When Wynwood started to rise as an emerging neighborhood several years ago – well before its current headline-grabbing hipness – we developed a tour that explored some of the area’s remarkable studios and galleries. But the ongoing transformation of this formerly downtrodden collection of industrial warehouses has warranted a new approach of how we like to show and interpret this district. We therefore decided to launch our new tour “Walking Through Wynwood – An Artistic Revival.” Continue reading
I guess being born on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay, I have always loved the sea. Many years ago while volunteering to cut down Casuarina (Australian Pine) trees in The Nature Conservancy’s Blowing Rocks Preserve, I fell in love with an extraordinary environmental vision. The Nature Conservancy (TNC) of Florida was embarking on a plan to turn back the hands of time on a little stretch of coast on Jupiter Island. TNC planned to re-contour the land and replant the coastline to look the way it did when the first Europeans set foot here. This simple goal fired my imagination because it showed that beautiful things that we have lost can still be recovered, a theme that runs through my entire business and personal philosophy. Continue reading
If you could step back in time and visit Miami 100; 50; or even 20 years ago, you would find a very different place than you would today. Perhaps because Miami is a place constantly in flux, its past is often forgotten or simply masked by the city’s loud and flashy reputation. Downtown Miami is a great symbol of that ongoing transformation. One of our most popular tours – the Miami Magic City Bus and Walking Tour – introduces guests to Miami’s various neighborhoods, including a brief stop in downtown. The past several years have seen the development of four tours that explore each Miami neighborhood in depth: Coral Gables – The City Beautiful, A Path through Old Cocoanut Grove, Cuban Heritage Tour, and Tropical Deco in a Fabled Playground. But something was missing – we didn’t have a tour for that fifth Miami neighborhood: downtown. For a long time, we had dreamt of creating a product that focused on the downtown area and would educate Miami’s visitors on how the history of downtown Miami and its dynamic present are linked. Last year, our intern Janine helped make that dream a reality and we can now share with visitors what the tens of thousands of the new downtown high-rise condo residents have already discovered.
In our continuous effort to craft tours that explore the hidden corners of Florida and create unique experiences, we developed Streamside Biking along the Loxahatchee. This bike journey combines ecology, history, and exercise – and even lets us explore the river without getting our feet wet!
Back in 1985, this slow-moving stream became Florida’s first of two federally designated “Wild and Scenic” rivers and remains one of the most wild-looking places in South Florida today. Dragonfly Expeditions already utilizes the Loxahatchee River for kayak outings, but we wanted to come up with another way for our guests to experience this one-of-a-kind region. Our new bike trip alongside this winding tributary gives guests the opportunity to acquire an entirely different perspective of the river and its surrounding landscape. Continue reading
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.
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.
Following is an excerpt of an article from Meeting News’ Florida Green Guide: Recreation and Teambuilding. Author Heidi Waldrop Bay describes how corporate responsibility, team building and sustainable tourism can come together in Florida’s natural areas. She illustrates through the testimonial of a meeting planner how even for a well-traveled audience, a familiar destination can offer something different.
“Eco Tourism: Everybody’s Doing It
Florida-bound groups are jumping at the opportunity to get back to nature
(…) Protecting Florida’s natural bounty is not just the responsibility of the tour operator. Planners can do simple things that make a big difference in the experience for the group and also help the environment. “We encourage people to turn off their cell phones, because sounds like that amplify and it is hard for people to enjoy the wilderness,” said Charles Kropke, owner of Dragonfly Expeditions, in Coral Gables, FL. Also, planners should designate a group leader to carry a simple trash bag and pick up things the participants don’t. “You don’t have to make a big deal of it,” emphasized Kropke, “but it demonstrates to everyone how seamless caring for the environment can be.” (…)
Even though the following article on “Experiential Awards” went online on IncentiveMag.com awhile ago, we wanted to share it with you because it is still relevant for our destination management partners and corporate group clients. Incentive is the only publication devoted exclusively to motivation and performance improvement through the use of incentive programs and consumer promotions. The article summarizes how domestic experiential tours like our Miccosukee Indian Heritage Tour are a great value as an incentive reward for top producing employees without the cost of going abroad. To that extent, all of our tours stay true to the word “expeditions,” which can be found in our company name. It is our goal to provide clients with the type of experience they would have abroad – but without leaving the U.S.
