Key Largo… America’s Caribbean!

The Beautiful Island of Key Largo!

The Monroe County Tourist Development Council has produced this wonderful video of our beautiful island of Key Largo!    We think it’s a great run down of all the wonderful things to do here in paradise!  It’s not ONLY about scuba diving in Key Largo, (although it’s the best in America)!  There are many outdoor activities to do once you get off the Dive Boat… the Keys are a unique ecosystem of mangrove islands so you can immerse in this sub-tropical environment. Kayaking, surf boarding, eco-tours, fishing and of course snorkeling and scuba diving abound!

We hope you enjoy the video, we sure did! Happy Diving to all!

Spotted Eagle Rays in Key Largo


Video by Aaron Davitt

Key Largo Marine Life

Key Largo is known for it’s diverse and abundant Marine Life.  Particularly the schooling fishes such as Snappers, Grunts, Goatfish, Spadefish, Parrotfish, etc. This this is why divers return again and again to dive here.  But Key Largo also frequently sees many of the bigger Pelagics on it’s reefs and wrecks. One of the favorites for our divers is the beautiful and majestic Spotted Eagle Ray. 

The Spotted Eagle Ray

According to Oceana: “Reaching widths of nearly 11 feet (over 3 m), the spotted eagle ray is one of the largest rays, with only the mantas growing bigger. Spotted eagle rays, like all eagle rays, are active swimmers and do not lie motionless on the seafloor, like the closely related whiptail stingrays (e.g., southern stingray). They are foraging predators and are known to eat a variety of invertebrate and fish prey. Just like the name implies, the spotted eagle ray is covered in spots and other markings. It is unmistakable with any other species throughout its range.”

We see Spotted Eagle rays alone, or in pairs, and every so often in schools. Over the years we have seen as many as 20 together gliding across the reef…a sublime sight!  Eagle Rays are not fished commercially, by do end up as “bycatch” by commercial fishermen, and again according to Oceana, their numbers are declining due to this in tandem with their low reproductive rate…having between 1-4 pups per litter.  

Diving Key Largo is great for marine life, large and small. The beautiful Spotted Eagle Ray is a scuba diver’s favorite, and we’re grateful they choose to share the Key Largo reefs with us and our divers!

Aaron Davitt - Key LargoA special thanks to Videographer Aaron Davitt
for this awesome Video

 

– Your Sea Dwellers Dive Center Crew

 

Coral Restoration Foundation Citizen Scientist Program!

Are you a scuba diver with a passion for the coral reefs?

Do you want to help save coral reefs from extinction?

At Sea Dwellers Dive Center, our answer is an emphatic YES to both!

Here’s how… 

The Coral Restoration Foundation (CRF) Citizen Scientist Program is a way to be involved and help protect our beautiful coralCRF Saving the Reefs in the Florida Keys! reefs here in the Florida Keys.  Sea Dwellers Dive Center will be taking scuba charters on a regular basis out to CRF reef sites to monitor planted coralks using the fun, easy-to-use smartphone app, OkCoral, you can use your recreational dives on the Florida Reef Tract to help us answer vital questions about the health and survivorship of our coral outplants. This data will make a significant contribution to the success of our mission of coral restoration!

Your data will help us begin to answer things like “which reef habitat has greater coral survivorship?” or “are there differences in genotype performances?” and many other questions.

Coral Restoration Foundation Citizen Scientists can be snorkelers or divers. All you need is a smartphone* and a way of recording data or taking pictures underwater! Dive Key Largo while helping to preserve our precious Florida Keys Reef!

Sea Dwellers Dive Center “CRF Citizen Scientist Dive Schedule” Key Largo Dive Center in the Florida Keys!CRF helping Florida Keys Reefs!
…call 1-800-451-3640 for dates & details!


Coral Restoration Foundation

Play the gameGet the… OkCoral App

The OkCoral App quickly brings you up to speed using an intuitive swipe-based game. Playing OkCoral will train you on:

  • Identifying the differences between staghorn and elkhorn corals
  • How to spot the difference between living and dead corals
  • Identifying corals that have grown together and fused, and those that haven’t

Get Involved, help preserve the Reefs for generations to come!

-Your Sea Dwellers Dive Center Staff

Scuba Diving – The Best Kind of Therapy

Instructor Shorey
Instructor Shorey


In a world where it can be challenging to find clarity and substance; and self-growth is often overlooked, we are  
given extraordinary opportunities as divers to learn more about ourselves. It does not matter if you are a seasoned recreational scuba diver, a dive professional, or beginning an open water class next week. The fact is both diving and the ocean have an impressive ability to be therapeutic, lend lessons, and heighten self-awareness about all aspects of ourselves in life. Surprisingly enough we may not even realize it.

