There are many places you can go on a scuba diving vacation, right? So, “why Key Largo diving?”…some might ask. Well maybe you think us Conchs hanging out way down south in the Florida Keys are pretty isolated…but we do hear things…as the ‘ol saying goes. And here are top 3 answers for that simple question above.
According to the REEF Foundation, there are 2 dive sites in the Florida Keys rated in the Top 20 dive sites with the greatest abundance and diversity of marine life in the entire Carribbean. Molasses Reef and French Reef. That’s a lot of awesome dive sites, so we’re pretty proud of that! About 30 years ago, Rick Freshee, a world-renowned Underwater Photographer and good friend of my father, made the comment…”Key Largo is one of the top spots in the world for schooling fishes”… and Rick would certainly know. Before he passed at a too-young age, he traveled the world for decades to diving destinations far and wide. So this comment is pretty signifigant, and Key Largo IS still known for the schooling fish for those that know. But scuba divers know that the Florida Keys are also one of the top areas in the Caribbean for bigger fish like Grouper and Snapper whose numbers have unfortunately continued to drop in many islands in the Caribbean due to over-fishing. It’s really a shame, but it’s true…the marine life in many places in the caribbean are in decline. Thanks to the efforts of many divers and Dive Centers in the Florida Keys, along with the implementation of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, the marine life here is NOT in decline today on our reefs we’re happy to report!
It’s simple really. You can drive here, and you do not need a passport to visit & dive. We do not charge you an entry or exit fee like many islands do… (what ARE those about anyway and who really gets the dough???) We speak your language, and as much as I hate to say this… we do not hate you. (Note this only applies to a few dive destinations in exotic places, but it is an emerging reality in the world we live in).
Hemingway, Buffet, Rum Runners, Key Lime Pie & fish sandwiches. Pretty cool, huh? Oh, and lots of sunshine and great scuba diving. Now why the heck wouldn’t you want to come on down and do some Key largo Diving?
Let us know if you have any other reasons…
PS – thanks to Jim Matyszyk and Bob Haff for the Schooling fish photographs!
This past weekend was our “9th Annual Sea Dwellers Reunion Weekend”, and we are happy to report it was a success! Every Year for the last 8 we’ve held this event, which has turned out to be one of our favorite weekends of diving. As a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure our staff enjoys the event almost as much as our guests seem to! The idea for this originally started when we realized how many wonderful people returned to dive with us year after year. We started putting together a list of these folks and discovered that many had been diving with Sea Dwellers Dive Center for years and some even decades! The list was pretty long, we are happy to say, and we are honored to be the destination of choice for these wonderful divers who choose to spend their dive vacations with us!
So we wanted to offer something special for these divers, many of whom have become like friends & family to us, and Boom…Sea Dwellers Reunion Weekend was born! The event includes of course a lot of scuba diving, but also a lot more: We have a “Special Guest” each year; we’ve offered activities including treasure hunts, photography contests, reef cleanups, Champagne cruises, night dives, and always a big party (that has become a costume party), including dinner, beverages, and prizes to cap off the weekend! Our “Special Guests” have included a couple world-renowned underwater photographers, an Oceanographer, a NOAA Sanctuary Founder, and this year a NOAA Blue Star Program Rep.
We are happy to say that this year’s event was the biggest ever! We had many divers who had been to past Reunions of course, but also had some “new blood”…folks that had been diving with us before but first time for Reunion. Speaking of repeat customers… Melinda Gardner made it again this year and has not missed one. We consider her the “Queen of Sea Dwellers”…and our biggest fan! Thanks Melinda!
Our divers came from Tennessee, California, New Jersey, Wisconsin, Illinois, North Carolina, South Carolina, New York, Massachusetts, Florida, Michigan and Louisiana to dive key largo with Sea Dwellers this year!
The weather cooperated… the first day started with a little chop but blue skies, light north breeze, good vis, and good diving prevailed! Because many of the participants know each other from diving with Sea Dwellers over the years, the group, as usual, meshed together quickly. Staff and divers all play well together for this Key Largo diving event!
This year we were very happy to welcome our Jet Blue friends, several of which we have certified over the last couple years. They fit in well and contributed greatly to the success of this year’s event! (We will be flying Jet Blue on our next trip). BTW It was also great to have the Monroe family back this year after missing the last few!
