Islamorada is known as the “Sportfishing Capital of the World”; while fishing is the most popular activity in the Upper Keys, eco-tours, sunset cruises, and sandbar trips are also a popular way to explore the waters of the Keys. And in Islamorada one of the best and most knowledgeable Captains for such tours is Captain Samantha Zeher of KeyZ Charters.
Islamorada Times recently sat down with Captain Sam to learn more about her, her business, her hopes for the future and ultimately what makes her stand out in her field as one of the best and most popular eco and wildlife tours in the area.
Captain Samantha’s love for the water and the environment started at a young age. Having grown up in Fort Lauderdale, Capt. Samantha visited the Florida Keys often and she enjoyed many on-the-water activities from very early on. She was snorkeling at 3 years old, drove her first boat at 5 years old and she and her 3 brothers were all first mates at Bud N Mary’s Marina at different points in time. She earned her Captain’s license at the age of 18 as a freshman studying Marine Biology at Barry University.
It was during her time as a Marine Biology student that Captain Sam realized a life on the water was her passion and destiny. Soon after school, she started her own business, KeyZ Charters, out of Robbie’s Marina. She always enjoyed her trips to Robbie’s and knew that would be the best home base for her charter business.
Captain Sam offers all the popular tours including eco tours, sightseeing, sunset cruises, sandbar excursions, and snorkeling. She also offers unique trips touring local islands such as Indian Key, Lignumvitae Key, and Alligator Lighthouse – each with a history dating back to the 1800s.
What differentiates her as a captain is her background in Marine Biology which gives her an inherent advantage in understanding the local wildlife and their movements. That coupled with her years of experience gives her a unique perception of the area and a passion for the wildlife that inhabit the backcountry waters of Islamorada. Guests on her tours often mention that you can hear the passion in her voice as she describes watching osprey adults feeding their young, crocodile sightings, seeing dolphins interact with their babies, or beautiful manatees during mating season.
With Captain Sam, no two trips are ever exactly the same. She rarely takes the same routes, instead allowing the weather, water conditions and seasonal habits of the wildlife to dictate the best path for that trip. She also accounts for her customer’s requests and interests and lets the unique nature of each tour group make the trip something special. In fact, the uniqueness of each experience has become so ingrained in her business that her mantra is “No Average Tours”.
According to Captain Sam, “Nothing is scripted with wild animals, that’s the excitement of nature. So slow down and take it all in”. This is not only true of nature but of life itself, and perhaps the metaphorical connection to slowing down and enjoying the present moment is that special factor that keep her customers coming back time and time again.
When Captain Sam is not out educating folks about the environment, she enjoys water activities to include snorkeling, lobstering, fishing, crabbing and shrimping. She also enjoys photography and uses it to promote her tours on her social media pages. While not a huge fan of social media personally, Sam understands it is an important role in not only promoting her offerings as a business but also getting people interested in the wildlife and environmental causes in the Florida Keys – which is something she is very passionate about.
In her free time Captain Samantha is involved with iCare and coral restoration projects and enjoys reading. She rarely watches any television, but when she does it is usually the Discovery Channel. She mostly cooks at home but when she gets out she enjoys dining at Chef Michael’s.
If you are interested in exploring the waters of the Florida Keys beyond a fishing rod, KeyZ Charters are a great adventure for the entire family. Jump aboard Captain Sam’s 21’ deck boat with comfortable surround couch style seating and enjoy catching an epic sunset, visiting our famous sandbar, and learning about our local marine life… no matter what adventure Captain Sam takes you on, we can assure it will be “no average tour”!