Diving the clear blue waters!

Among the diverse dive community throughout the world, we have a commonality, a desire to examine the underwater world. It is easy to forget how crucial the ocean is in our everyday lives; it provides a significant source of protein to many worldwide and supplies half of our breathable air. As we humor our curiosities through exploration of the deep, we are granted moments to receive powerful information, not just about the ocean, or the amazing world of diving, but about ourselves. Many of these findings have absolutely nothing to do with diving, rather are manifested through diving processes and the water; from planning that may take months, prepping gear, dive execution, or simply meditating underwater enjoying beautiful Molasses Reef here in Key Largo. As we learn to control ourselves in the ocean, control our equipment, and become more experienced divers, we gain confidence.

This enables us to expand personally, enjoy our dive experiences,
gain a higher sense of appreciation, and last but not least- HAVE FUN!

Trumpet Fish on the wreck of the benwoodDiving is fun!Sea Fan Molasses ReefI have encountered much of this in my experiences diving at all levels. Most of the time well after a dive- weeks, months, or even years! I know that these experiences have helped me mold who I am, in everyday life. And there’s no need to search, I feel like it just happens. On the contrary, I feel that many potential self-awareness opportunities have gone right over my head! And there is nothing wrong with that! Most often it is welcoming to take a break from our lives, take in the ocean, and just dive; which is therapeutic in and of itself. Not everyone has a desire to tap into their consciousness. I truly believe people grow when they want it.  (Here’s a great article that explores scuba diving as Therapy.)

Schooling Spadefish off key LargoThis post is simply a reminder that a higher level to diving exists beyond advancing in certifications, mastering skills, getting the latest and greatest equipment, or knowing all the hot tips and tricks. But remember, all of those examples are what potentially catalyzes further awareness. I encourage all future and current divers to come join us for some beautiful diving, lots of fun, and gorgeous weather here in Key Largo. Escape to paradise to take a break and clear your head of the daily stressors on land. And if you choose, tap into yourself, through enrichment and discovery.


“Sometimes all we need is a solid break from our everyday lives to consciously focus 
on our personal development.”

Sea Dwellers Dive Center Instructor Shorey Condon

A Merry Christmas in Key Largo

A Good Holiday Season in “lucky” Key Largo!

Christmas in Key Largo

2017 is over.  Whew! And while my father wisely told me when I was younger, “never wish your life away”, I have to admit that, like many people down here in the Florida Keys, I cannot say I’m sorry to see 2017 over with.  It was a tough year for many people in the Florida Keys, as well as many islands in the Caribbean.  After 10 – 12 years of relative quiet, multiple Hurricanes ravaged different parts of the Caribbean.  Irma, Harvey, Maria… and many people lost many things dear to them.

Which brings me back to my island, Key Largo.  Yes, we were affected by Irma. Most of us lost power for at least for a few days, and some low areas on the ocean saw some flooding. We all were in “cleanup mode” for weeks, clearing downed trees, etc. Key Largo certainly looked like a mess. Scuba diving certainly wasn’t on our minds in the weeks afterwards!

But man, Key Largo was lucky.

scuba diving in Key Largo over the Holidays

Key Largo was spared the direct hit when the storm drifted West and made landfall about 85 miles south of us in the Lower Keys. Consequently, the southern islands of the Florida Keys are far from recovered, and the last I heard some still do not have power.  Buildings are being repaired, homes gutted and moving towards restoration, boats still in places they shouldn’t be in…it goes on.  And then there are the islands further south… Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, and poor little Anguilla!  When I heard that Anguilla was due to get hit by a second Cat 5 storm in less than a month…wow!  I cannot imagine what those poor folks must be going through and my heart bleeds for them, their families and their homes. Not to mention their livelihoods.  scuba with friends in the Florida keys

The 2017 Holiday Season

Business has been down in Key Largo for sure since the storm.  Many folks still don’t know, understandably, that Key Largo was spared the worst aspects of Irma. Many don’t know the island is open for business and has been for at least a couple months and if you were to drive down to Key Largo tomorrow, it would be tough to know there was a Hurricane here at all.   Diving with Sea Dwellers

Group diving in the KeysDecember was our best month so far since Irma, and the Holiday season, which is one of the busiest couple weeks here normally, was pretty great,  Many folks were in town, the weather was sunny, the scuba diving good, hotels full, and businesses here had a great shot in the arm.  It was a wonderful thing for everyone on Key Largo after a tough Fall.  So now I can only think about our brothers down south in the lower Keys and what they are still dealing with, and my heart goes out to them. Same for those further out in the Caribbean, because after all, we are all brothers on this planet ultimately, right?  So I’m more aware then ever of the difficulties still facing many as a result of the busy storm season we just had in 2017. And after a good Holiday Season in Key Largo, I can’t help but to feel truly fortunate and thankful.  

