While “surfing” the web for Florida Keys info and news, I came across a very nice article from “The Daily Meal” website titled “12 Ways the Florida Keys Are Unlike Anywhere Else on Earth”. Its a cool article, and a cool website for foodies by the way, please check it out when you can.
It got me thinking about our islands down here, the Florida Keys, and how unique they really are to the North American Continent. The Florida Keys is the only area on the North American continent that exhibits traits of a “Tropical” environment by definition, (although technically just north of the official tropical zone boundary). The rest of South Florida and parts of Texas and Mexico have sub-tropical conditions.
The Florida Keys have been referred to as America’s Caribbean” for a myriad of reasons, starting with the “tropical” environment listed above. But they are also home to the only living coral barrier reef in North America. Obviously as many know, this makes it the go-to spot for scuba diving for most Americans. No passport required!
When you are in the Keys, doesn’t it just feel like you are in the “tropics”? Meaning everything that we simply think of when talking “tropics”! Lots of sunshine, (the most sunny days in North America), palm trees, beautiful blue water surrounding you at every turn….seafood shacks, great fishing, great Key Largo scuba diving, (oh, I already mentioned that didn’t I?). You get the picture?
The Florida Keys are simply, “one of a kind”. Probably not a secret to many of you, and why you keep coming down to visit us year after year! We hope that continues, and we think it will if the last few years are any indication…Key Largo and the Florida Keys have been busier than ever! Come on down, the sun, seafood, palm tress and great scuba diving are here waiting for you!
Sea Dwellers Dive Center Staff –
We’re happy to report that the summer of 2017 has been a great one for scuba diving. We’ve seen an up tick of business for the last 2 years now, we’re happy to report, and one of the reasons is…great scuba diving! Our Captains cannot remember so many calm, clear days as we’ve been blessed with for these last couple years. Good news for divers for sure. And while we’ve all heard about the fragile reefs being endangered by rising water temps, a few big players in the Marine Conservation world have announced some big news to help counter this…(see below).
I know I know, we’ve said this before…but heck, we’re going to say it again…the darn marine life down here in Key Largo is simply fantastic! Caribbean Reef Sharks (on most dives now), Spotted Eagle Rays, Tarpon, squid, Goliath Groupers, just to name some of the critters we’ve been seeing on our reefs and wrecks. Add this to the calm seas and you’ve got great scuba diving. We’re fortunate to have many of our scuba divers give us pics of some of the marine life off Key Largo they’ve been seeing.
We’re happy to announce that the Mote Marine Laboratory and The Nature Conservancy are “partnering on a coral conservation initiative that will enable coral restoration at unprecedented scales throughout the Caribbean and the Florida Keys”.
You’ve heard about the Coral Restoration Foundation and the great things they are doing for Florida Keys reefs, and now some other big guys in the Marine Conservation world are joining the action. It’s encouraging on many fronts!
“A collaborative research effort with the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (FKNMS), the Nature Conservancy (TNC) and Mote is making great advances in developing culture methods for hard corals at Mote’s Tropical Research Laboratory field station in the Florida Keys.”
All of this good news for Key Largo, the Florida Keys, and of course all you scuba divers out there with an appreciation for our beautiful, yet endangered coral reefs. Your crew here at Sea Dwellers appreciates everyone who has been scuba diving with us this summer, and we hope to see you down here again real soon!
Sea Dwellers Dive Center of Key Largo
To most divers who know, Key Largo diving means marine life, and lots of it! In particular, Key Largo and the Florida Keys are known for it’s schooling fishes…and it’s a world class destination in this regard! When people think of coming to Key Largo to Scuba dive, most regular visitors think about these two related species. Whether its looking at large schools of them on the reef, or enjoying a dinner of yellow tail snapper after a fun day of diving, Key Largo makes it’s living on Snappers!
Snapper get their name from their behavior of snapping their jaws when they are hooked. The Grunt, a member of the Snapper family, makes an unusual “grunt” sound when they grind their teeth together. All Snappers are nocturnal feeders and gather in small to large groups which drift in the shadows and under overhangs during the day.
Probably the most frequently seen schooling fish are Blue Stripped Grunts. These were shot on Snapper Ledge, one of our most famous dive sites for schooling fish.
