Category Archives: General Interest and News

New DVD Captures the Story of South Beach

South Beach DVDWe are proud to announce that following a successful sell-out of the first edition and the publication of the second edition of his landmark book “South Beach – Stories of a Renaissance”, Charles J. Kropke is now releasing a companion DVD with the same name.  It is tracing South Beach from its earliest pioneer days to today’s high-energy global resort, bringing the remarkable comeback story of this historic district to life.  With historical photos as well as on-location scenes, the DVD “South Beach: Stories of a Renaissance” is being published by Tropic Moon Media and provides a unique look at one of the world’s most popular travel destination.

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Meet Our Partner – The Loxahatchee River Historical Society

Jupiter Inlet LighthouseAn important part of Dragonfly Expeditions’ mission and approach to sustainable tourism is the support of local not-for-profit organizations that are instrumental to the preservation of Florida’s ecological, historical and cultural resources.  Most people are not aware that for many of our tours, a percentage of revenue benefits a particular charity thematically related to the tour. From the very beginning of the company, a built-in donation for each sold tour was an integral part of our business practice. It still holds true that there is no such thing as “free;” even if Dragonfly Expeditions as a commercial entity in many cases doesn’t have to pay an entrance fee to visit and see natural areas or historic buildings freely accessible to the public, that doesn’t mean that dedicated people and organizations haven’t committed time and money to preserve those things. Without their effort, there would be nothing for us to show. This post featuring the Loxahatchee River Historical Society begins a series that will highlight the various not-for-profit organizations we support (you can see all our not-for-profit partners listed in the side column of our monthly newsletter).
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Exploring Florida’s Waterways – the Ocklawaha River

What do alligators, bacon-wrapped Oreos, and hillbillies have in common? They were all part of my weekend canoe trip down the Ocklawaha River near Ocala, FL. Exploring Florida’s waterways is part of my continuing discovery of the Sunshine State. I encountered my first alligator while kayaking on the “wild and scenic” Loxahatchee River, I helped locals clear trash from the mangroves in Biscayne Bay, I celebrated my first Florida Fourth of July by swimming in the Atlantic, and I experienced the Gulf by catamaran. Last month I had the opportunity to canoe an 18-mile portion of the Ocklawaha River.

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Sailing to Andros

This past March, just on the front side of the insanely-busy portion of our corporate tour season, I was presented with an opportunity to help out a friend and her adorable family and to disconnect from the stress of phone calls, texts, and emails. She was looking for someone to help them sail their CSY 44′ sailboat from Islamorada in the Florida Keys to Fresh Creek on Andros Island in the Bahamas. The biggest challenge facing us was not only to cross the Gulf Stream – but to do it with two children under two years old on board!  My official title was “First Mate/Nanny.” The family was familiar with the environment because they live on the boat, but it would be the first time crossing the Gulf Stream for the kids and for me. Especially during the winter months, strong northern winds can make it difficult to cross the south-to-north-flowing Gulf Stream. Continue reading

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Learning to Love the Mud

At the beginning of this year I came across an article in the Miami Herald describing a “Hike to the Big Trees” in the Big Cypress National Preserve.  This ranger-guided trip is offered by the National Park Service only a few times a year, so Charles and I rushed to get a spot on the last available trek in early March.  Neither one of us had been on the southernmost section of the Florida Trail before, where the hike took place. This aspect and the possibility of seeing some of the remaining giant cypress trees that had escaped the logging period of the 1920s to the 1950s were highly intriguing to us. We gathered with 15 fellow hikers at the Oasis Visitor Center and the weather conditions turned to be out ideal for this venture. The sky remained overcast and I didn’t sweat a single drop the entire day – a rare occasion in the Florida wilderness! Contrary to the temperature, the state of the trail was much more challenging. Continue reading

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The Nature Conservancy’s Everglades Sweepstakes

On the right-hand side of our monthly newsletter is a list of organizations we are proud to call partners. These companies and organizations are either Dragonfly Expeditions’ sister companies or local not-for-profit organizations that we support financially, with our time, and in other ways. One of these is The Nature Conservancy (TNC), an incredibly successful environmental organization that is dedicated to protecting endangered landscapes around the globe. We donated one of our most popular activities – the Everglades Backwater Tour – to The Nature Conservancy of Florida as the prize in their 2013 sweepstakes. Continue reading

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Happy 500th Birthday to Florida!

