…the diving has been really good in Key Largo…

Divers love reef sharks!Man, has the diving been good here lately.  I mean, we’ve been seeing Goliath Groupers, reef sharks, bait balls…and yes, even a Great White Shark! These are things we’ve always seen…at times, but never with this frequency.  After a slow spring, with more bad weather than anyone can remember…for the last 6 weeks things have just been incredible on the reef.

We’re happy about this of course, and we’re also happy to see a lot of divers here also.  It’s been a little slow here  the last few years, but it seems like suddenly divers are taking vacations again…a good sign for businesses here, but also a sign that America is doing better maybe?

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And the health of the reefs has been getting better, we think, at least in the short term as shown by all these critters we’ve been seeing so much of.  This is good for businesses, divers, vacationers…and us, because we simply love the Keys and especially the reef here, the only living coral barrier reef in North America.

So we think this is something to celebrate, and we’ll keep you updated on the critters!

Why Dive Key Largo?

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…

“Key Largo has the best diving in the Keys”

Period. End of discussion.  By every criteria I can come up with, Key Largo is simply the best compared to any other Scuba in the Key Largo Area.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?

 

Big Misconception?

“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?

So why dive Key Largo?

 Overwhelmingly…

Reason #1  Marine life

We had some folks here the other day who could not believe that their dives in Key Largo “had so many bloody fish”!

The Marine life on the reefs of the Florida Keys

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.

 REEF Foundation

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).

Reason #2  Wrecks

sites-small-7The 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.

Reason #3  Island accessibility

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.

Reason #4  Some of the freshest seafood in the world

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.


Reason #5 
Sea Dwellers Dive Center is in Key Largo

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.

 So is Key Largo as good of a dive destination as any in the Caribbean?

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.

So if you love beautiful sunsets, delicious seafood, incredible marine life, great wrecks, and a friendly family atmosphere at
Sea Dwellers Dive Center, come on down and dive Key Largo!

 

 

 

Should divers planning on diving Key Largo worry about Hurricanes?

Prepare for a bit of ranting…I’ve had it with the “frenzy” created by today’s media concerning the weather, (and alot of other things actually but for now let’s stick to the weather).

Storms

Living and diving in Key Largo, we’re used to storms.    The Florida Keys are located just above what is considered the “Tropical Zone” of the Earth, which is the hottest area of the planet located around the equator.  No part of America is in the Tropical Zone…but the Florida Keys is the closest to this…only 90 miles away. So yes, we in the subtropics get rained on more…and get more tropical storms and Hurricanes than other areas.  

But just how many is “more” when talking Hurricanes?

Hurricanes in FloridaThe unique Florida Keys...and Key Largo

Florida is part of the “Hurricane Belt”….according to the National Weather Service,  “the Caribbean Hurricane Belt is an
area in the Atlantic, including the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico that has a high level tendency to get hit by a hurricane.”

So Florida gets lots of hurricanes…right?    Well, statistically here is how this has worked out for the State of Florida;

Total Hurricanes:    According to NOAA  overall, 114 Hurricanes altogether have crossed to Florida Coastline since 1851. That’s an average of 3.5 Hurricanes to hit Florida every 5 years.

Major Hurricanes:  According to NOAA,  “About three major hurricanes cross the U.S. coast every five years, and forty percent of all U.S. hurricanes hit Florida”.  So this means that approximately 1.2 major Hurricanes every 5 years on average have crossed Florida Coastline since NOAA has been keeping records since 1851.

Note:  These stats are for the entire state of Florida..NOT the Florida Keys.  How many have affected the Keys?  It’s hard to find any hard stats…I’ve been trying and can’t find any reliable data.

Hurricanes in the Florida Keys… evacuations tell the story?

This would be a good indicator of how many Hurricanes affect us here in the Keys I think?  I could only get hard stats from 1995 until now…but this includes the period of  “high activity” we are living in now according to NOAA based on recorded history since 1851.

So these numbers should be REAL high..right?