You see, Key Largo was very Lucky.

 

Thanks to all – Your Sea Dweller Staff

 

 

 

Saving the Reefs in Key Largo. A Divemaster’s Perspective.

Divemaster Natalie at Sea Dwellers Dive Center
Divemaster Natalie

In the end we will only conserve what we love…”

-Baba Dioum

I graduated from Denison University in Ohio with a degree in biology and environmental studies. Before attending graduate school for marine conservation, I wanted to take some time off and gain experience, so I moved down to the sunny Florida Keys to be by the ocean and focus on the marine environment.  Not to mention….to go scuba diving!  I had always heard that Florida Keys diving is the best in the states,  and in particular, in Key Largo, known as the “Dive Capital of America”.   Since moving down here, I have had the opportunity to witness Florida’s environment changing; from working/diving with Sea Dwellers Dive Center, to volunteering in the Everglades, this is truly a unique destination with a huge amount of biodiversity.

With the recent release of Chasing Coral on Netflix, coral reefs have never been such a hot button topic. Watching the coral bleaching events they recorded on the Great Barrier Reef and the rapid degradation of fish life in that ecosystem is heartbreaking. This documentary is informative as it shows the viewer the rapid changes that reefs are undergoing, but it focuses in only one area of the world. So what about the reefs of the Florida Keys?

In recent history, coral reefs have been faced with large scale bleaching due to warmer water temperatures and ocean acidification. In Chasing Coral you are shown a rapid bleaching event, but it doesn’t always happen that quickly. In the Keys, we have faced a few bleaching events and the reefs are not thriving as they once were even five years ago. The reefs are still abundant with marine life and are gorgeous to dive, but there are a lot more white corals and algae covered corals appearing on our reefs.  The reefs are changing.

The vast majority of scientists agree, the decline of coral reefs globally is unarguably driven by humans. The rapid rate at which these events are occurring make it hard forKey Largo diving on the reef some corals to evolve to these changes and this is one of the main reason we are seeing these massive coral die outs. Scientists have already identified the issues and have proposed solutions to these problems years ago, however, getting widespread change has only started to become more pressing as the world is realizing what climate change is affecting.

Widespread change will not begin to happen until individuals start to make changes in their daily lives.


Things you can do to help reduce your footprint and stave off climate change to help our Reefs in Key Largo survive;

  1. Buy a reusable water bottle! Plastics are one of the main marine pollutants and are responsible for killing many marine organisms every year.
  2. Use reusable grocery bags. Going along with the plastic theme, less is best! Plus, most grocery stores will take a small amount of money off your bill for bringing your own bags.
  3. Car pool, ride bikes, use public transportation. The emissions from cars are one of the greenhouses gases responsible for climate change.
  4. Eat less meat. You don’t need to cut it out of your diet completely, but factory farms are one of the main sources that greenhouse gases are emitted from, and billions of gallons of water are used to keep a farm running. One hamburger is the equivalent of someone taking 32 showers, so the less meat you consume, less water will be used and the stress on the environment will be lessened.
  5. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. But mostly reduce. Many people have begun to recycle both at home and at work, which is wonderful! But out of the three r’s, the least you can do is recycle. The best thing to do is reduce your consumption of goods. Less plastics purchased means less plastics that need to be produced!
  6. Be a responsible boater. This means making sure you don’t anchor on a reef or ground your boat on a reef.
  7. Be a responsible fisherman. With the return of mini season upon us for lobsters, it is important to remember that while it is exciting to find and catch lobster, be mindful of what you’re touching and standing on when you’re looking. Touching coral can hurt or kill it, and breaking pieces off because you were trying to catch a lobster isn’t benefitting anything. Additionally, that means not fishing in sanctuaries, out of season, bringing in undersize fish/lobster, and adhering to the guidelines for your local area.
  8. Dive with a Blue Star Operator. Boats and dive shops that are blue star operators have made a commitment to protect and educate about coral reef conservation. Sea Dwellers is a Blue Star Operator 
  9. Be a responsible diver. This means not touching the reef, not standing on the reef, and keeping all your gauges and consoles from dangling below you. As a diver you are mainly down there as an observer, which means not touching or chasing the wildlife.
  10. Don’t fly first class. Flying emits a lot of greenhouse gases into the environment and contributes to about 5% of warming annually. This number will continue to increase every year as air travel becomes more popular. So, don’t fly first class. The larger seats and extra room means that there are less people that can be on one flight, so each individual on that flight has a larger carbon footprint in turn.
  11. Contribute to the CRF – The Coral Restoration Foundation is doing amazing things cultivating, growing, and transplanting corals onto existing reefs and also new areas that are deemed able to start a new reef.  Direct action at it’s best!