The costume party Saturday night was a big hit as always, (but maybe a little more raucous than usual?) We served fresh steamed Key West Pink shrimp caught locally here in the Keys and everyone seemed to enjoy them. Interestingly, the original Reunion was not a costume party, but since the Reunion usually falls on Halloween it just kind of morphed into one. The theme this year was “When I was 20″…to help celebrate 20 years for Jeff & Rob at Sea Dwellers Dive Center.
We want to thank everyone who helped to make this year’s Reunion Weekend one of the best ever! We enjoyed spending this time with you immensely, and if you don’t already know this, we could not do it without you, you are the heart and soul of Sea Dwellers Dive Center!
Best to all!
Rob & Jeff and the Staff of Sea Dwellers Dive Center of Key Largo
The other day we had a diver on the boat, a good diver and a very nice woman, who came across the “Most Feared Sea Creature in Key Largo”….and even came in physical contact with it!!! (More on the outcome of this encounter later in the article…)
Now perhaps just hearing this word has sent you into nervous tremors? Perhaps you won’t be able to sleep tonight just because I’ve brought this fearsome sea monster up??? Who cares about things like sharks, moray eels, or stingrays when this ravenous, man-eating monster is around…right???
OK, so I’m exaggerating a bit about this gelatinous blob, but you might not know it from the reactions of divers and snorkelers we’ve seen over the years. Seriously, it is always a bit shocking, and a bit humorous I have to admit, seeing people’s reaction if/when a Jellyfish is sighted. We have seen people literally scream upon sighting one of these monstrous little beasts. I have seen grown men leave the water and not get back in because they saw one while diving, (true). We have had snorkelers not get in the water at all during an entire afternoon after they simply heard someone say they saw one, (true). I think it really is the most feared Sea Creature to many Key Largo divers and snorkelers! Why? Should it be feared? Will they attack you? How bad is their sting, really? Will they swim you down and sting you?
According to “Jellyfish Facts” web site, (yes, it really exists), as far as the sting of the dreaded moon Jelly; “They normally do not sting human species. But they do use their tentacles to sting other prey and little fishes for food. Even if they were to sting humans accidentally, all it will do is leave a small rash as their cnidoblasts aren’t powerful enough to penetrate human skin tissues, but most of the times these stings can hardly be felt at all”
Granted, there are species that can penetrate human flesh, and can cause bad reactions and pain. But the most common one, (by far), found here in Key Largo, the Moon, is also one of the most benign. Key Largo is lucky in this, as there are some much bigger, scarier ones found around the world. There are certain times of year here where we do see some Portugeuse Man-O-War’s, which have tenacles that do sting and hurt. When these are around, they are on the surface, so managing them is by far easier, and stings are pretty rare.
What does the sting of a Moon Jelly feel like? Have you ever been bitten by a mosquito? Very similar indeed. And while we are not suggesting hugging the next one you see, it is good to understand that Moon Jellies cannot control where they go, they just float with the currents. If you are careful not to push them or swish water into them, you will not feel the dreaded “mosquito bites”. We even have a few long-time Underwater Photographers who love to photograph them as they are actually very beautiful.
So what was the outcome of the woman I told you about at the beginning of this article who came in contact with a Moon Jelly? She was calm about it as she told me she ran directly into it and should she be worried? I asked her if she felt pain and she said, “not really pain, just some kind of tingling on my arm”. I told her that “the “sting” is benign and is similar to a mosquito bite” in my opinion. She actually agreed with me and I put some vinegar on the area and she did her next dive and never said another word about it, (other than that the dives were very good that day). Very cool diver.
Maybe the next time you are diving off the reefs of Key Largo with Sea Dwellers Dive Center and come across one perhaps you might consider seeing it in a different light. I can’t help but think that the ‘ol saying; “We have nothing to fear but fear itself” certainly applies to the under-appreciated, misunderstood Moon Jellyfish. Heck, maybe you’ll even enjoy the encounter and appreciate it’s beauty as a part of Mother’s Nature’s amazing web of life!
