alligator reef

Deserted Island & Hungry Tarpon in the Upper Keys

It feels good to be exploring again! I realize how ridiculous this must sound coming from a girl who’s been traveling continuously for over six years. But, the reality is we’ve spent the past several months of our lives intensely searching, negotiating, outfitting, learning and preparing. Very little of our time has been focused on anything else. I’m not complaining, it’s all part of the adventure. It’s more that I almost forgot how good it feels to explore new territory and to be traveling again with no real agenda.

Speaking of exploring new territory…After a few days at Rodriguez Key and Tavernier Key, we pick up our anchor and sail the 17 nautical miles southwest to Indian Key.  It’s a deserted, tropical island owned by the Florida State Park system, with a free mooring ball and dinghy dock. It’s so lovely, we decided to take up residency for a couple of days.

Indian Key

This may be an 11 acre deserted tropical island with overgrown ruins, but its all very civilized and seemingly under explored.  I think we may have witnessed four other humans during our two days here.

It’s a little wild to think of what it must have been like in the mid 1800’s.  Here was this tiny little island where a few people realized they could make a living salvaging boats that ran aground on nearby reefs.  In it’s boom this little town was powerful but when the Indians attacked everything went bust.

A big thanks to everyone who suggested we make this ghost town part of our shakedown cruise.  We enjoyed exploring this spot in complete solitude…well, minus the local wildlife.

Alligator Reef & Sanctuary

Alligator Reef Light was established in 1873 but hasn’t been operational since 2014. It’s the first reef lighthouse we’ve ever seen and it’s quite the industrial sight. The reef lights are different from what I think of as traditional light house, not that I am a lighthouse aficionado, but they are equally as neat.

One little tidbit I found interesting about this lighthouse is how it got its name. Thankfully it has nothing to do with alligators, because, hello…Florida + alligator + snorkeling doesn’t sound appealing. It was named after the U.S. Navy Schooner Alligator which ran aground at the reef in 1822. They quickly stripped the ship of gear and blew it up so it couldn’t be used by pirates.

It’s about 4 miles east of Indian Key and well worth the short trip out. We arrived about an hour before low tide because we read it was best for visibility and current…and we agree. Alligator Reef is the best snorkeling spot we’ve found since we’ve been in Florida!

Robbie’s & The Hungry Tarpon

Robbie’s is bit of a tourist trap but its also an Islamorada staple that has water front dining (but bring your bug spray if you’re coming in the evening). We planned our paddle board trip to Robbie’s based on the tides too. We didn’t want to have a full stomach, a couple of beers and a 4 knot current to fight afterwards. We paddled in on a rising tide, about 2 hours before slack tide. This way, we had plenty of time to hang out, relax and have the current in our favor for the paddle back home.

paddleboarding florida

If you’ve spent anytime at Indian Key, snorkeling the area or even feeding the famous tarpon share your story in the comments below. We love hearing from anyone that has a tip or a story to share.

Cameras used to film this video:

Adventure Gear Used

Sailing Report

where we've sailedIf you click on the map it will take you to our map page where you can view, scroll, zoom and click.

Weather: Mid 80’s to Low 90’s
Wind: 4-5 knots
Route: Rodriguez Key to Indian Key
Nautical Miles Sailed: 17
Date: September 12-15, 2016

Hello there! I honestly don’t know what to say, so I am going to tell you a bunch of random facts instead. I'm a fish eating vegetarian who hates spiders and loves snakes. I almost never took vacations growing up. I wanted to be Pippi Longstocking (still do). I misspell about every other word I write and still struggle with grammar. I love splurging on a good high tea (which is really hard to find these days). And whatever you do, don’t tell me I can’t do something, because then I'll HAVE to do it!

Comments (51)

  • Misty

    Kind of in love with your videos!! I’m a native Floridian and have always wanted to learn to sail. Watching you two “newbies” take on the challenge has inspired me and my best friend of 30 years to finally make the leap and after the holidays we’ll be starting classes. So, thanks for that.

    Ps… Spit in the inside of your snorkel mask. It sounds gross but it really does work to keep it from fogging up.

