This is the ultimate question, at least from our perspective here at Sea Dwellers Dive Center in Key Largo. We’ve always THOUGHT we knew the answer, or at least had some compelling ideas. We’ve asked our customers to chime in also.
First of all, let’s get one thing straight…. and I know I’m going to catch flak from my friends in the “lower” Keys….but when talking about comparing the diving in the Keys with the rest of the Caribbean, I’m talking about Key Largo…NOT the rest of the Florida Keys. Why? Let me be clear…
Period. End of discussion. By every criteria I can come up with, Key Largo is simply the best compared to any other island in the Keys…Marine life..yes. Water visibility….yep. Most dive locations….yes sir. Most wrecks…right on. We’ve got every category as far as the Keys are concerned, no matter what anybody tells you, and it’s not even close, really Now that doesn’t mean there isn’t any good diving in the rest of the Keys…there are many great locations! We’ve just got more…and better, in every category.
But back to the question why dive Key Largo as compared to other dive locations? There are many great dive locations in the Caribbean, why should you come to Key Largo? We’re talking about giants in the Dive World like Grand Cayman, Bonaire, Turks & Caicos, Bahamas, Roatan…and many others. So how does Key Largo stack up?
“The diving in the Florida Keys isn’t as good as other places in the Caribbean.” We’ve heard this before, maybe you have too…maybe you even believe this yourself. So is it true? Well, what are the criteria? Water visibility…marine life, number of dive locations… topside activities available….friendliness to tourists?
We had some folks here the other day who could not believe that their dives in Key Largo “had so many bloody fish”!
You can tell where they’re from by this statement I guess….but it turns out they’ve been to many locations throughout the Caribbean and on their first trip to the Keys, (Key Largo of course since they were divers)…they were very surprised by the amount of marine life here. And they are not alone. Many divers make the same conclusion after diving here, and many return year after year for this reason.
The REEF Foundation monitors the variety and abundance of marine life throughout the world. It is a great grass-roots organization that incorporates everyday divers like you and I into their process of fish counting. They know about marine life, where it is, and how it compares.
According to REEF, in their TOP 25 dive locations in the Tropical Western Atlantic, Molasses Reef is #10, and French Reef is #21. Now this is among 100’s of locations in all the Caribbean…those places like Grand Cayman, Bonaire, Turks & Caicos…all the big boys are in there.
And Molasses Reef is #10. Only 9 dive locations among hundreds of dive locations have as much as, or more than, the marine life that is found on Molasses Reef here in Key Largo. Not too bad, huh? And how about French Reef….not too shabby either. All this in a location you can drive to. (Not one spot in any of the other Florida Keys made this list, by the way, and again, I don’t say this to bash anyone, it’s just the way it is).
The Keys have always been the spot for reefs and marine life…but now the Artificial Reef Program has been responsible for putting all the Keys in the “World Class” category for wrecks. There’s the Vandenburg in Key West, the MV Adolphus Busch in Big Pine Key, the Thunderbolt in Marathon, the Eagle in Islamorada, and the Duane, the Bibb, and the Speigel Grove in Key Largo. And there are more, but I think the ones I’ve mentioned are all pretty world-class. Other than maybe North Carolina, there simply isn’t any wreck diving like this in North America, and maybe not in the Caribbean.
America’s Caribbean….Key Largo is an hour away from MiamiInternationalAirport, and about an hour and a half from Ft Lauderdale International Airport. Both airports have flights from every major hub in America, many of them direct. And because competition is good for the consumer, they have been competing with each other for the last several years and most domestic flights are at their lowest in years. Or of course you can just drive to Key Largo, unlike any other scuba diving destination with a living barrier reef….you can drive to the Keys.
Many of our customers brought this point up. Surprisingly, we had not thought of it. I guess we take it for granted? Key Lime Pie, Cracked Conch, Conch Fritters, Harvey’s Fish Sandwich, Yellowtail, Hogfish, lobster, blue crab….and of course, the ultimate seafood for those that know….Stone Crabs. Yum yum.
Ok Ok….so this is a little self-serving…and the only statistical data on this is from our biggest fans. But we can tell you that most of our feedback from customers did mention this! (And I’m sure they aren’t biased at all!!!). I can tell you though, there are a lot of folks who have been diving with us for a long time now, which is the best testimony I think, that we’re doing something right.
And the answer is…….of course it’s subjective. But if you’re talking marine life, or wrecks, or great seafood…I think we can make a case that Key Largo just ain’t too shabby compared to the rest of the Caribbean. As a matter of fact, Key Largo stands tall when compared to many other great dive destinations.