On this day – April 2nd – 500 years ago, Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon for the first time laid eyes on Florida’s east coast. Despite the fact that native tribes had been living here for thousands of years, Ponce de Leon is credited with the “discovery” of the Sunshine State. According to various accounts, he landed just north of present-day St. Augustine and, amazed with the countless species of exotic vegetation he had never before seen, he decided to name the place “La Florida” which means “Land of Flowers.” Continue reading

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Save the Rain Tree

On the south side of the New River, across from Fort Lauderdale’s historic district, towers a stunningly large tree. The tree is an Albizia Saman – more commonly known as a “rain tree” because its leaves curl up during precipitation. One of our guides, Chris Brennan, recently brought to our attention that this nationally-treasured tree is in danger. This species of tree might look familiar to you because an even larger rain tree in Tobago served as the site where castaways built an elaborate tree house in the movie Swiss Family Robinson.

In 1982, the Fort Lauderdale rain tree was declared the largest of its species in the state of Florida. And since Florida is the only state in the US where rain trees grow, it is probably the largest in the country. In 1987, the Fort Lauderdale City Commission added this six-story-high tree to a list of 36 protected trees to ensure that it would not be damaged or removed. However, developer and property owner Asi Cymbal has plans to build an enormous condominium in the same location. If this rain tree is destroyed, only 11 protected trees will remain standing in the city. Continue reading

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Kick off Women’s History Month on March 1 with the Miami-Dade Women’s History Coalition

Did you know that March is National Women’s History Month? And did you know that Miami is the only major US city to boast a woman founder? The Women’s History Coalition of Miami-Dade County  is sponsoring a public event to kick off Women’s History Month and to honor Julia Tuttle, the “mother of Miami.” The event will take place in the Miami City Cemetery at Tuttle’s gravesite (1800 NE 2nd Avenue) at noon on March 1. Penny Lambeth, Chair of the Cemetery Restoration Committee, will be giving a presentation dressed as Julia Tuttle. Continue reading for more information about the Coalition and this event. Continue reading

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Annie’s Organic Buying Club

With the beginning of each new year, we often set our minds on how to make this year better than the last. Maybe we promise ourselves to exercise more, spend more time with our family, give up a bad habit or create a new and healthier habit.  This post presents a surefire way to satisfy a number of these resolutions!  Some of you may wonder what this has to do with the tours we provide…nothing!  But it is a perfect example of the sustainability we strive for in our day-to-day lives. Read on to find out how you can turn your 2013 resolution into a reality. Continue reading

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A Thought on the Season from Dragonfly Expeditions

When I want to conjure up an ideal vision of what the Christmas spirit is all about, I think of a small triumphant claim by one of the charitable organizations that I admire most. The Russian Orphan Lighthouse Project claims to have been so successful in securing American homes for the older orphans from a remote orphanage in the far reaches of Russia that the institution was no longer needed and closed its doors. In my mind’s eye, I see a faraway land in which those once forgotten and heart-broken children are embraced by loving parents and, in a miracle of all miracles, brought home. This is the part that reminds me most of the Christmas spirit – that these children were…brought home. Continue reading

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A Chance to Visit Miami-Dade’s Most Famous, Private Historic Homes

The Villagers, a Miami-based not-for-profit historic preservation organization and a long-time partner of Dragonfly Expeditions, is hosting an event in December that we wanted to bring to your attention: Their annual Historic House Tour takes place on Saturday, December 1st from 10:30am to 3:00pm. During this tour, participants get the chance to visit six elegant houses including Adrienne Arsht’s Villa Serena (famous for previous owner William Jennings Bryan) and Arva Moore Parks’ mansion. The day’s agenda includes sites in Coconut Grove, South Miami, and Brickell Avenue. The Historic House Tour is a well-established event that is respected for its selection of extraordinary homes; each location provides outstanding architectural or historic value. Tickets are available through a $30 donation to The Villagers and the money will go towards local preservation work. This is a great chance to grab a few friends and see those places that you’ve “always wanted to visit but never found the time!” Continue reading

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A Florida Thanksgiving

At this time of year, millions of American families organize their activities around a large and wily, wild bird; the turkey.  Images of Thanksgiving aren’t complete without the extended family gathered around this cooked and stuffed creature, carving knives poised and preferences for white or dark meat already proclaimed.  Our national tradition elevates this distinctive holiday, centered on gratitude, to the highest level. For this reason, I thought it would be interesting to discuss how Florida has its very own sub-species of this famous holiday bird.  It is called meleagris gallopavo Osceola or the Osceola Turkey for short.

