Florida Keys Trip Overview
Southern Florida is home to unique ecosystems and diverse wildlife and we will explore everything the sunshine state has to offer on this summer adventure! Visit Everglades National Park and the famous Florida Keys while participating in a variety of community service projects based on marine conservation including working with dolphins, sharks, and turtles!
Stay on a private island in the Florida Keys and work directly with marine biologists to assist the efforts of a nonprofit organization dedicated to conservation efforts.
Participate in hands-on programs focused on marine habitats, invertebrate biodiversity and collection, shark biology and dissection, and much more! After working on these programs you will gain a deep appreciation for the ocean and its inhabitants.
Enjoy everything the beautiful Florida Keys have to offer. Kayak through the mangroves on an excursion to discover the unique flora and fauna found in this habitat—from Mangrove Tree Crabs to the Upside-Down Jellyfish, you never know what you’re going to see. You might even be joined by manatees, nurse sharks, and a wide variety of bird species!
Visit a turtle hospital dedicated to turtle rescue and rehabilitation. Meet the “patients” and learn about on-
going efforts and current research in the field. You may even have the opportunity to watch a live procedure if there is a turtle going through surgery during your visit.
Go on a snorkeling trip in part of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and discover a wide variety of colorful marine life. After learning about marine habitats and fish identification this is the perfect chance to test your knowledge and see how many different species you can identify. Finish your snorkeling adventure relaxing on a stunning white sand beach and swimming in the turquoise water.
Complete your adventure in Southern Florida with some time exploring eclectic Miami and enjoying the famous Miami beaches. While in Miami visit the Miami Aquarium and meet a former TFT alum who is now a dolphin trainer! Get behind the scenes access at the aquarium and learn about their exciting conservation and rehabilitation efforts.
This program is perfect for teens interested in marine conservation and exploring the spectacular world of the Florida Keys while meeting like-minded peers.
The majority of this program is outdoors and part of our trip will be spent on Pigeon Island, which is privately owned and where our group will not interact with anyone outside of the island. This allows us to easily remain in a “pod” and keep our travelers safe while socially distancing from other people.
During this program, you will…
- Earn up to 25 hours of service with a leading NGO/Nonprofit and a Dolphin Research Center
- Visit a sea turtle hospital and learn about efforts to protect these majestic creatures
- Go on a classic airboat ride through the everglades and spot alligators, crocodiles, and colorful birds
- Survey coral reefs and complete marine wildlife surveys
- Enjoy a catamaran trip and snorkeling tour through colorful reefs
- Spot a variety of marine life, including colorful reef fish, whale sharks, manta rays, and more!
- Kayak through the mangroves and explore this unique ecosystem
- Monitor fish, sharks, squids, and other species with marine biologists
- Relax at a beautiful beach and swim in the warm turquoise water
- Go behind the scenes at Miami Aquarium and learn about their conservation efforts and have some unique animal encounters
DAYS 1-2: MIAMI
Arrive in Miami and meet your fellow travelers. Your TFT staff will be ready to go with fun ice breakers and group bonding activities so everyone can get to know each other and become excited about the upcoming adventures!
Relax on Miami’s stunning white sand beaches and go for a refreshing swim. Visit Miami Aquarium and enjoy special behind-the-scenes access to the aquarium to learn more about their conservation and rehabilitation efforts.
DAY 3: Everglades National Park
Visit the beautiful Everglades National Park and be amazed by the nine different ecosystems that are found here! The variety of habitats found in this part of Florida support a unique system of plants and animal species that cannot be found anywhere else in the world! Discover for yourself how this dynamic landscape lends life to the wide variety of wildlife. This is the only place on the planet where the American Alligator and American Crocodile coexist. Go on a classic Everglades airboat ride and try to see if you can spot both in the wild! The Everglades is home to a variety of endangered species including 16 species of birds, a variety of mammals, reptiles, and plants. America’s wetland is the perfect place for adventurous travelers and nature enthusiasts!
DAYS 4-6: KEY LARGO
Welcome to the Florida Keys! Turquoise water, incredible marine life, and a vibrant atmosphere make this the perfect place to spend the next few days. Volunteer at a dolphin research center and go behind the scenes to learn about the important work they are doing to protect these marine mammals. Meet a few dolphins yourself before assisting with light maintenance work around the center to give back to this local nonprofit.
Choose to snorkel or dive at America’s first undersea park, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. The marine life here is incredible! Discover hundreds of colorful fish, vibrant coral, turtles, sharks, and more. This is one of the best places in the US to dive and snorkel!
Spend the rest of your time in Key Largo kayaking, stand up paddleboarding, and sunbathing by the sea.