  • Deborah Kerr

    Hello Nikki & Jason, Awesome video and pictures!! My boyfriend & I were in the Keys 9/19 -9/22 and loved it!! We Rv’d at Sugarloaf Key and Bahia Honda State Park. We took the Keys trolley tour and had the best seafood & pina colada ever! Yes, we got the Keys fever – but the extreme heat and those darn pesky no-see-um bugs will probably deter us Ohioans in the future for a more sandy and windy beach!! He fished at a little jetty at Bahia and we saw a stingray and beautiful colorful fish swim by. I want to snorkel before I get too old – why didn’t I do all this stuff when I was younger!! You guys got it right!! 🙂 Keep posting – I am having so much fun!!

  • Derek

    Fantastic video and cheers me up on a cool October morning in Wales. Have fun both.

    • Thanks Derek! Enjoy the Fall, it’s still summer here in FL!

  • David

    I noted from one of your Facebook comments that you are looking for a weather window to cross to the Bahamas. For the purposes of this post I will assume that you will motor rather than sail across and that your route will be along the coast from Ft. Lauderdale to Miami and then direct from Miami to Gun Cay / Cat Cay in the Biminis. I am also assuming that any wind direction that contains North, eg, NE, ENE, N is unacceptable to you and that East, South East or South will be acceptable. I am also assuming that you don’t want continuous winds over 20 kts. If these assumptions are incorrect then the rest of this post may be wrong.
    I have had a look at the GFS and ECMWF weather models and they are suggesting that a weather window matching the above criteria will appear on Thursday 21st October and Friday 22nd October. Since this is five days ahead, it’s not yet in the more reliable time frame of the models, but I suggest that you make your preparations such that you can take advantage of this window if it arrives.
    Best wishes for your crossing, have fun in the Bahamas and remember, don’t forget your toothbrush.

      • David

        Nikki, thanks for the reply. It’s around two days since I wrote my post above to which you replied. I’ve checked the models again today and they now suggest that the weather window they had forecasted for this Thursday and Friday has disappeared.

  • Bernard Schaer

    Great video! Thanks. Which gimbal are you using for the a6000?

  • T C Spencer

    We’re sailing to the Bahamas in less than a week and our ‘to do’ list is crazy long. We’re inspecting, lubing, fixing and provisioning. Things are getting exciting! >>>>> Watch out for Hurricane Niclole

  • Margie Daniels

    Yes, many of us were praying and thinking about you and where
    you were. SO THANKS FOR THE MINI UPDATE. I was happy to hear you were in a building of some kind !

  • ol' Salt

    In your Hurr Mathew Vid, you reminded me of all the overlapping communication technologies. You rhymed off a handful. That’s a lot of monitoring – and a lot of static to wade through. How soon till Google cancels + eh? Great to see you back to having fun. Some friends had to evacuate Satellite Beach.

    There were moments that made me worry for you in this vid. (And just thinking about you guys in general when hearing hurricane news) Paddleboard at night (I know, prop free area, but…) Boat moored alone while you snorkeled… Inaccurate depth charts… Unknown fish species…

    Loving the idea of sailing but spooked by the idea of being all alone at sea. Really a little unnerving for me.

    The cinematography is rich and textured as usual. The Editing is brilliant and moves the story along, the music and sound track make this award worthy.

    Thanks for sharing.

  • Joan Paucek

    Loved the video and looking forward to many more.

  • TOM

    When Swimming are you ever concerned that there may be sharks in the area?

  • Sid Landrum

    As always y’all did a great job on your videos. The addition of the drone video increased the enjoyment on this end. That coming from an old retired land lubber with no hope of doing as y’all even though I would love it.
    If I may request an addition to your videos? It would be to increase the actual sailing durations of the Curiosity between anchorages.

  • Brian

    Another great video, thanks again for sharing your adventures. Loved the aerial shots from the drone.

  • Avighna

    Yes it was a nurse shark, and Divers Direct has laminated fish species guides

    There used to be a little electric boat ‘ecotour’ @Robbies and although we figured it would be cheesy, the guide was a genuine Conch and it turned out to be kinda kewl

    Looe Key and Bahia Honda are kewl

    Lignumvitae is kewl if you’re a botany geek

    Bet the vis is not good post-Matthew prob for awhile

    Lionfish taste good and they’re exotic invaders so eat all you can

  • Kim

    Great video shares, thanks for the post!! Love reading your blog keep up the posts!

  • John Schretlen

    Love the way you make the effort (and take the time) to do the paddling off to the Cat videos.

    Is this your first drone-over-water experience since the one in Alaska where the drone is now a crab house?