On Molasses reef scuba divers frequently see schools of mahogany snapper mixed in with French grunts. Small mouth grunts can be identified by their smaller size as well as their distinctive yellow stripes.
The Mutton Snapper is one of the larger members of the Snapper family. The larger Snappers tend to be more solitary, and generally can be a bit skittish around scuba divers.
Most fishermen agree…pound for pound, the Snapper is one of the toughest fish to haul in by by hook & Line…
This is a small selection of the members of the Snapper family that you can expect to see when you are scuba diving Key Largo waters with Sea Dwellers Dive Center. Next time you come diving with us, why don’t you try to count the number of different types of Grunts and Snappers you can identify on each dive? It is almost impossible to do a dive off Key Largo without seeing at least two or three species, and I think you will be surprised to see what a large selection you come up with. There are about 10 different species of Snappers commonly seen while diving Key Largo waters.
Thanks to all!
Your Sea Dwellers Staff!
We’re proud to announce this new blog…part of the “Meet the Scuba Instructor” Series, starting with Jeremy Weeks! Instructor Jeremy has been with Sea Dwellers for almost 9 years now, and has certified quite a few divers at this point! We’re happy to say that we get a lot of good feedback about Jeremy from our customers, (just check out our TripAdvisor Page)…which is good for everyone. Scuba diving is not a “natural” thing for many folks starting out, and Jeremy has a knack for making people comfortable in the water so they can enjoy diving. At Sea Dwellers we believe that “diving is fun”, and should not be a high-pressure situation, so we strive to create an easy-going, safe atmosphere for people to learn in. All of our Instructors have adopted this philosophy, and we pride ourselves on our Instruction. Being a good Dive Instructor starts with enjoying what you do, and as you will see from this interview, Jeremy loves to scuba dive!
A special thanks to our good friend and great scuba diver Tomek for creating this wonderful video! Tomek is part of the JetBlue Team, and we’re extremely proud to consider ourselves the “JetBlue Dive Center”!
You can check out Tomek, Jeremy, Sea Dwellers and some of the JetBlue staff we’ve certified here on the “Scuba Blue” website!
We hope you enjoy Jeremy’s Interview and thanks to all!
Sea Dwellers Dive Center of Key Largo
“We were diving Key Largo, Molasses Reef, myself and 2 new students when we came upon a young Loggerhead Turtle. I hastened to coax my students along so we could take a look at him before he swam away. As it turned out, he decided we were interesting enough and spent about 10 minutes swimming with us… a wonderful dance for my students and I!” – Sea Dwellers’ Instructor Rob
How many times we’ve experienced the happy face of a diver after an encounter with a Sea Turtle on a Key Largo dive! These special encounters prove the uncertainty of a Turtle’s behavior; at times skittish, simply swimming away quickly when glancing a diver… and sometimes the opposite; content to simply swim right on up to a scuba diver and “check things out”. The latter is one of the great joys of scuba diving Key Largo…being able to swim with and interact with one of these beautiful, interesting creatures on a coral reef!
Male sea turtles actually spend their entire lives in the ocean. Adult females do return to beaches on land to lay their eggs, and they often migrate long distances between the areas where they feed and where they nest. There are seven species of marine turtles, five of which are found in the waters of the Florida Keys. These air-breathing reptiles are well adapted to life in the marine world, with streamlined bodies and large flippers.
A close relative of the Green Turtle, the Hawksbill Turtle is named for their narrow, pointed beak-like nose. One way to tell the difference between the Green and the Hawksbill is the Hawksbill has 2 pairs of plates between the eyes, the Green only one.
The Hawksbill has a very distinctive pattern of overlapping scales on their shells which can be quite beautiful. Unfortunately, these colored and patterned shells make them highly-valuable and commonly sold as “tortoiseshell” in markets, according to the WWF.
Hawksbills are found mostly throughout the world’s tropical oceans, commonly on coral reefs. They feed mainly on sponges, using their pointed beaks to extract them from corals crevices on reefs. They also eat sea anemones and jellyfish. This is probably the most common turtle for divers diving Key largo waters.
The most abundant of all the marine turtle species in U.S. waters, the Loggerhead is also one of the easiest to identify due to…yes, because of it’s huge head. Often seen “sleeping” while nestled among the coral, they are also known to be one of the most comfortable when interacting with scuba divers.
