|This turned out to be one of the most informative and educational tours we have ever been on. Our tour guide, Tony was so knowledgeable about the Refuge and all that goes on there. Thankfully the government has reserved places like this for us all to enjoy and learn the importance of places like this. The refuge consists of marshes, mangrove forests and sea grass beds and has the largest undeveloped mangrove ecosystem in the United States. The refuge is world famous for its migratory bird populations. It is not only home to many different kinds of birds but acres and acres of Mangrove trees which are the only trees that grow in salt water. The trees themselves are a nursery to much of the sea life until they are big enough to go out to sea. There are at least 24 different birds who live in the refuge, some permanently, some who winter there and some who just pass through. Pelicans, wood storks, white ibis, roseate spoonbills, osprey, several different kinds of egrets and herons and blue winged teals (they look just like ducks) were some of the birds we saw. We even got to see an Anhinga who was resting on the branches of the mangrove trees. Walking out onto a platform over the water, we saw tiny whelks, conch, snails and crabs along with some kind of jumping fish that jump clear out of the water to clean their gills so they can breathe. It is also home to the manatee but the water was too warm so they hide in water that stays cooler until it is below 60 degrees, alligators (we saw their runways but no alligators). We recommend this tour to anyone who goes to the area and shows us just how important the seashore is to us all. The Mangrove trees are amazing as much of their root system is out of the water. They have adapted to survive in saltwater and 70% of the fish and shellfish we eat originate within mangrove estuaries. Our guide told us that before the island was inhabited there were 2 billion mosquitoes per acre (how they counted them, we're not sure) but somewhere we decided we would not have wanted to be! According to him, it is still not a good place to be at night.