The Key Largo wrecks here have been excellent lately! Visibility has been in the 75 – 125 foot range, very blue water, beautiful! As you can see in the short video below taken by Bruce Goodwin of Ocean First Divers, conditions have been excellent. The marine life we’ve been seeing…sharks, goliath groupers, and schooling horseye jacks…in addition to the always present abundant marine life. Diving temp is around 83 degrees and warming by the day it seems…and topside temps have reached 90…summer is indeed here! Come on down and dive with Sea Dwellers Dive Center, we’re doing the deep wrecks more frequently these days, and it’s been worth it!
The dreaded Lionfish….feared, hated, hunted and killed by scuba divers and others. And now according to keysnews.com, “Branded as Enemy of the Seas” by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). We just learned that now FWC is proposing a series of Bills that would “make it easier to eradicate lionfish from Florida waters.” Probably by now most of you have heard that the Lionfish is a problem, as it’s not indigenous to the Atlantic, and therefore has no natural predators.
So far, there are places in the Atlantic where they seem to be proliferating at an unnatural rate. Dive Centers in North Carolina report that it is not uncommon for their scuba divers diving wrecks off shore to report seeing “dozens” on a single dive. And according to NOAA Scientist James Morris, lionfish are “obese” from eating the local marine life in these waters.
In the Bahamas, where the first Lionfish were seen around 2005, they are plentiful on the reefs and wrecks. Some Bahamian dive operators are actually spearing the fish while guiding divers.
So why are Lionfish bad? According to the World Lionfish Hunters Association, “Invasive lionfish are out-breeding, out-competing and out-living native fish stocks and other marine species. The consequences impact the food security and economies affecting over a hundred million people.”
According to the Reef Environmental Education Foundation, (REEF), “Indo-pacific Red Lionfish (Pterois volitans) have been documented along the entire US East Coast from Florida through Massachusetts, east to Bermuda and south throughout the Caribbean. The expansion has been extremely rapid and exponential in scope.”
The Florida Keys have seen the arrival of the Lionfish, but perhaps not to the extent of these other places to date. The Florida Keys has been quite active in efforts to control the invasive species. REEF puts on a series of fishing derbies throughout Florida and the Caribbean with cash prizes for those who capture the most, largest and smallest lionfish. Last year in Key Largo, the derby brought in 461 fish and bestowed awards of up to $1,000. Dive operators report sightings on the reefs and wrecks so that REEF and other entities who are licensed to capture Lionfish can get to the spot and do just that. So far, at least on the main reef areas, numbers of Lionfish are modest at best. Weather or not this situation will change is anybody’s guess. But these efforts do appear to be helping to limit the proliferation of Lionfish in Keys waters, and has been doing so for some years now, which is hopeful.
We can say that scuba divers diving with Sea Dwellers Dive Center report very modest numbers of Lionfish on dives off Key Largo to date. We can even go a day or two without seeing one on a dive. We can only hope this situation is stable, and hope that the on-going efforts here at controlling these fish continue to work. Anyone interested in assisting REEF can contact them, they would love to hear from you!
Sea Dwellers Dive Center of Key Largo
Last year divers of Sea Dwellers Dive Center started reporting seeing more Carribbean Reef Sharks on dives on the reefs of Key Largo. This trend has accelerated this year as divers are now seeing Reef Sharks on almost every reef dive we do. This has come to the attention of other dive vessels here in Key Largo.
This is a good sign, according to what we’ve learned here at Sea Dwellers Dive Center!
According to the conclusion to a study on this exact subject conducted just last year in Australia; “When shark populations in a coral reef system are severely reduced due to commercial fishing, herbivorous fish that graze on algae may also decline. Fewer herbivorous fish to keep algae growth in check in turn harms coral reefs. Conclusion: Healthy shark populations may aid the recovery of coral reefs whose futures are threatened across the globe”.
And another study conducted last year in Indonesia, where sharks are being over-fished at dramatic levels, concluded; “Reef systems are being hurt by anthropogenic effects from two directions: by environmental changes causing reef collapse at the bottom, and by overfishing of sharks at the top.
As some of you scuba divers may already know from previous posts we’ve made, the reefs of Key Largo are already considered to be some of the most diverse in the Caribbean as far as marine life is concerned. So we’re hoping that this new development is another positive sign for the health of our Barrier reef, which is the only barrier reef in North America.
