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Dolphins, Sea Turtles, and Sharks, Oh My!

by: Shayne Benowitz

Parasailing

The conditions for parasailing were ideal the last two days. Captain Davey and I enjoyed a moderate breeze and flat, calm water that allowed us to fly our largest parachute with ease. Working on the parasail boat is fast-paced, exciting work and it’s rewarding to see how much fun passengers have flying in the sky once they return safely on the boat full of smiles breathlessly exclaiming how awesome the experience was.

One of the best things about parasailing in Key West is the amazing view you get from 300 feet in the air. This time of year, the water is crystal clear and the area where we parasail can be rather shallow. This allows customers to see amazing color variations in the water due to the depth and what’s on the ocean floor such as sea grass, sand bars, and even the shadows that clouds make over the water. Sometimes it is so clear that you even see marine life from up above.

In fact, on Thursday, we had newlyweds in the sky and as soon as they landed back on the stern they couldn’t wait to tell Davey and I that they saw a shark. At first, we were both a bit skeptical. It’s more common to see pods of dolphins or a giant loggerhead turtle, but not a shark. It turned out that they snapped an amazing picture of it while they were in the air, and sure enough skimming through the aqua-green water was a tan nurse shark.

Nurse sharks are distinctive in their rounded, catfish-like face and their multiple tail fins. They are by far the most common shark you might see on a trip to the Keys and they are not cause for alarm. Nurse sharks are bottom-feeders whose diets consist of shellfish and coral, and they are typically nocturnal, so it was unusual to see one swimming along in the middle of the day.

When you are snorkeling it’s exciting—if not a bit shocking, at first—when you catch a glimpse of a nurse shark snoozing at the bottom of the ocean under a coral ledge. But it is truly a unique experience to view one at a bird’s eye view while parasailing.

Shayne Benowitz is a Fury crewmember and freelance writer who is working on her debut novel. Shayne can be reached at sbbenowitz@gmail.com.

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