Truth #1 – In the last 18 years, Monroe County has ordered a total of 15 Mandatory Evacuations according to Monroe County Emergency Management.

Truth #2 – Of these 15 evacs, 7 were in 2 years, 2004 & 2005, the worst 2 years on record for Hurricanes in the united States.

Truth #3 – Of these 15 “evacuation events” in the last 18 years…Key West has seen 6 Hurricanes produce Hurricane force winds on their island.

*Truth #4 –  Only 3 of these evacuation events produced Hurricane force winds in Key Largo, and  7 total affected our weather in a negative fashion.

That’s 7 times in 18 years the weather went bad in Key Largo as a result of a passing Hurricane. And during that time, Key Largo has not been hit directly even once.  

How can that be you ask?   Well one reason is that Hurricanes, while looking very big on the radar when CNN, FOX, and all the rest show it over and over and over to us, actually have Hurricane force winds generally only near the center, or eye, of the storm.  Andrew, the biggest Hurricane to hit South Florida in the modern era, had Hurricane force winds extending out only about 60 miles from it’s center when it hit South Miami.

*Note, “Truth #4”, unlike the other truths above…are based only on our diving records here at Sea Dwellers Dive Center since we could not find any hard data relating specifically to this .  If anyone can find anything different, we’d love to hear it.  But understand this is based on our Dive Trip logs, which stretch back to 1994 as luck would have it, and we can tell you if/when we ran dive trips to the reef on any given day of any of these years.  So while I can’t give you NOAA stats on this particular “truth”, it is a “truth on the ground” and we can back it up with our dive trip logs. And I promise we don’t run diving trips in Hurricane force winds, or anything close to it!

So should divers planning a visit to Key Largo be worried about Hurricanes?

So in the last 18 years, a time when according to the National Hurricane Center has been the most active since keeping records, Key Largo has seen hurricane force winds from a passing Hurricane only 3 times, and has not been directly hit even once.

I’ll let everyone who reads this make their own conclusions about Hurricanes in general, and I certainly don’t want to imply that they aren’t dangerous, they certainly can be WHEN they hit an area.  Heck, Key Largo could be hit directly in the next week or so.  But as far as divers making plans to go on their dive vacation in Key Largo, I’m just not sure that Hurricanes should play into their plan-making.

Statistically speaking, if you’re coming here for a few days or a week, it’s a pretty darn good bet you won’t be seeing any part of a Hurricane.   So come on down, let’s go dive Key Largo!

Happy 4th of July!

One of my staff was diving Molasses Reef the other day, enjoying the bait ball we’ve had there for over a week now, and he said the obvious hit him suddenly…the marine life here is really awesome!    As a matter of fact, the marine life today in the Florida Keys is more abundant and diverse than it was 10 to 15 years ago, in our humble opinion.  Now to those of you who dive key largo and already knew that, it does seem obvious.

But in this world we live in now this should really be applauded.  Today we find many of our natural resources under attack from things like pollution, climate change, and lack of government funding for protection due to deficits, etc.   It’s very easy to talk about the negatives here on the only barrier coral reef in North America, of which there are still plenty.  And yet despite this, the marine ecosystem here in the Florida Keys has seen some positives over recent history, as shown most dramatically in the abundance of marine life we’re seeing these days.  Dive Key Largo

In 1990, the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary was established, along with many rules and regulations that some were concerned about.  But with this also came government  funding, for the protection of our waters and the ecosystem here.  I believe we have seen the benefits of this at this point, and while there are still many problems we face here, there are tangible improvements that we all can see today on our reefs…that we all can enjoy!

We at Sea Dwellers think this is something to celebrate…Happy 4th of July America!

Bait Ball on Molasses Reef !

Bait Ball on Molasses ReefWell for the last few days, a big bait ball has been living, or trying to live…on Molasses reef.  It’s been exciting…several caribbean reef sharks have been circling it, feeding on it as the small fish struggle to make it past the next deadly pass.

Sorry to say, while it’s been fun to watch, it won’t last long…as the ball is getting smaller and smaller and smaller….