Dragonfly Expeditions strives to provide experiences that give guests a true sense of place. “Habana Nights” – taking place in and around Miami’s “Little Havana” – not only gives guests a sense of place, but also a sense of time. That time just so happens to be in the past: “Habana Nights” is a journey to 1950s Havana, Cuba. Although the island of present-day Cuba continues to struggle beneath the heavy weight of political oppression, there was a time not so long ago when it was a paradise for many. These days were the 1950s; days when Americans would travel to Cuba for a romp through an island playground. And nowhere was the spirit and lifestyle better represented than in its capital: Havana. The purpose of this unique evening tour is to allow participants to take a step back in time and immerse them in the exotic sights, smells, and sounds of that time.
Few big cities in America have a community as culturally and architecturally distinct as Tampa’s Ybor City. Beginning its life as a cigar-manufacturing town made up of Cuban, Spanish, Italian, Jewish and German immigrants, the neighborhood is now a thriving entertainment district with a rich palette of late 19th century and early 20th century buildings.
This month brings the unique opportunity for locals and visitors alike to participate in some of our tours in the Everglades and Biscayne Bay that are usually reserved for groups only. They are being offered as part of the Sustainatopia event:
Saturday, April 21st, 2012 from 1:00 pm to 2:30 pm:
The Everglades according to the Miccosukee
Skip across the shallow waters and sawgrass prairie to a distant Miccosukee island as your guide prepares you for a journey of natural wonders and cultural discovery! Watch in wonder as Great Blue Herons, Egrets, Woodstorks and Ibis take to flight as we travel into the true heart of the Florida Everglades. It is here among the sawgrass prairie that remote cypress islands filled with Seminole and Miccosukee history still exist and it is here that our adventure begins . . .
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.
We are often lucky to experience amazing ecological occurrences on our tours. This video was taken on a 3 hour kayaking excursion to Peanut Island in Palm Beach and illustrates just such an occurrence. Watch the video all the way to the end for a surprise!
Over the years there have been numerous theories concerning the leaping of mullet. The three most accepted theories are: predator avoidance, aerial respiration and… because they want to!
Within the first years of moving to Miami, I made the effort of exploring many of the city’s neighborhoods. But despite its natural beauty the island of Key Biscayne had never struck me as something particularly interesting. Driving down the main corridor of Crandon Boulevard I always thought it was rather uninspiring. Boy was I wrong! One day, my visiting father-in-law and I decided to ride out some of the island’s side streets and paths. In preparation, I started reading up on its past which uncovered a treasure trove of stories this island holds – stories of its unique connections to as well as its disconnect from Miami. For anybody interested, I highly recommend the book “Key Biscayne – A History of Miami’s Tropical Island and the Cape Florida Lighthouse” by Joan Blank.
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.
The AroundTown Magazine is a monthly issued calendar-magazine dedicated to South Florida’s rich cultural tapestry. Since early 2011 Charles J. Kropke has been writing a column named “Charles’ Corner” for AroundTown where he talks about cultural events and institutions in South Florida.
For the June/July issue he was given the opportunity to introduce Dragonfly Expeditions and one of our tours: the Everglades Backwater Tour:
Developing tour routes and gathering the stories that bring an experience to life is one of my favorite tasks at Dragonfly Expeditions. This is particularly true for the Hawks Cay Kayak Adventure, especially since it involved several days of kayaking in the Florida Keys! I have to admit that I tend to favor our water-based tours anyway, but the waters and story around Duck Key quickly proved to be tour-worthy.
With Dragonfly Expeditions being a company that earns its money through sustainable tourism, you would not necessarily connect it to the organization of teambuilding events. But being a sustainable tourism company lets us use our expertise and transfer it to programs like community service projects, even though they commonly are not defined as tourism.
On March 1st 2011 Dragonfly Expeditions organized a teambuilding event for a group of 180 high profile guests from a multinational company that is operating in 21 different countries. The goal was to remove invasive exotic plants and to restore the original flora in a critical section of Markham Park , a popular county park on the edge of the Everglades close to Fort Lauderdale.
