FLORIDA KEYS — For Christina Wilson, hosting “Island Hopping: Florida Keys" enabled her to take a deep dive into Florida Keys adventures that even some longtime locals haven’t experienced — and share them with viewers of the syndicated television special. The hourlong program, commissioned by the Monroe County Tourist Development Council, recently began airing across the United States.
Wilson, a free-spirited six-year Keys resident, is a Florida Keys Mosquito Control District field inspector with a degree in biology and a commitment to conservation. During the program’s journey through the 125-mile island chain, she leads viewers on an exploration of the unique natural environment and ecotourism opportunities, water-based activities in the protected Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and aspects of the Keys’ lifestyle and signature cuisine.
Traveling down the Overseas Highway from Key Largo to Key West, the show also introduces local guides who share their perspectives on the region’s allure and philosophy of environmental responsibility.
“I was blown away by all the amazing individuals I met along my journey who are passionate about keeping these islands healthy and making sure they’re still here for future generations,” Wilson said.
The program aims to increase visitor awareness of the Keys’ vast natural world and open-air experiences, while commentary from the featured residents is infused with their dedication to the island chain’s environment and close-to-nature lifestyle.
The adventures Wilson undertakes include catching her first tarpon with Middle Keys Captain Jeff Malone, assisting with a dolphin photo identification survey with Stephen McCulloch of Key Largo’s Dolphins Plus Marine Mammal Responder, encountering bird life off Islamorada with Captain Samantha Zeher and exploring the remote Lower Keys backcountry on an eco-tour with Captain Rob Oliverio.
“I couldn’t imagine a more personal eco-adventure than jumping off the beaten path and into these mangrove-lined waters,” said Wilson.
She also invites viewers along on her quest to become dive certified, first swimming with marine life at Marathon’s Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters, then earning her certification and roaming the underwater realm with Captain’s Corner Dive Center in Key West.
“I hope my experience in this aquamarine world inspires others to take the plunge,” she said.
Other adventures include learning about invasive (and delicious) lionfish with John Mirabella at Marathon’s Castaway Waterfront Restaurant, enjoying a “flamingle” session with a pair of flamingos at the Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory and discovering Key lime pie’s origins with author and Key lime pie expert David Sloan.
Hosting the program appealed both to Wilson’s adventurous nature and her love of the Keys’ richly diverse environment.
“I want viewers to see that these islands are more than a destination — they’re a treasure trove of ecological wonders just waiting to be explored,” she said.
Produced by Crawford Entertainment, “Island Hopping: Florida Keys” is confirmed to air in about 70 U.S. markets on local NBC, ABC, CBS and Fox affiliates.
After its syndication run the show is to air in the fall on Fox SunSports Network and then is set to enter the streaming world of on-demand television on “Discover Florida.”
Florida Keys visitor information: fla-keys.com or 1-800-FLA-KEYS