  • Jerry Wells

    Will you four be travelling down through the gulf and through panama back up the west coast? if you do, I recommend stopping in some of the coastal towns of mexico the food is great and they are great ports to visit. lots of cruise ships stop along the west cost of Mexico and the people in those coastal towns are great, friendly and fun!

  • Babylon Slim

    I have been thinking. Why not consider getting certified to dive with tanks. Compared to all the other new things you have learned of late – it would be the easiest. If I were living on board a small craft at sea, I would want to have the gear around for safety in case the worse happens and for BIG fun. I love it. There is nothing else quiet like it – immersion in the other worldly.
    I enjoy your writing and videos. Your story telling of your adventures is compelling and transcending.

    Thank Yous Much!

  • Renee Jarvis

    So amazing !!! I hope to one day I can learn to paddle board. Was it scary at night?

  • What a life! I love watching these videos.

  • D. Coleman

    No one…but NO ONE takes better pictures than you do…Loved having a no bug experience vicariously through your photos….like the hat light….
    I agree…some style sources for Nikki’s outfits…always cute and snappy…like the two of you. Many thumbs up…where’s the thumbs up button??????????

  • Denise Muller

    Thank you for all your videos. I love watching them. I am not a boat person ( I get motion sickness) but I love to see your adventures and I how and what you are doing. I also followed you when you had your RV. We now have a RV and looking forward to useing it more when we can retire in a few years. Thank you for all your tips and info on the RV life. Thanks again for all the info and videos. Also it is awesome to know you care and use safe products for environment.. I was a little shocked to hear about the dumping of tanks in the ocean. We only have so much water and the effects on the marine life. Thanks for doing your part. Safe travels.

  • Barb

    When my children were small we spent a week at Islamorada then a week at Disney. My children loved the Keys and Disney was an expensive waste of money. A couple years ago we took a painting class at the Autobahn in Key West. I really enjoyed it.

  • Melissa Allam

    Wow, amazing videos! Loved seeing your snorkeling view underwater. It’s so beautiful out there.

  • David

    Very many congratulations on achieving 100,000 Youtube subscribers. (As I write this you’re on 99,955, but I’m sure it’ll be 100k by the end of the day.) As for what you could do to celebrate 100,000 Youtube subscribers, I was thinking that maybe you could do either 1) The safer option. A wreck dive in the Bahamas. There are many wrecks in the Bahamas to choose from. 2) The more dangerous option. Between October and January it is possible to do dives with tiger sharks at a place called Tiger Beach which is near the west end of Grand Bahama. The sharks here are apparently used to divers and so this is safer than just meeting tiger sharks in the wild unexpectedly. You would need to go with a dive company that would take food for the sharks and that know the sharks to try to minimise risk, rather than just going by yourselves. Apparently, this is the best place in the world to see and photograph wild tiger sharks. For more information see:

    With respect to your drone nervousness, (you probably know this already but just in case) you could limit your flights to less than the battery duration to avoid the drone making emergency landings, which obviously in the sea can be fatal. So only fly for two thirds of the time you would fly when flying over land. The other ways I know of that you can lose a drone are if you use waypoints and fly from a moving boat. If you set a waypoint and then at the end of the flight recall the drone using the waypoint then it will return to where it took off, rather than where the boat is now. Also, people have lost drones by flying them over land using a waypoint to recall the drone and then at a later date flying the drone from a moving boat without using a waypoint. When they recall the drone using the home function by accident, the drone flies off to the waypoint set up on its previous flight which could be hundreds of miles away. Once it flies out of radio range then there’s no getting it back.
    Also Rick Moore, likes to fly his drone from his boat to see reefs when navigating shallow passages with his boat. It literally gives him a “birds eye view” of where he is sailing, I thought this was a clever technique that maybe you haven’t heard of.

    Lovely to see Jason at the helm and Nikki doing to the anchor in the latest video. It’s good to know that you share the jobs so that you can both get experienced at all the different tasks.

    When you get your “silver play button” from Youtube, for achieving 100,000 subscribers, will you include it in one of your videos please, even if it’s only briefly?

    • Bob

      Rick Moore from S/V Sophisticated Lady can set you up with a waterproof drone!.
      Check it out at;
      Given the proper funds, based on an aquatic environment, it just makes good sense.
      Fair winds and following seas.

  • mary

    I know the Alaska drone experience had you both a little nervous about flying it over the water. It really added to the video experience. Nicely done! I look forward to seeing more.