DAYS 7-10: KEY WEST & PIGEON KEY
Start your morning off in iconic Key West. Stroll the colorful streets and visit the famous bou that marks the Southernmost Point and the lowest latitude land in the continental U.S.
After spending the morning in Key West we’ll head to the port and cruise over to our very own private island home for the next week. Meet the team for this marine conservation organization and take a tour of the island.
Start with an introduction to the four main habitats found around Pigeon Key and throughout the Florida Keys: Mangroves, Seagrass Beds, Shallow Hardbottom, and Coral Reefs. Learn about each ecosystem, the benefits and threats to each, as well as how you can help!
Participate in group discussions with marine biologists and learn about a variety of fascinating topics including invasive species, shark biology, fish and coral identification, and more! Group discussions always include hands-on participation where you may be out on the shoreline searching for invertebrates or in doing labwork.
Pigeon Key is also home to the only shark rehabilitation center in the Keys. When sharks get caught by fishermen they are brought here to be rehabilitated before being released back into the wild. This allows the opportunity to study and learn from these majestic creatures. Unfortunately, sharks do not always survive when caught by fishermen, but this provides the opportunity for dissection and further study. Our group will have the opportunity to participate!
Compliment your marine science adventures with plenty of fun activities.
Venture out in the mangroves on a kayak adventure and spot a variety of wildlife. Keep your eyes peeled for manatees, nurse sharks, and other exciting creatures!
Visit the turtle hospital in Marathon and learn more about their rehabilitation and rescue efforts. Meet the turtles, and If you are lucky you may even get to witness a live procedure!
Take all of your new knowledge out to the reefs on an exciting snorkeling adventure. Spot a variety of colorful reef fish and see how many you can identify. After spending the morning snorkeling relax on Sombrero Beach, the prettiest beach in the Keys with soft white sand and turquoise water.
In addition to the marine conservation work you and your fellow travelers will enjoy fun group activities and games, movie nights, and relaxing by the ocean.
DAY 11: RETURN HOME
After experiencing some of the best diving in the world, volunteering with an important marine conservation project, and bonding with your fellow travelers it’s time to say goodbye to paradise. The memories and friendships you made will last a lifetime!
Authenticity is engrained in everything we do.
Eat, stay, and travel like a local. Check out what past travelers have to say about TFT and discover why we were awarded top youth travel organization in year after year!
"For my graduation present last year, I was grateful enough to travel to Italy with TFT! I was a bit nervous about traveling across the world without knowing anyone beforehand, but the staff and my peers were all so friendly and welcoming! Everything about this trip was so FUN, exciting, and very well organized. From the airport designations to the travel itinerary, everything was smooth sailing. There was always something new for us to do/see which was my favorite part of the trip. Although relaxing, it was fulfilling to be kept busy with a new culture to explore. I highly recommend not only the Amalfi trip, but any trip with TFT! They are an extremely trust worthy company and my parents were confident that I was being left in good hands. This trip was hands down one of the best trips I have been on and am excited to be traveling with TFT again soon!"
"I went on the Costa Rica Adrenaline trip this past summer and it was amazing! I have never gone on a trip by myself before and I was very nervous. But after meeting with everyone at the airport, I knew that I made the right choice booking the trip! The staff were so helpful and very resourceful throughout the trip, and everyone in my group were super nice and welcoming! I really enjoyed the adventures we did, such as: tubing, ziplining, snorkeling, and canyoning! But one of the best memories I had was being able to surf for the very first time!! It was so surreal and an incredible feeling! I was said to say goodbye on our last night, but I still stay in contact with some of the friends I made to this day! I would totally recommend this trip to anyone who loves adventure!!"
"I had been wanting to go to Japan for years prior and getting the chance to go and be fully immersed was amazing! We got to walk through a national forest and see a beautiful waterfall that I wouldn't have even thought to do. We also went to the Studio Ghibli Museum and got to experience city life but also get out of the crowds and go to towns farther out. I got pushed so far out of my comfort zone that I wouldn't have allowed myself to do if I decided to go to Japan by myself on my own terms. I would go back on this trip in a heartbeat. It was so much fun and I got to meet such amazing people. Truly is something that you should do if given the chance."
Frequently Asked Questions
Who can go on this trip? What kind of teen typically goes on this trip?
Teens from all over the world join this program! Typically, our participants are culturally curious individuals who are excited to make new friends, experience something unique, and interested in stepping out of their comfort zones and expanding their horizons.
This program is exclusively for students who are currently in 9th to 12th grades and approximately 14 to 18 years old. Students living outside of the USA are welcome to join!
Where do we stay?
For this program, we stay at a boutique hotel in Miami and Key Largo, and on a private island in the Lower Keys called Pigeon Key. Housing on the private island is similar to dorm summer camp-style housing and there could not be a more picturesque setting!
