Our cruise departed on a beautiful winter night in Miami. We had a cabin with a balcony and I enjoyed watching the full moon through the clouds above the lights of the city. We sailed along the coast of southern Florida toward a 9am arrival in Key West, 156 miles away.
Off the dock in Key West, we chose to take the trolley tour, which showed us some of the main attractions such as Hemingway's home and the southernmost point in the US (only a 90 mile swim to Cuba.) But it also allowed us to jump on and off at any stop around the island. Our first (and primary) stop was at the Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory.
Within the conservatory at any one time throughout the year, there are 50-60 species of butterflies from around the world. It is almost surreal walking amongst the butterflies as they flutter all around you, crossing your path. And If you're lucky, they may even land on you. This Blue Morpho, which is the signature butterfly of the conservatory, landed on this guy multiple times, including one tickly stop on his bald head.
Blue morphos were plentiful throughout the enclosure, but always in motion, and when they land, it is most often with their wings closed. So my best images of them are in that closed-wing position, which shows off their interesting strong eye-spot pattern.
Here are just a sampling of the butterflies there, along with my best try at identification. If you can supply any IDs or correct any I'm wrong on, I'd appreciate it. There seemed to be many butterflies from the longwing, or Heliconius genus, but I had a hard time naming the specific species.
I also had a hard time identifying the exotic birds that shared the habitat with the butterflies, but here's a sampling of them, again with my best guesses on the species (assistance welcome!)
It was a hot and humid visit inside the conservatory, but quite enjoyable. We then hopped back on the trolley to continue our tour of Key West before returning to the ship.
One of the benefits of a cruise with multiple ports-of-call is being able to make one-day stops that help you determine which sights you might want to return to. Key West is one of those places. Sure, it's touristy, but you can't beat the climate (they boast being the only frost-free city in the continental US.) The atmosphere is fun, there's plenty to do on the Keys and of course there would be the obligatory trip to the Dry Tortugas which is just 70 miles west of Key West.
We'll avoid the crazy weekends like the yearly Conch Republic Independence Celebration or the LaTeDa Redux Queen Mother Pageant, but I'm gonna say a return trip to the Florida Keys will be in my future!