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Observations from the International Coastal Cleanup

In mid-September, several members of our team participated in a great community event that we wanted to share with you. Each year, on the third Saturday of September, the Ocean Conservancy sponsors an International Coastal Cleanup (ICC). Volunteers in over 100 countries spend their morning out on the beach removing debris that not only clogs waterways, but also threatens the safety of boaters and wildlife. Early in the morning, Megan and I joined local volunteers just off the Rickenbacker Causeway. Continue reading

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Strategic Planning Days and Teambuilding

Dragonfly Expeditions and ActionCoach Business Coaching have come together in an exciting joint venture to offer the perfect strategic planning day for small or large companies and organizations or institutions – either locally or from out of town.  Any organization that wants to achieve its goals in 2013 and be best prepared for the opportunities that lie ahead will benefit from a strategic planning day moderated by a certified business coach. Results are being locked in with an engaging teambuilding activity facilitated by Dragonfly Expeditions. If desired, we can even arrange an inspiring and unique meeting location.

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Dragonfly Expeditions is proud to introduce Margaritaville Travel

Several years of diligent planning are culminating in the very first departure for Margaritaville Travel Adventures.  The first itinerary, ‘The Lost Shaker of Salt Adventure,’ launches in Miami on October 7th, 2012 and will explore a route from Miami Beach, through the mid Florida Keys to Key West and back.  It was a lot of fun putting it all together and you can think of it as an explorer’s smorgasbord.

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The Story of an Abandoned Cuban Raft

During a recent Great Discoveries on the Bay kayak tour, my group paddled by what looked like an inflatable dinghy.  At first glance it appeared to be moored just outside the swimming area off the Rickenbacker Causeway’s south side.  Yeraldine, the other guide, mentioned that it looked like a raft used by balseros, or those who had escaped and floated over from Cuba.  Our group paddled over to investigate.  Although we didn’t find any passengers, we did find items such as water bottles, canned food, and lotion.  After maneuvering our kayaks around the watercraft to inspect it from every angle, we continued on with the tour.  As we kayaked through the waves and the wind, we discussed the ecology of Biscayne Bay and the cultural history of Miami, focusing on Villa Vizcaya, multiple bay front mansions, La Ermita de Caridad and the general history of the area.

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Heroic Action by Guide Pamela Jones Morton

We at Dragonfly Expeditions have always held our guides in the highest esteem.  Their lives are full of great  accomplishments. We are proud of the enthusiasm they display for their profession as well as their passion for the causes they support.  But when someone goes above and beyond every day expectations, we feel that it deserves to be brought to the attention of a larger audience.  In December 2011, when I wrote the first blog post about Pamela Jones Morton, I had no idea that this guide would soon evolve from someone I admired into a hero.

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Charles J. Kropke wins Historic Preservation Award

Dragonfly Expeditions is proud to announce that Managing Partner Charles J. Kropke has received the 2012 Historic Preservation Award presented by the Dade Heritage Trust during their annual meeting in the restored Pan American Seaplane Base (today Miami City Hall) on April 27th, 2012.  Charles was honored in the category of outstanding individual for the many aspects of his professional and personal life on behalf of endangered historic treasures and the general awareness of preservation.  Among the efforts mentioned were the work of Dragonfly Expeditions which educates travelers from all over the world about Miami’s architecture and neighborhoods through the art of storytelling. In addition, Charles’ book “South Beach – Stories of a Renaissance” highlights inspiring individuals whose push for historic preservation had a tremendous positive economic impact on the tourism industry of Miami Beach in particular and South Florida in general.

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Everglades Backwater Hike with Charles J. Kropke and WLRN TV 17

The folks at WLRN-TV are creating a series of small segments entitled “Slices of Life” featuring local residents’ careers and businesses. A small group of friends and I were invited to come along with the crew to interview Charles J. Kropke. I was thrilled to join upon hearing that the filming was to be conducted in Big Cypress National Preserve. This, however, was not going to be the passive outing that most people witness- high and dry. Our guide’s ominous recommendation was to “make sure to bring a change of clothes and shoes”.

