 feet deep so visibility was good; and sand floating the water was what we ourselves had stirred up when kicking our fins a little too vigorously when upright. Fields of seagrass and clusters of barrel sea sponge gardens sheltered numerous small fish, mostly juvenile snappers, grunts, goatfish. Katie swam with us pointing out the sponges, crab and a small stingray. There was small pile of metal junk with easily-identified hub caps and metal boxes barely covered with sand and baby coral or sponges. The role of coral reefs in ecology is well-advertised and it helps that corals are visually stunning. Sea grass meadows are not as eye-catching as coral reefs but no less important; they stabilize sands and provide food and shelter for a wide variety of marine life. Katie told us of eye-popping fines charged by local authorities to boaters who damage the grass, calculated by the square feet of grass lost.

We headed for the mangroves next. Turns out the low-lying tree-covered islands we saw around us were not actual land but intertwined mangrove trees anchored in the shallow sand sea floor. Katie explained that the roots were relatively shallow but numerous, that the individual tree branches and roots intertwined thus stabilizing the forest “island”. The 2-person kayaks were stored on the roof and she slid them into the water with ease. She led us along the edges of the mangroves pointing out the red and black mangrove trees. The former was particularly suited for open water with numerous prop roots growing down from the branches. Black mangrove trees had a different strategy to adapt to growing in water, namely throwing out pneumatophores or aerating roots from the soil up into the air. Mangrove trees spread by releasing baby plants that float, disperse until they embed in suitable locations. Like the seagrass meadows mangroves provide shelter and nursery zones for a multitude of marine species. Naturally the trees also provide nesting sites for coastal birds; we had frigate birds flying overhead multiple times, in large flocks a couple of times. One unfortunate visual was the large number of buoys trapped among the roots that had apparently been jokingly labeled “whale eggs” by another guest. Katie took us into the mangrove through small, low openings. No mosquitoes here as there was no fresh water for them to breed in.

The afternoon dolphin watching tour took place on Honest Eco’s new vessel, the Squid. The trip started at a very convenient location at the historic waterfront, between The Waterfront Brewery and Turtle Kraals restaurants, right in front of the public restrooms. Our captain was Rachel but assisted by Katie. Once again there was only one other guest giving us even more room on this larger vessel. Rachel was and even greater font of information than Katie, if possible, about local flora and fauna. However a lot of our initial conversation revolved around the Squid. The boat was custom-designed and built in California. The Squid was built to fit Honest Eco’s waterfront berth to a “T” and was larger than EO Wilson, designed to accommodate up to 20 guests. What was truly neat about it was that it was a hybrid vessel; the engines were electric and large solar panels on the roof kept batteries charged. The boat sported a cool logo: a squid with one tentacle sporting an electrical plug. A back-up gas engine was still required to maintain US Coast Guard certification. While the Squid was already USCG-certified Honest Eco the company’s was not yet allowed to fully-load her with 20 guests, limiting them to only for the time being. Apparently the increased weight of the average American forced recent changes in USCG rules; these required boat operators to recalculate safety parameters using heavier weights. One question was whether the vessel would remain stable in a hypothetical scenario wherein a full load of heavier American men were to suddenly rush to one side of the boat.

Rachel also brought up the particular problem of navigating these shallow waters. A captain could trust GPS coordinates and tracking to a degree, he or she had to learn to read the waters. A little rhyming ditty helped one remember what waters were safe to sail through and what required caution: “Green is nice and clean, Blue you can sail on through, White might be tight, Brown you run aground” Or words to that effect.

The ride on the Squid was smoother and quieter than on EO Wilson due to the electric engines and large, catamaran-style hull. We headed back into the marine reserve; even though it was a larger vessel than EO Wilson the Squid had the same shallow draft of just 2 feet. As on EO Wilson a platter of fresh fruit as well as hummus and chopped vegetables was available for us to snack on as we kept an eye out for bottlenose dolphins. The resident population numbers about 200 but there was a lot water to search in. After we entered the wildlife refuge it took about 20 minutes of eyeballing the We eventually spotted a pair of dolphins; their dorsal fins are almost unique identifiers like our fingerprints. This pair featured one with a fin bearing 6 parallel scars near the tip and its partner had a deep groove at the base of the leading edge. A second pair showed up, one with a distinct white patch near the front edge and his partner with a large piece missing from the trailing edge as well triangular chunks near the base. Tracking them was hard as they did not follow predictable tracks after coming up for air. Capt. Rachel had a slightly higher point of view and the experience to call our attention to where they were going to pop up.

We learnt some interesting facts about dolphin behaviour from Rachel. Apparently dorsal fins suffer a lot of damage in the course of fighting and playing with other dolphins as well as trauma from predators such as sharks. The pairs were male, a dolphin “bromance” as it were. Male dolphins will mate but not form partnerships with the female and raise the young, choosing instead to spend all his time with a fellow male. This “wingman” relationship is used by the male dolphins to help keep potential competitors away during the mating season.

It seemed that dolphin spotting was a little scarce that afternoon and a couple other captains radioed the Squid asking for assistance which Capt. Rachel provided. The 2 boats came in from different directions in time to enjoy the dolphins as well. We left soon after they arrived and sailed further into the reserve for snorkeling where both Rachel and Katie took turns in the water. We then joined the flotilla of watercraft in the bay ranging from the floating tiki bar to the many tall-mast ships to enjoy a classic Key West sunset.

This has been more of a treatise than a review and if you have read this far, TA reader, your endurance is much appreciated. Hope this review proved informative if not helpful. I have added additional pictures directly to TA from our time with Honest Eco.

Date of experience: January 2019
1  Thank ImmerWandern
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed 4 weeks ago via mobile

Very well organized tour. Our guide/capitan was very knowledgable. Boat, kayaks and equipment were very clean and pleasant to be on. We liked the condition and the choice of locations. We learned a lot and loved it.

Date of experience: December 2018
Thank Jacoooooooo
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed December 14, 2018

We did the dolphin/snorkel excursion and it was fantastic. The crew onboard actually helped build the electric/hybrid catamaran boat that we were riding on--which added a unique element to the experience. We didn't find any dolphins, but the snorkeling experience off the side of a boat in the middle of the Key West waters was a cool adventure!

Date of experience: December 2018
1  Thank keeo66
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed December 6, 2018 via mobile

Got lucky on the best day of our visit to KW. Rates are reasonable. Guide was knowledgeable and friendly. Snacks and equipment are provided. 4+ hrs of fun in the water and sun. I highly recommend the afternoon trip beside the sunset is amazing to see from the ocean view!! Got great pictures. Thanks Honest Exo for the experience. Would love to see you guys again the future!!!

Date of experience: December 2018
1  Thank Cnguyen76
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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