Accommodations are all clean, safe, and comfortable.
For safety reasons, we do not publish the names of the accommodations we use. We do not feel it is safe to publish the name of a hotel where a group of teenagers is staying abroad. After registering, participants and parents are given access to our secure parent website where you will be able to see the names of all of the accommodations for a program.
Do most travelers go on their own?
Yes! In fact, over 75% of students who travel with us choose to come independently. This encourages teens to step further outside their comfort zone and make new friends. We believe that one of the most rewarding and exciting elements of travel is the new friendships that form along the way. When we travel by ourselves, we are bound to make new friends from all over the country and even the world. The best part is, you can travel again with your new friends on another TFT program the next summer!
If you are thinking about joining a TFT program by yourself but you are feeling unsure, please let us know! We have plenty of references from solo travelers who had great experiences and would be happy to chat with you about it.
Can I bring a friend?
Absolutely! We ask that if you do come with a friend, you and your friend(s) maintain openness to meeting new people and sharing this special experience with the entire group.
What do students generally like most on this program?
Students love that they are able to have a hands-on volunteer experience that makes a huge difference! They also love that the island nature of the program allows for close group bonding where everyone gets to know each other and they leave the trip feeling like family.
What is unique about this program?
Where else can you go spend the week on your very own private island giving back to a great cause with a small group of like-minded peers?! Travelers love the adventurous nature of this program that allows them to volunteer with the local community
What is included?
Tuition cost includes ground transportation; accommodation; chaperones and guides; program-related activities and admissions; taxes and tips; all breakfasts, lunches, and dinners.
Not included in cost (this is not intended to be an exhaustive list): airfare; visas and visa application fees; personal and medical expenses; activities and admissions that are not program-related or referenced in the itinerary; beverages other than filtered water at meals; participant expenses that are outside of the program description, such as excess baggage fees and damage to hotels; expenses related to unforeseen circumstances, such as transportation strikes and natural disasters.
Travelers will also need to provide their own wetsuit, mask, and booties.
How do the optional group flights work?
Upon registration, you will be contacted by our International Logistics Team to discuss the program’s flight details. There is no requirement to take the group flight, but there are several advantages to doing so. The group flight is usually chaperoned by a TFT staff member, and it also offers an opportunity for the students to get to know one another prior to the start of the program. Parents are responsible for coordinating transport to the departure airport – however, the logistics team will send out instructions detailing the exact meeting spot and airport point person. For additional information about flights, visit our dedicated flight page.
Who leads the program?
Our staff is a cut above the rest! We seek out two main characteristics in our counselors – extensive knowledge of and experience in our destinations, and a passion for working with teens. Our staff’s backgrounds include living abroad and working in summer camps or other educational settings. Team members are proven leaders and role models, who connect easily with others and form genuine friendships with each student – all while bringing each destination to life.
We celebrate diversity! Our staff represents 49 different nationalities, speak a combined total of 21 languages, and visited 142 countries. Additionally, 80% of our staff lived or worked abroad in their lives. With so many unique experiences to share, you are sure to gain a global perspective.
Our average minimum ratios are one staff member to every seven participants. Each program has one Trip Director with several support staff, depending on the group size. Directors must be at least 25 years old and have prior experience working with TFT.
What are the safety qualifications for our staff?
Our staff members undergo a rigorous hiring process. They receive the same background check as school educators, an extensive training process to go over all safety precautions and protocols, and are required to be certified in CPR and First Aid. We exclusively hire responsible, multi-talented individuals who are safety-minded and are as passionate about teen travel as we are.
What is the average group size?
We pride ourselves on small group sizes to create a more authentic and personalized experience. Our group sizes fall between 14 and 21 students – the perfect size to facilitate new friendships without feeling lost in a crowd! We believe smaller groups eliminate the likelihood of cliques, and allows for a well-rounded, healthy group dynamic.
What is the food like on this program?
In a word – delicious! At TFT, we believe food is an integral aspect of the travel experience, and we make an effort to eat at authentic establishments whenever possible. There is no better way to immerse ourselves in the culture of a place than through sampling the local delicacies. We stray away from westernized restaurants and chains that cater to tourists because every true traveler knows the best food is found where the locals are eating!
Of course, we are always willing and able to accommodate vegetarians, vegans, gluten allergies, and other dietary restrictions.
Do I need any vaccinations for this program?
We recommend checking with your family doctor regarding vaccinations and medical advice for the destination you are visiting. For more information, please check the World Health Organization’s website. Upon registration, we provide a list of recommended vaccinations that can be discussed further with your doctor.
What kind of visa do you need for this trip?
When joining a TFT trip from outside of the US, please be sure to check your country’s specific visa requirements.