Last of a three-part series on the Florida Keys.
No, no, no. Not that kind of hunting.
Dolphin perform at the world's second oldest marine mammal facility.
What I'm talking about is good, old-fashioned, touristy animal expeditions up and down the Florida Keys. OK, maybe "expedition" is a bit of an overstatement, but it's no exaggeration to say these four outings are a ton of fun.
Feeding tarpon at Robbie's
A dollar gets you in, and $2.75 gets you a bucket of little silversides and pilchards to toss to swirling masses of tarpon that hungrily hang out beside the dock at Robbie's of Islamorada.
This is the best bargain in the Keys. You'll get far more than $3.75 worth of laughs, squeals and screams when you entice tarpon the size of an NBA guard to leap out of the water at the baitfish you just pitched.
The daring tourist lies flat on the dock and dangles a shiny baitfish inches off the water. In less than the blink of an eye, a shimmering silver tarpon makes its move, and it's a contest to see whether the bait dangler can release the baitfish before a tarpon wraps its maw around his hand - or entire arm.
What's funniest is when a really big specimen - one that looks the size of Shaquille O'Neal - blasts out from the darkness underneath the dock, pushes his brethren away and scares a year off the life of another tourist.
Robbie's - a delicious hodge-podge of marina, kitschy retail, fishing charters, snorkeling trips and other activities - is at Mile Marker 77.5 on the Overseas Highway.
Best seat in the theater
Theater of the Sea, also in Islamorada, opened in 1946 and labels itself the second oldest marine mammal facility in the world.
This 17-acre park is packed with shows and exhibits that are linked by paths shaded with thick Florida vegetation. Watch dolphins jump, shake hands with sea lions and photograph parrots, then take a boat ride through a saltwater lagoon or spend some time on the beach.
You can swim with a dolphin, a sea lion or rays. If you don't want actually to swim with a dolphin, you still can meet one up close while wading.
There's also a dolphin and sea lion art program. You pick the paint colors and hold a canvas while your mammalian art partner does the hard work. How? By holding the paintbrush in its mouth.
The attraction's natural saltwater lagoon originally was a rock quarry for Henry Flagler's early 1900s railroad that linked Key West to the outside world. Theater of the Sea is at Mile Marker 84.5.
Visiting hospitalized turtles
Emergency rescue for injured turtles.
Patients at the Turtle Hospital are both lucky and unlucky - unlucky because something such as an encounter with a boat propeller or entanglement with monofilament fishing line injured them, and lucky because they somehow got to the world's only state-certified veterinary hospital for sea turtles.
The hospital, which occupies a pale green and generally non-descript former tourist motel, has been treating injured and sick sea turtles since 1986.
When you visit, you meet the vets and technicians who treat the giant creatures, see the operating facilities and x-ray machines and learn the challenges sea turtles face to live their normal 70-plus years. Your admission fee supports research, rehabilitation and release (1,000 "patients" since opening).
Five of the world's seven species of sea turtles live in Florida's waters. The hospital cares for green, loggerhead, hawksbill and Kemp's Ridley turtles but simply can't handle leatherbacks, which can grow to 2,000 pounds.
The Turtle Hospital is in Marathon at Mile Marker 48.5. You can spot it by the turtle ambulances parked out front.
Key West's first attraction
Key West's first attraction - the Aquarium - opened in 1934.
In a town full of tourist attractions, one had to be first. It's pretty cool that Key West's first - a Depression-era economic stimulus project - is still going strong.
The Key West Aquarium, opened in 1934, was built with federal funds as Key West attempted to stage an economic recovery by becoming "America's Caribbean Island." It had a long way to go, since 80 percent of the population was on relief at the time.
The aquarium definitely is old school. It's an open-air facility with distinctive Spanish mission architecture and two Works Progress Administration murals.
It tells a full story of the Keys' marine life, but it's far from high-tech.
There's a touch tank with starfish, horseshoe crabs and conchs, and just feet away is a shark tank that's just as accessible but with a warning sign that says "No Hands."
You stand under a thatched roof to view the Atlantic Shores exhibit, an open-to-the-sky 50,000-gallon habitat that replicates the mangrove ecosystem of the Florida Keys. In the habitat are alligators, game fish, sea turtles lobsters and more.
Tour guides create a stir in the exhibit when they toss food to the residents. It's not quite as exciting as at Robbie's, but it's still quite a show.
The Key West Aquarium is at the famous Mallory Square. Key West, of course, is where you'll find Mile Marker 0.
(Check out www.fla-keys.com
for trip-planning info for the entire island chain, regardless of what you're hunting.)