Best to all,
Sea Dwellers Dive Center of Key Largo
The Good Morning America crew once again visited the Florida Keys and Sea Dwellers Dive Center! Good Morning America has visited us before as some of you may remember, and they were here again. They visited Key West, ate some stone crabs, and more importantly, they discussed the Coral Restoration Foundation. As many of our scuba divers, (that means you), know, the CRF is a great organization devoted to “creating offshore nurseries and restoration programs for threatened coral species” Here is a youtube video for those of you that missed the show.
Sea Dwellers Dive Center of Key Largo has been a supporter of the CRF, and has held 2 events scuba diving events here in Key Largo around the organization hoping to help generate awareness and support of their worthy cause. For more information on the CRF see their website at http://www.coralrestoration.org/
The Sea Dweller Team
This bodes well for scuba diving the Florida Keys, as water temperatures reflect this warm trend. In Key Largo, reef water temps have been between 75 and 78 degrees all through the winter so far. This is something that hasn’t escaped our notice…especially our Scuba Instructors, who certainly prefer the warm temperatures! More importantly, our dive customers have certainly noticed this as reflected in the many positive comments we’ve gotten about dive conditions!
And according to USA Today, “The southernmost point of the United States sits in the Florida Keys, which boast warm February beach weather. Temperatures in the Keys stay constant for most of the year, with highs ranging from 75 to 90 degrees and lows from 65 to 80 degrees. February highs generally reach the mid-70s, with lows in the mid-60s. The Keys stretch for roughly 110 miles and offer beaches on both the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico.”
So get out of the cold and come on down and dive Key Largo with Sea Dwellers Dive Center, you won’t regret it…especially this Winter!
Here at Sea Dwellers Dive Center, we are often asked….what’s it like in Key Largo during the Holidays? If I could only use one word to answer…it would be “busy”. As a matter of fact, the week between Christmas and New Year’s
can be the busiest of the year, especially if the weather is good. And very often, it is. Today the water temp is 77 degrees, topside temp is 84 degrees, skies are clear blue, very sunny. Not bad, huh? So while us dive shop guys are thinking “busy” when talking the Holidays in Key Largo, …I think most people are thinking about other things when they ask this question.
Ultimately, we think the summer is the best overall for diving, but in the winter, there are some advantages. I’m not talking absolutes here mind you….anything is possible, especially these days it seems! But generally, the Holidays in the Keys bring….
Not bad, huh? Must be paradise, right? Well, a lot of the time it is. We hear about all these winter storms up north, blizzards, freezing temps…yikes! For us it’s like trying to imagine living on another planet!
Now in January and February, we can get a little cold. When a cold front pushes through…it could even get to, say…60 degrees!!! I’m not kidding…do you feel sorry for us? We all bundle up, some even put on long pants! (Not socks though, let’s not get ridiculous). The water usually makes it down to around 72 for a couple weeks…(although this year it seems like it might not make it there if December is any indication. But it can get cold for short periods…. In 1976, I awoke in my Miami home to get ready for school, and lo and behold…snow…yes snow was on our green lawn. The next day, the headlines of the Miami Herald….
Certainly Miami is no stranger to “snow”, it’s just that it usually doesn’t fall from the sky. But we didn’t do a lot of diving that winter, and I think tat may have been a “once in my lifetime event”. I don’t expect the current weather trends to get to this point in the near future.
So leave the cold and come on down and go diving in the Keys for the Holidays…we’re expecting more sun and warmth aplenty!
Good diving to all,
Travel is good, especially dive travel, this we know. But why? Let’s discuss the reasons we all love to travel and scuba dive. As some of you may know, now is our slow season in Key Largo; (Always a shame really because our summer is going to last at least another couple months…but that’s another story for another time.)
This is the time that we, the staff at Sea Dwellers, take our vacations. And this year we certainly are doing just that, as everyone of us is either just coming off a trip or are currently on a trip. Most of you, scuba divers who dive with Sea Dwellers in Key Largo as well as other dive destinations, know about the joy of travel also.
Having just returned from a trip, I’ve been thinking about how wonderful it was to get away. I feel rejuvenated from the experience, and the experiences last a lifetime.
For Jon and Mike, traveling has obviously affected their “life journey” if you will, to this day. Both of these guys have been around the world probably more than once, and I love their take on this, great stuff.
