Thursday, 20 March 2014

Florida Part 3/3; Dry Tortugas National Park

One of the most exciting parts of our trip to Florida was visiting Dry Tortugas National Park.  Dry Tortugas is a tiny island that is 110km and a 2.5hr boat ride from Key West.  We took the high speed catamaran 'Yankee Freedom', and we were not disappointed!  Dry Tortugas is well known for its beaches, world class snorkeling, pelagic birding and the massive Fort Jefferson which is the largest masonry structure in the US, containing 16 million bricks!  The fort was later used as a prison, and even once housed some of the men who conspired to assassinate Abraham Lincoln.

Arrival at the Dry Tortugas dock
Entrance to Fort Jefferson

You can walk all around the fort on the moat wall

Some of the clearest water I have ever seen
We went snorkeling at various locations on the island and were amazed by the numbers of colourful fish and coral! We kept our eyes out for hammerhead sharks, sea turtles and the resident American crocodile, but didn't see them.

The snorkeling was amazing! 

Caitlyn walks down the beach, Yankee Freedom is in the background

Dry Tortugas is well known as a birding hotspot, in particular for the massive colony of Sooty Terns, Brown Noddys, Magnificent Frigatebirds and Masked Boobys
Swarm of nesting birds

After snorkeling, birding and lounging on the beach, we decided to take a walk around the historic Fort Jefferson.

We took the spiral staircase to the top of the wall
View from the top
View inside the walls from the top of the walls

Walking path along the top of the fort wall

One of many fort cannons.  Range for these beasts was 3km!

A nice quiet spot inside the walls

Great Egret hunting on Dry Tortugas
After checking the fort out, I had to go get another look at the bird breeding colonies.  I tried to get a few closer photos of the subjects buzzing around.

Brown Noddy gathering nesting material
Brown Noddys
Sooty Terns!

Researchers trying to catch Sooty Terns to make some measurements

Researchers measuring/banding terns
Breeding male Magnificent Frigatebird with his throat pouch inflated

Ruddy Turnstones on the beach

Heading back to the ferry after an amazing day on Dry Tortugas!
Check out this video of the Dry Tortugas nesting colony!  I just noticed how bored Caitlyn looks in this video, I guess she didn't enjoy the birds as much as me hahaha!

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