We are happy to announce the upcoming release of a new tour that uncovers the exciting and challenging world of Florida’s sea turtles. In the past months there has been an increased interest from our clients in this subject, and since one of our top guides Ann Wiley has been heavily engaged in sea turtle conservation, we asked her to help us develop a tour that allows participants a hands-on experience with these unique sea creatures. Ann has written several posts (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) on this blog about the topic and has sought out the best places that will allow guests to explore the theme of coastal habitat conservation and sea turtle protection in Palm Beach and Martin counties. Look for the full release of this new tour in June.
A favorite among guests, our Key Biscayne – A Journey by Cycle tour is a leisurely way to experience this laid-back locale. We take you on a trip past the hidden corners of this fascinating island full of pristine nature and history. Here is a short video of the tour:
The Maxoly / Latin Art Core Gallery has been a mainstay visit on Dragonfly Expeditions’ popular Cuban Heritage Tour and is a continuation of a long family tradition. Partners Maximo Sarracino and Israel Moleiro come from a family which represents three generations of Cuban art specialists. In the 1950’s and 1960’s, their family worked with many established and emerging Cuban artists in Havana. This world ended with the Castro revolution. Israel grew up in the family business of identifying and nurturing Cuban artists and passionately represents those traditions to this very day. He is now considered one of the world’s most informed experts on Cuban art.
In 2000, the partners (they are uncle and nephew) opened the Maxoly / Latin Art Core Gallery in the heart of Little Havana. The art presented in this gallery came from collections, auctions around the globe and directly from working artists. Some of the artists represented in the gallery continued to live in Cuba. In the politicized environment of exile Miami circa 2000, the representation of non-exiled artists from communist Cuba was not initially accepted. In fact, the gallery faced down a degree of hostility and controversy. Most of that early antipathy has long ago subsided.
Whenever we create a new tour at Dragonfly Expeditions, we attempt to capture the essence of the place we are exploring. Sometimes our emphasis is on ecological values or cultural values or historic values and sometimes the tour is a combination of several of the above. In places that have witnessed massive change through development and urbanization, it gets more challenging to discern an earlier lay of the land. The greater Orlando area offers some of those challenges. Fortunately, one nearby corridor is intact enough to prove ideal for recalling a more genteel era of Central Florida history. This area would come to inspire the creation of a new bicycle tour that we titled: The Trail to Winter Garden.
The gentle rolling hills and freshwater lakes of Central Florida were once a realm of unequaled natural beauty. A perfect climate and generous soil encouraged citrus growers to plant orange and grapefruit trees throughout the region. Idyllic, small farming towns connected by a series of short-run railroads tied the area together and the living was good. Continue reading
Despite its concentrated core of tall downtown buildings, visible from I-95’s bridges and overpasses, Fort Lauderdale is a pedestrian-scaled city. This water-oriented community was the scene of some heavy activity during the Seminole Wars. Due to this war activity, there were three separate ‘Fort Lauderdales’ – each one withdrawing down the New River closer to the ocean to avoid vulnerability and horrendous living conditions (bugs, fever, etc.). Fast forward to 2010 and one can hardly find a more agreeable living environment then the neighborhoods surrounding the New River. This is the route, through the heart of Fort Lauderdale, which we traverse on our “Exploring the New River by Bike” tour.
By legend, the New River got its name from an Indian story in which their forefathers awoke one day Continue reading
In the spirit of the season and as a once-a-year opportunity, Dragonfly Expeditions is making its “Ghosts and Gravestones” walking tour available for individuals to sign up. This offer is intended for any local who has always wanted to join us on this unique stroll, or anybody wanting to entertain friends or family from out of town. If you are a travel reseller, we are happy to have any of your guests come as well. So, join us on Friday, October 22nd, 2010 at 7:00 pm at the historic Miami City Cemetery. Available spaces are limited, so sign up now!
This evening tour by lantern explores the ornate and mournful Miami City Cemetery – a restored landmark that is a solemn reminder of Miami’s dramatic history in the radically transforming area around the Performing Arts Center. We will be visiting the gravesites of long-deceased pioneers and settlers – their true stories will unravel what made Miami great. If the grounds could talk, there would be tales of dark Santeria and voodoo rituals among the memorials of Miami’s oldest families. Learn of how they lived and died when Miami was just a sleepy little village. A place not to be missed!
We are offering this tour on October 22nd only – for the great price of $49 per person!