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Deerfield Island Restoration was a Great Success

On Saturday, February 25th, 2012, it became clear to me that people from all walks of life in South Florida still do care.  Only a few weeks earlier I had called for action for an environmental restoration workday at Broward County’s Deerfield Island Park. The call went viral and 199 volunteers RSVPed.  176 showed up.  My appeal was the following.

“This is something that I rarely do but I am requesting it now, I need your help.  Saturday, February 25th at 10 am, I am gathering everyone we can muster at the dock that services Deerfield Island Park in Deerfield Beach.  I am responding to a plea from my longtime friend Pat Howell on a project that is dear to both of our hearts.  The gopher tortoise habitat on the island is facing a de-listing as a critical wildlife habitat by the Fish & Wildlife Commission because invasive exotic plants are choking out the area.  I am trying to mobilize an army to eliminate the invasives and prevent the critical wildlife de-listing.  Because it is a large task and we only have one day, I need as many volunteers as humanly possible.

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Charles J. Kropke Moderates the “Restaurants and Nightlife” Panel for 2012 Art Deco Weekend

An extremely successful and poignant panel discussion took place on Friday, January 13th at the Wolfsonian-FIU in South Beach.  The panel discussion was part of a lecture series organized by the Miami Design Preservation League (MDPL) as one of the activities for the 35th Anniversary Art Deco Weekend.  Charles J. Kropke, moderator for the event, assembled the panel of noteworthy nightclub owners, event promoters and nightlife professionals who created the entertainment scene for which South Beach became internationally renowned.  Represented were Lee Schrager, founder of  the South Beach Wine and Food Festival, David Wallack owner of Mango’s Tropical Café,  Jane Wooldridge, business editor for The Miami Herald (formerly nightlife editor for South Beach during its heyday), Michael Capponi, club promoter extraordinaire, and Louis Canales, one of the first successful nightclub owners in the resurgent South Beach.

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Dragonfly Expeditions Doubles Its Office Space

By the time the sixth full-time Dragonfly Expeditions employee (with an occasional seventh or eighth in residence) came to our light-filled office with its full-sized windows facing the large Mexican-tiled patio and the looming Biltmore tower as a backdrop, the writing was on the wall.  It was time to expand into a new office.  As much as I had admired the spacious corner office that we had passed in our seven years at the Biltmore Hotel, I hardly expected that things would conspire to make it available to us when moving became inevitable.  But it did happen and we were ecstatic.  We moved in with paint and carpet samples, broke down desks and shelves; bought more bookcases for our expanding library and began the long shuffle down the hallway.

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Wolfsonian/FIU French Cultural Identity Exhibition

Each year, Dragonfly Expeditions is asked to convey its knowledge of the local arts scene into customized tours for groups visiting Miami for Art Basel.  Below you will see the foreword to one section of a customized program for a group interested in French art and design.

Starting on November 25, 2011, the Wolfsonian/FIU at 1001 Washington Avenue on Miami Beach will offer an ‘opportunité magnifique’ to visit this venerable, local institution.  This date kicks off ‘Liberty, Equality and Fraternity,’ an exhibition exploring French cultural identity through design produced from the mid-twentieth century to the present. Before continuing on to the subject of the exhibition, I would like to suggest that just about any time of the year is a great time to visit the collection created by Mitchell “Micky” Wolfson, Jr. and the institution that houses it.

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University of Miami Family Weekend 2011

For the second straight year, Dragonfly Expeditions partnered with the University of Miami Family Weekend program to provide new students and their families the opportunity to explore Miami and its surroundings on our tours.

The five tours that were offered throughout the weekend featured Miami’s Cuban Heritage, the historic Miami City Cemetery, Kayaking on Biscayne Bay, and two Miccosukee Indian Heritage airboat tours.

The goal of the partnership between the University of Miami and Dragonfly Expeditions is to showcase Miami as a metropolis with historical, ecological and cultural treasures beyond its usual party reputation. Here are some quotes from participants:

“Very interesting information. Loved it!” – Xavier, Cuban Heritage Tour

“Very informative and a beautiful way to see the bay” – Ann, Great Discoveries on the Bay – A Kayak Tour

“Fabulous trip, tour guide was superb. Airboat was so relaxing. Great way to see nature at it’s best!” – Sheila, Miccosukee Indian Heritage Tour

Dragonfly Expeditions would like to send a special thank you to the University of Miami Family Weekend staff (Brian Orefice, Danielle Howard, and Carrie Whiteside) for their amazing work and dedication in ensuring that our partnership was again a success. We are looking forward to Family Weekend 2012.