Another great piece of news is that with the growth and popularity of scuba diving in the last 15 years, more people are Abundant marine life on these Key Largo dive sites!seeing firsthand the effects of climate change. This means that more people will care about these bleaching events and die offs and more people will want to do their part to help prevent more bleaching events. As Baba Dioum said, “In the end we will conserve only what we love…” and I believe that to be true, so if you aren’t a scuba diver, there is another reason to become certified. As a diver, you will want to protect your favorite dive spots and return year after year and if anything changes hopefully see new growth. For more information, see this link to the NRDC website. 

Together we can make a difference, the marine life you see on your next dive will appreciate it!

 

Divemaster NatalieSea Dwellers Dive Center of Key Largo

Jacques Cousteau | The “Father of Scuba Diving”

I remember clearly to this day watching on our television as an Octopus slithered towards the round glass jar sitting on the reef bottom with a large lobsterJacques Cousteau Underwater World inside of it.   A big cork was covering the opening of the glass jar, and was the only thing keeping the octopus from devouring the lobster.  Slowly the octopus inspected the jar with it’s arms, (octopus do not have “tenacles” they have arms), covering all surfaces of the jar repeatedly.  Eventually, this amazingly intelligent creature zeroed in on the cork and r Recognizing that it was the key to his meal, he popped it open and that was it for the poor hapless lobster!

“The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau”

This was the show, a series back in the 70’s and I was a huge fan.  I did not miss an episode, and it was one of the main reasons I knew I wanted to be a scuba diver from a very early age. Growing up in South Florida the underwater environment was always front and center, and I was a huge fan of Jacques Cousteau like many others of my generation. The series was about the intrepid undersea explorer circling the globe on his floating scientific laboratory, the Calypso.  What adventures he had! A pioneer in marine study, the red-capped Frenchman introduced generations of people to the mysteries of the seas.

Scaub diving with jacques CousteauMany younger scuba divers today are not aware, but in 1942, Cousteau invented an underwater demand valve system that could supply divers with air when they breathed. This demand regulator was called “Aqua-Lung”, (same as the scuba equipment manufacturer today), and it eventually opened the door to scuba diving for everyone.

The Birth of Recreational Diving

“The impact of the Aqua-Lung cannot be overstated. It was the first efficient and safe scuba set that allowed divers to stay underwater for long periods of time at deep depths. It was a small contraption with a simple design that was reliable and relatively inexpensive. This monumental advance in diving technology laid the foundation for the creation and growth of the recreational scuba diving market. Up until that point, diving equipment, though widely used for military and commercial purposes, was not available to the general public for recreational or sport purposes. The very idea of diving for fun, or to explore, was virtually unheard of.”  See source link

A Setback for Calypso

Some time ago, the Cousteau Society set out to bring back the Iconic Calypso, starting with renovating the ship. Now it seems that although the renovations were pushing ahead, there has been a setback. On September 12 at around 2:30 am, a fire broke out and damaged the legendary ship.  I’ll hope that one day the Calypso can ply the waters again in honor of Cousteau and everything he accomplished.

As I sit here in Key Largo, Florida Keys, sometimes referred to as the “Dive Capital of the World”, how can I not but look back admiringly at the undisputed “Father of Scuba Diving” Jacques Cousteau?  As someone who has been fortunate enough to make a living doing something he loves, scuba diving, I can only look back at this giant admiringly, and offer him my silent gratitude.  A gratitude that began when I was but a child.

-Rob Haff

 

Best Scuba Diving Florida Keys

So you ask…where is the Best Scuba Diving Florida Keys?

Best scuba diving florida keys

So you fly into Miami, maybe Ft Lauderdale, and a little over an hour later you’re driving across a bridge onto the first island of the Florida Keys, Key Largo.  You see the natural beauty of this unique ecosystem all around you. Plush green tropical islands surrounded by blue water and bridges spanning the distance between them, sometimes over distances too far to see both ends. Beautiful and unique in North America.  This is why the Florida Keys are sometimes referred to as “America’s Caribbean”. After your drive down from the mainland, you are in Key Largo. You’ve heard it said that the best diving Florida Keys is in Key Largo, right? Could this be true and if so, why?

