19 December 2010

Florida - August 2009

My dear girlfriend had planned a romantic beach holiday for the two of us in late August 2009. Now, having grown up in Durban, South Africa as well as having spent time in Mozambique and Cuba - I knew full well that beeches the world over are much the same. They are quite sterile in fact, populated either with over weight and ageing tourists with too little clothes on or very oiled up muscular types with equally little clothing. 

The Everglades had been a dream destination as a child, even before I knew where in the world they were. All I had to do was satisfy the holiday remit and spend a day or two on the beech, then I could go off and look for feathered friends all I liked. Not that it stopped me from gazing at various hawks form Key Largo’s rather dodgy marsh beeches. Beech duty completed, I duly set off early for the Everglades as soon as possible. In all fairness to my girlfriend, I was actually allowed to disappear as and when I wanted and to this extent I took full advantage. What follows is a trip report of a rather truncated venture to south Florida. We stayed in Key Largo and Marco Island, hence most of the venues I visited were within easy driving distance.

Aug 29 
BA flight from London Heathrow to Miami Florida. 

Aug 29 - 31 : 2009 Marriott, Key Largo
Sept 1 - 5 : Hilton, Marco Island
Sept 6 : Miami Airport, flight delayed by 24hrs
Sept 8/9 : BA flight from Miami Florida to London Heathrow.

This was never going to be one of my typical scrounger trips of cheap hotels and restaurants. Both the Marriott and Hilton were well over a US$100 a night with plenty of additional charges. The only saving grace : a favourable exchange rate and cheap fuel.

Despite my continued love for the USA, Florida was in many ways a detraction. The people are typically friendly, the birding venues are well maintained, roads are great. Florida and in particular Miami International and Key Largo are tired and stuck in the 1970’s. Miami International is a shocking airport and not worth me wasting my breath over any further. Key Largo could do with a lick of paint and some general maintenance of the properties. Admittedly, most people who go to Florida are either off-shore fishing or diving and perhaps the weathered appearance is not of great importance. As we spent most of our time on terra firma, we soon ran out of things to do and ultimately left the Keys a day early for Naples and Marco Island. Outside of the birding, we spent some time on boat cruises - glass bottomed boats were very interesting, jet skiing and enjoying some sun. 

Marco Island was/is or was depending on what the property crisis has done, a very upmarket holiday destination. Unlike Key Largo, it didn’t seem as if many people actually lived here permanently. Even at this time, many of the vacant plots were unsold and some of the new builds boarded up. Which was rather useful for the local population of Burrowing Owls. In contrast to Key Largo, there was even less to occupy oneself with here. At least there were a number of very good birding venues nearby. In all I may have spent half a day in the vicinity of
the hotel and even that was too much.

After a satisfactory break we or I at least was rather looking forward to our return to Blighty. However, in a continuation it seemed from our Cuban holiday a year before our departure was bodged again. That was where the similarity ended though. While Virgin Atlantic and the Cubans dealt with our delay impeccably, the same could not be said for British Airways who bungled everything, starting four hours before our flight departure. No one is ever going to want to fly on a faulty plane, but we’d just like some idea of what is going on and what and where we should be. The lack or fear of communication is an incessant British problem afflicting not just BA, but almost all enterprises in Britain. If you are afraid of telling us face to face, get a Twitter Account at least! (I am editing this in late December 2010 - if you ever needed proof of these problems, have a read of the current travel crisis at London Heathrow. The over riding complaint is a ‘‘lack of communication’’.)


  1. Fascinating... My cousin was searching this kind of info. He will be very happy when I give him your url. Thanks!

  2. cute blog..
    lovely pictures of cuba holidays..
    Cuba Holidays

  3. I have a very soft spot for Cuba as you may have seen. If you would like to use any of the photos, I'd be happy to send you full quality images.