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MDPL Reads launch event for Charles Kropke’s South Beach Book

The Miami Design Preservation League kicked off the new community-reading program MDPL Reads at the Art Deco Welcome Center on October 12th, 2011. This first event featured South Beach: Stories of a Renaissance by Charles Kropke and Eleanor Goldstein. The approximately 200 guests enjoyed a catered cocktail party with paintings from the book on display followed by a discussion, and book signing.

The book has also been chosen to be the official book for Art Deco Weekend 2012, and will be featured during many events in the coming months leading up to the festivities in January. Information about these events can be found on the South Beach: Stories of a Renaissance Facebook and Twitter pages.

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Miami: The Magic City

Below is a heartfelt speech about Miami that Charles Kropke gave to one of our corporate groups.  You can really sense the passion he has for this beautiful city.  Please enjoy and pass along:

The sight of modern Miami rising from a moonlit shoreline on the Biscayne Bay can steal your breath away.  Colorful, confident, the city nearly sparkles with vitality and the possibilities.  Bordered by the brilliant multi-hued waters of the Atlantic Ocean and a legendary inland bay on one side and the vast, world-treasured Florida Everglades on another, Miami is long and narrow.  The city’s latitude introduces a sub-tropical languor that coupled with plentiful rainfall encourages palms, flowering plants, trees, and fruits of every imaginable variety.  These favorable conditions also make wildlife and abundance in the seas a fact of life.

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Farewell to an Inspiring Friend

God’s vast array of winged creatures has lost a great friend and advocate this month and in so losing her, we who love South Florida and its beautiful birds have equal cause to mourn.  Wendy Fox, longtime Executive Director of the Pelican Harbor Seabird Station died of cancer on Saturday, August 6, 2011.  She was 54.  Dragonfly Expeditions partnered up with Wendy and her inspiring organization years ago to create a new type of tour.  It was designed to bring awareness and money to the brave non-profit tucked away at the end of a marina on the 79th Street Causeway.  We called it  “Healing Wildlife at the Pelican Harbor Seabird Station”  and dedicated 40 percent of the gross profits  to the seabird station.  This effort has always made me proud.

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Charles J. Kropke’s South Beach Book Chosen for MDPL Reads

Since February 2011, Charles J. Kropke’s book “South Beach – Stories of a Renaissance” has been the bestseller at Books & Books in Coral Gables and South Beach!  We are now delighted that Charles’ book has been chosen by the Miami Design Preservation League (MDPL) for their new program MDPL Reads which encourages everyone to read the same book leading up to the next annual Art Deco Weekend in January of 2012.  In their press release below, MDPL details the events leading up to October 5th, 2011 with a trivia contest through their facebook page.

MDPL Reads is meant to bring attention to great books about South Beach and the Art Deco Historic District. The first event will take place on October 5th, 2011 at 7pm at the Art Deco Welcome Center, 1001 Ocean Drive. The book chosen for the October event is South Beach – Stories of a Renaissance, by Charles J. Kropke and Eleanor Goldstein, who will be signing and discussing the book at the October 5th event. Leading up to the MDPL Reads event in October, MDPL will be launching a 10 weeklong trivia series related to stories taken from the book via the MDPL Facebook page. Prizes will relate to each question and include museum passes, freebies at local restaurants, posters, and more!  All the prizes were donated from people and places mentioned in the book. You can purchase the book at the Official Art Deco Gift Shop or online.

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A Thank You to Captain Jerome Brownlee

Many months back, Erica French from Educate Tomorrow approached me at a BNI South Beach meeting to see if I could arrange some outlines for a summer camp program that they conduct yearly for constituents who they are serving.  Educate Tomorrow is a noble, non-profit organization that seeks to help young men and women who have aged out of the foster care system attain educational and career goals through mentorship.  Two summer dates were chosen for the camp events, one for the young men and the other for the young women.

 Initially, due to his proximity to Miami, my plan was to have my friend Johnny Tigertail of the Miccosukee Tribe offer the camp participants an airboat tour to his family’s tree islands on tribal lands.  Unfortunately, a very severe dry season made this option impossible because there was no water in the Everglades for the airboats to travel on.

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