Exclusive Air Service to the Dry Tortugas Launched

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Key West Seaplane Adventures launched exclusive flights to the Dry Tortugas this past May. Based at Key West International Airport the company offers the quickest, most exciting way to reach America's most inaccessible National Park.

Why go? Known for its bird colonies and rich marine life, it’s one of the best trips out of the Florida Keys you can find.Most importantly,the waters around Dry Tortugas have NOT been affected by the Gulf oil spill. Peter Greenberg, CBS News Travel Editor

Key West Seaplane Adventures (KWSA), the only seaplane service between Key West and the Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida, launched their exclusive flights this past May. The company, an expansion of parent company Promech Air, operates one of the most rugged and dependable aircraft on the market, the DHC-3 DeHavilland Turbine Otter Amphibian capable of carrying a 3,600 pound load and cruising at 130 knots.

Knowledgeable, local tour guides and a management team with over 20 years seaplane experience to the Dry Tortugas fly 70 miles due west of Key West to the true end of the Florida Keys.

Based at Key West International Airport, KWSA flights carry 10 passengers (each with a window seat and headset). The company offers morning, afternoon, all-day, and charter flights -- the quickest, most exciting ways to reach the Dry Tortugas, America’s most inaccessible National Park. First discovered in 1513, Spanish explorer Ponce De Leon named the area Las Tortugas (The Turtles) due to the abundance of sea turtles. The word “Dry” was added to mariners’ charts to warn of the lack of fresh water.

After departing Key West, the 35-minute, low altitude sightseeing flight (500 feet) flies over the “Flats” a body of very shallow water (3-5 feet deep). Marine life can be spotted anywhere along the flight route; however, the shallow “Flats” make spotting marine life easy. Expect to see plenty of sharks, sting rays and the occasional porpoise. Twenty-five miles out, the flight passes over the Marquesas Islands.

Beyond the Marquesas Islands, lie the “Quicksands.” The water goes down to 30 feet deep and the tour flies over an underwater desert. The sea-bed is made up of huge sand dunes that are continually moved by the strong tidal currents. Treasure salver Mel Fisher found the treasures of the Spanish Galleons “Atocha” and “Margarita” here. The flight continues over two more modern shipwrecks and then over deep water (70 feet).

Upon arrival at the Dry Tortugas, a cluster of 7 islands located in the blue/green waters of the Gulf of Mexico, passengers are free to enjoy the delights of the Dry Tortugas -- including snorkeling! Enjoy a myriad of colorful tropical fish and living coral in only 4 to 7 feet of water, straight off a brilliant white sand beach.

Bird watching is excellent and offers up to 200 varieties annually.

Fort Jefferson, the largest brick building in the Western Hemisphere, dominates this 100 square mile park. Construction of Fort Jefferson began in 1846 and continued for over 30 years, but the Fort, which covers 11 of the key’s 16 acres, was never completed.

The Army abandoned the obsolete Fort in 1874. In 1935, Fort Jefferson was proclaimed a National Monument and in 1992 the Dry Tortugas reached its current status as a National Park.

There is no fresh water, but there are restrooms, and an air-conditioned visitor’s center with Park Service gift shop located in Fort Jefferson.

The best time of day for the KWSA trips is either the first flight in the morning or the last flight in the afternoon. The first seaplane flight lands at the Park well before the Key West visitor ferry arrives in the morning, and the last seaplane flight arrives well after the ferry departs the Park in the afternoon. It is quiet on the island during these times, even in peak season.

With over 30 years of seaplane experience, Promech Air, based in Ketchikan, Alaska, is the largest air taxi operator in the south-east section of that state. The company’s highly skilled, trained and dedicated staff is high-time and has Alaskan bush flying experience.

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