Geography Means best Scuba Diving Florida Keys is Key Largo!

Key Largo is one of the longest continuous land masses separating the waters of the Florida Bay, (the West side of the islands), from the water flowing through our reefs on the Atlantic side, (the East side of the islands).   These Florida Bay waters, and then the Gulf of Mexico waters farther south, have a different temperature and salinity content than the waters on the Atlantic side of the islands.  When you have these waters mix over the reefs, it is damaging to their development.  Hence, Key Largo provides the largest barrier to this happening and has always therefore had a larger, healthier reef track than the other islands in the Florida Keys. So yes, the “best scuba diving Florida Keys” is off Key Largo!

Molasses Reef Find the Best scuba diving Florida Keys!

To be more specific, the largest, most dynamic reef in all the Florida Keys is Molasses Reef off Key Largo.  It is by far one of the most famous Dive Sites not only in the Florida Keys, but also all the Caribbean!  According to the REEF Foundation, Molasses Reef has one of the largest and most diverse fish populations in all the Caribbean, we are proud to say!    The best scuba diving in the Florida Keys in general is off key Largo, specifically, the best dive site in the Florida keys is Molasses Reef.

When divers explore for the “best scuba diving Florida Keys“, they need not travel past the first island in the Best scuba diving & Schooling fish!Florida Keys chain coming south from Miami.  Key Largo is known as the “Dive Capital of the World” for good reason, it’s close, and beautiful!

  • Your Sea Dwellers Staff

 

 

 

 

 

 

Diving Key Largo after Hurricane Irma – Video

Hurricane Veers South of Key Largo, hits Lower Keys….first direct hit on Florida Keys in 25 years.

As most of you probably know by now, Key Largo was very fortunate that Hurricane Irma veered west and ended up making landfall almost 80 miles south of the island in the Lower Keys.  Conversely, we feel deeply for our neighbors in the Lower Keys for getting the direct hit from the Hurricane.  They are suffering from the effects and can use any and all support.  See link for Irma Hurricane Relief…

Donate to Hurricane Irma Relief

Despite Key Largo’s close call, we had some concerns of course about our reefs as a result of 100 mph winds. Your Sea Dwellers staff went diving yesterday on Molasses Reef and French Reef, which were the areas of biggest concern for us. Sea Dwellers Instructor Dave Jefferiss was on the trip and was kind enough to provide a video of the dives. You can gauge for yourself, but we’re happy to report that the reefs fared well. The sand channels have been dredged out some, which always happens when we get high winds, but more so than normal due to the length of time that we felt these winds from Hurricane Irma.

Irma was the first Hurricane to make landfall in the Florida Keys in 25 years, (Andrew 1992). 

We feel very lucky here in Key Largo, and accordingly we feel for our brothers in the Lower Keys.  One of the ways we feel lucky is the state of our reefs, little affected by the winds we did get. One of the best ways you can help support all the Florida Keys is by booking a vacation down here as soon as you can.  Key Largo and Islamorada are already open for business, and very soon the Lower Keys will be open also, as we are very resilient here with these storms.

You can visit the Florida Keys Tourist Developement website to help you plan your next visit, and the Sea Dwellers Dive Center of Key Largo Website to plan your Key Largo scuba diving vacation right away, we’re open for business and looking forward to diving with you soon!   Special thanks to Dive Instructor Dave Jefferiss for the video clip!

Your Sea Dwellers Dive Center Staff –

Sea Dwellers Instructor Daniel’s Key Largo Video!

Sea Dwellers’ Instructor Daniel shows us his take on Key Largo diving!  An awesome video that highlights the great and diverse Marine Life scuba divers experience while diving Key Largo!

 

Instructor Daniel in Key Largo
Sea Dwellers Instructor Daniel

All the creatures are here, and most importantly, the Octopus! We’re partial to Octopus, as some of you may know…this one was awesome, don’t you think? Moray eels, turtles, sharks both Nurse & Reef…you name it it can be found on the reefs while scuba diving Key Largo! The marine life in Key Largo is unmatched in the Caribbean, as those who have been diving in the Caribbean know…it’s our little secret!

A big thanks to Daniel, for this awesome video, but also for working with us this Spring! Daniel is a great Instructor, and a great guy, he will be missed! BTW Daniel is now in Hawaii, gonna provide some great Instruction there and enjoy Paradise, Pacific style!   All the best to him and we hope to see him again in Key Largo!

– Your Sea Dwellers Dive Center Staff