As a special promotion if you bring two paying participants your tour will be free!
Make your reservation by emailing Megan Fries at email@example.com or calling 305-774-9019. The tour must be reserved by credit card (Visa, MasterCard or American Express accepted).
For as long as I can remember I have been a sucker for Halloween. As kids we had a babysitter who was missing half of a finger and would use that hand to add intensity to her already horrific ghost stories. As a result of her tutelage, to this day I am a master ghost story teller right down to the voices and sound effects. When I was a volunteer English teacher several years ago, I loved teaching my immigrant students words like “candy corn” “Jack O’ Lantern” and “Trick or Treat.” So, it is natural that I should love our Ghosts and Gravestones tour. I should make a clear distinction, however, that this tour has nothing to do with the make-believe. The Ghosts and Gravestones tour tells real stories of murder, mystery, intrigue and loss.
Centered around Miami’s historic City Cemetery, just north of the Arsht Center for the Performing Arts on Northeast Second Avenue, this tour has the inherent qualities to give your average participant “the willies.” The City Cemetery was created in 1897 in an area that was described as Continue reading
What motivates a guy, born in Maryland of mixed German, Irish, Russian, Norwegian (no Latin)-descent to write a passionate tour on the Cuban heritage of Miami? I can accurately pinpoint the kernel of this idea to a specific source in a specific year. In July of 1973, National Geographic published an article entitled “Cuba’s Exiles Bring New Life to Miami” about how the Cuban migration was changing the face of Miami. It was probably a back-issue of National Geographic because the timing would have meant that I was only 9 years old when it was published and I don’t want to encourage the idea that I was any kind of child prodigy. My mother would take us to a used book store in downtown Fort Myers, Florida and I would pour through old editions of National Geographic and pick out the ones that interested me. This article didn’t interest me, it fascinated me. ( I still have this issue of National Geographic today and for any of you writers or journalists reading this, please note what a tremendous impact the written word can have on an individual or on the world at large). Anyway, back to our story. Continue reading
Among the many changes in the corporate meetings market, one of the most significant has been the greater emphasis of both planners and clients on the ROI of dollars spent on meetings. Despite the fact that many meetings are being held in outdoors-oriented South Florida, the still lingering “AIG effect” in many cases “locks” groups into conference rooms with back-to-back sessions, barely allowing participants a glimpse of the outside world during business hours.
The notable exceptions seem to be activities that can be classified as teambuilding, to eliminate any appearance of corporate get-togethers as junkets. Dragonfly Expeditions is reacting to the increased demand for these kinds of activities. The most commonly sold option this season has been our successful Historic South Beach Scavenger Hunt. This hunt can be done for groups Continue reading
Let’s face it; the recession has been tough on most of us. It may have even pushed a few of us to our limits. Now that there are some signs of recovery, we need to do some corporate “team alignment” so that we are best prepared for the opportunities that lie ahead. Three award-winning local companies, Intriguing Places, ActionCOACH Business Coaching and Dragonfly Expeditions have come together in an exciting joint venture to offer the perfect strategic planning day for your business.
This perfect day encompasses: Continue reading
When I was still a kid, my father purchased an old fisherman’s shack and its accompanying tin-roofed boathouse on 3 acres fronting remote Mullock Creek, a tributary of the Estero Bay in the little West Coast (of Florida) settlement of Estero. Mullock Creek was a long oxbow, saltwater river which snaked through a seemingly endless maze of mangroves and tidal pools. My brothers, my sister and I used to take our canoe and paddle all day out into the bay. Usually, our dog Spotty would follow, swimming in the creek for miles. We always worried that the gators would get him but he was an unusually lucky or fast dog.
The first mystery to catch my attention on this journey was a long, less than one-foot wide wall in the water which blocked the creek access to the bay. It was made of limestone materials and too unrecognizable to have been created by anyone during the past century. Continue reading
It was the great idea of Dr. Jane Petrick – a friend of and guide for Dragonfly Expeditions – to come up with a walking tour surrounding the area of the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables on an intimate scale. The name of this tour “Walking My Neighborhood” rings true for me on a dual level: For one, our office is located in the Biltmore and I would never want to miss seeing famous and not-so-famous people visiting the hotel on a daily basis as well as the calming serenity of its lit-up tower and pool. Continue reading