Some of the best memories in my life are the Dive trips with my family. I come from a family of divers…my Mom and Dad both big-time divers. Obviously, diving Key Largo was a constant, almost every weekend in the summer months and all summer vacation…and we didn’t have to travel far. I still remember driving down US1 over the first bridge into Key Largo; man I used to love that feeling, and still do. But we also organized group trips of friends and family to Cozumel and the Bahamas to go diving. After college my father and I went on dive trips to more exotic places like the Red Sea, Truk Lagoon, Bonaire and Roatan. Real father-son bonding, and some of the best memories of my life.
My father and I in Honduras
I’ve come to the conclusion that, at least for me, life is about experiences. When I’m on my death bed I don’t think I’ll be thinking about some shiny car I bought but about some of those amazing dives I was able to make with my father in a far-off exotic destination. That’s what life is really all about, isn’t it? (Thanks dad.)
You see, in my mind, experience is better than a tangible object like a car and is just as much of a “possession”. My folks don’t dive anymore, are retired and have moved up to the mountains. But we have these memories, they will always be there. Key Largo, Cozumel, the Red Sea. You can have the shiny car, I have something better, and you never have to trade it in.
Well put Debbie. These days my wife and I travel every year. This year we went to Sardenia and Sicily, places we always wanted to go to. In Sardinia, we went snorkeling almost every day, enjoying the clear blue Mediterranean waters and exploring caves and swim-thrus, just the 2 of us. Sublime. Is there anything better for a relationship? We are lucky that our jobs allow us to take longer trips, and I find that it takes at least several days to clear my mind of all the clutter I have from the usual pace of life. Usually by day 5 or so of our getaway, I find myself in a different state of mind, totally relaxed and free from the stress and worries of our daily lives. A weekend getaway doesn’t do this for me, I need a little longer to get to that…place, that travel can take us to.
Craig has been a US Naval Attache living abroad for many years in several different countries
during his career. What fantastic insight from someone who knows travel!
Traveling opens our minds to other cultures and ways of living, and this can also help us to appreciate what we have
in the good ‘ol US of A. I’m not rich by American standards, but seeing how other people live in places like Honduras, Mexico, Egypt, and even Italy certainly has brought home to me how lucky we are living here in America. I realize that “plenty is enough”, and if I don’t have that new large-screen TV that my neighbor just bought that’s OK. We have our problems, but we still have it good. I wish all Americans would travel, I’m pretty sure it would be good for the health of our country.
We have return customers that have been diving with us for years. They return to Key Largo for the great diving, but
also they return to the same place each year because they feel comfortable here. Like a “second home”. Traveling to Key Largo still takes them away from their normal everyday existance, while still letting them…”escape”, for awhile. They have a sense of comfort returning to the same place. Some call it “deep travel”…getting to really know a place. To experience it “like a native”.
Interestingly enough, when I travel I find that returning home has it’s joys, also. I find that the old saying, “there’s no place like home”, certainly applies in my case. When I finally open the front door to my home after a long trip it’s a wonderful feeling.
Sometimes there are discomforts involved in travel, I consider this the “Price We Pay” for the good times. As most of us know, flying now is not as easy as it used to be. Jet lag, the occasional upset stomach from that great meal we’re not used to eating and other little things can cause discomfort for some. The good news is, like surgery, we usually forget the uncomfortable parts afterwards. I know people who don’t travel just for these reasons, and that’s fine. But personally, I expect these little things and when they happen, consciously accept them and remember that “nothing good comes easy”. For me these wonderful experiences are well worth the minor inconveniences.
As you can tell, most of your staff here at Sea Dwellers Dive Center likes to travel…and it appears that most of our customers like to also. We get divers from many places around the globe; Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Canada, Russia, Denmark, Finland, Norway, France, Italy, the UK, Germany, Turkey, Greece, South Africa, Australia, India, Israel, Jordan, Egypt….most states in the USA…and many more I can’t think of now. These are some of the places off the top of my head I’ve seen on our releases when I check customers in. We feel lucky to have the customers we have, many of which we consider friends and that travel back to Key Largo year after year!
And we all have that one thing in common…or, should I say 2 things…Scuba Diving & Travel. So here’s to the next great travel experience for all of us!
Rob Haff – Sea Dwellers Dive Center of Key Largo