  • You just got me interested in getting a drone again. We looked at them a few years ago but heard some bad things about their reliability, so we put it on the backburner. Maybe we need to check them out again. I LOVE the drone footage. Thanks for the tour of Indian Key. We have been trying to get there by kayaks but it’s always been too choppy when we wanted to go.
    One of the fish you saw snorkeling was a hogfish. They are one of the best eating fish around, so one of these days you’ll have to try spearfishing and get one. You do know Robbie’s has crocodiles, don’t you? We love this video. We are in the north Ga mountains and you’re making us miss the Keys.

  • Jeff Hodges

    Loved your video of Indian Key. My wife and I normally get to the keys from Virginia once or twice a winter in our rv and made our first trip to Indian Key this past February. Interesting history there and a fun kayak trip. If you get the chance to stop there again, the area of shallow water between Indian Key and the bridge at Robbie’s holds tons of star fish and they are only in a couple feet of water. Enjoy your adventure! If you’re still in the keys at new years, Key West is an amazing celebration and hopefully we’ll be somewhere in the crowd with you!

  • You have to check out “Hens and Chicks” reef. It is so beautiful! Lots of coral, lots of fish and sometimes turtles. It’s back towards Islamorada, maybe in your way back. You’ll love it. Also, Lignum Vitae is near you and I do not recommend that visit unless you have a few pints of blood to give to the mosquitoes….love Alligator Reef! Keep enjoying 🙂

  • Nancy Fernandez

    Drone flying was great. Wonderful underwater capture.

  • 1. Can you identify a LION FISH ? If not, it is imperative that you find a picture asap. They are an invasive species having many long spiny barbs, all of which contain a high toxic/poisonous venom. Avoid these at all costs!! 2. Not sure if you were intending to pursue tarpon for food, but they are the most bony fish found in the area. There are also FL restrictions that require special STAMPS on your fishing permit. 3. When snooping around the coral, be careful of the moray eels. They are usually docile, however, if they bite, they have teeth that draw you inwards. Good luck getting free from a moray !!
    I love the Keys and did a lot of SCUBA diving in your area. I used to take a small pressurized can of
    CHEEZE WHIZ with me, and dispense some into the water . Within minutes you would be encircled by an amazing number of beautiful tropical fish. Be careful just how much you attract the tropical fish as the baracuda seemed to be interested in Cheeze Whiz as well. I would never eat Barracuda meat as I could never confidentally decipher if it was tainted with (sp) chitagua, a highly poisonous venom. ENJOY !
    Capt Bruce / SW Florida. Give a yell if you think I can ever be of assistance !!

    • Dave

      Actually they ought to be looking for them, after a little education on simple handling and cleaning.
      No limit and very delicious

  • Robert Woolner

    Nikki & Jason, the next time you go snorkeling, take some frozen peas along for the fish.. 😉
    And..really liked the drone footage.

  • ron hecklinger

    Like your stuff. U R paddling the correct way with your paddles

  • Jeff Branning

    Another great video! I love living vicariously through your travels on your boat.

    Regarding getting your dingy on plain, try having one of you sit a bit forward in the dingy to redistribute the weight and it should help smooth out your ride. With all the weight in the stern you will porpoise more and have a rougher ride.

    Keep the amazing videos coming. 🙂

  • Cathy Stock

    What a refreshing sight to see after watching the presidential debate! Such a great escape from our troubles!

  • Cathy Stock

    This was so refreshing to see after watching the presidential debate. What a great escape from our troubles!

  • Karen

    Loved the little island. All the crabs scuttling around, ha! So where are you headed this winter, or do you just go wherever you end up?

  • John wino

    Very nice you two, and wow you did not fall in what the hunger sharks? Thks for the great video be safe and always have fun….

  • Pam

    Oh wow. Loved the snorkeling with all the fish. Do they swim around you or do they scatter when you come through? So clear.

  • Lee Petridge

    Great job, I so look forward to Sundays and your adventures.

  • Katharine Nichter

    More importantly you need to have style sources. And how many bathing suits you officially own now.

  • Paul Holstein

    Great video. It’s good to see you guys back in your element. Here’s a tip on the paddleboard paddles. They should be turned around like a scoop. You should be scooping the water with the paddles like a spoon.

  • John Puccetti

    Great for you two. Our country has deteriorated into a bad reality TV show for the presidential election. And you two are on perpetual vacation good for you.


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