But persistent population declines due to pollution, shrimp trawling, and development in their nesting areas, among other factors, have kept this wide-ranging sea creature on the threatened species list since 1978.
The Florida Keys were known for it’s large population of Green Turtles decades ago before they were hunted by humans to near extinction worldwide. A very close relative of the Hawksbill, Greens are considered very good to eat. I hate to admit it, but I remember as a little boy eating turtle sandwiches with my parents at Manny & Isa’s Restaurant in Islamorada, our favorite spot back then. Of course at the time we had no idea that they were being fished into near-extinction. But I know now, and I wouldn’t eat sea turtle anywhere!
Sea turtles are the living representatives of a group of reptiles that has existed on Earth and travelled our seas for the last 100 million years. They are a fundamental link in marine ecosystems and help maintain the health of coral reefs and sea grass beds. – WWF
I remember very well running the Sea Dweller III out to the reef one day many years ago, and coming upon a huge, black object on the surface of the water. Coming up beside it, I realized that it was moving…and it was like nothing I had ever seen before! With huge dark ridges and about 5 – 6 feet long, I realized that it was a Leatherback Turtle. A truly amazing site!
While rare, they are found in Florida Keys waters, (I’ve never had a diver on the boat say they saw one underwater on a dive). The Leatherback is the largest of the turtles and the largest reptile living today. They can grow to be over 6 feet and can weigh upwards of 2,000 pounds. They are the only turtle that lacks a hard, bony shell.
We hope to continue to Dive Key Largo waters with Sea Turtles, as they are one of the reasons we dive in the first place! While human activity has helped to endangered them, we can also act to save them! With awareness and an appreciation of the fragility of these magnificent creatures, we can all contribute to their preservation! Now let’s go scuba diving and find some more turtles…
Thanks to all!
Rob & Your Sea Dwellers Staff
Here at Sea Dwellers Dive Center of Key Largo, we know how we feel about scuba diving! You could say we kind of like it…a lot actually, and we’re going to assume you more or less feel the same way. So we are all scuba divers, we love the underwater world, we love the marine life, corals, beautiful blue water…all the things that go with our sport. There are different skill levels, depending on how much diving we’ve done, what training we’ve received, etc. But there are some “universal truths” for scuba diving that we all can appreciate and hopefully follow. These were supplied to us from Dive.in, a great site I hope you check it out!
Here in Key Largo, Florida Keys, the diving is known to be some of the best in North America, for various reasons like abundant marine life, temperate conditions, island life, etc. Certainly the points listed below can help maximize your Key Largo scuba diving experience while at the same time helping to preserve it for future generations!
Thanks again to Dive.in for this cool and useful article!
Your Sea Dwellers Dive Center of Key Largo Staff!
We just completed another “Reunion Weekend”… this our 9th… and we’re glad to say we think it was a success! This weekend has been a staff favorite, originally intended for our long standing scuba divers, many which have been diving with Sea Dwellers for decades! And by the way, we’re honored to be a dive destination for these wonderful divers who are customers…but most importantly, our friends! How can you dive with someone for years, decades, longer…and not be close?
The weather cooperated greatly, calm seas, blue water…fabulous! REEF, the Reef Environmental Education Foundation, was our special guests this year, and everyone was able to participate in a Fish Count and Fish ID activity while diving some of the reefs.
On Saturday, we went to the Elbow Reef and City of Washington Wreck, 2 dive sites we do not visit very often due to it being farther abroad from our normal scuba diving destinations. Everyone seemed to enjoy the sites, as many had not been there before and the conditions were wonderful! We had a good Beach Party Saturday night at the Dive Center, food, beverages, and of course the costume Party. Fun was had by all I believe!
Thanks to everyone who participated, and to those who couldn’t make it this year, (you know who you are)…we hope to see you next year for our 10th Annual…sure to be an extra special event…(we promise!). Sea Dwellers Dive Center of Key Largo – Staff
The scuba diving in Key Largo was particularly good this year in Key Largo we’re happy to announce! There are several reasons for that, and we thought we’d go over some of the things that have impacted the diving world this year, at least from the perspective of Key Largo and the Florida Keys. It’s not all good news, as some of the things that have caused the excellent conditions for diving has also caused a bad thing to return for the first time in many years; coral bleaching.
2015 brought calm, warm, clear water scuba diving…and a lot of it! I can’t remember this many good days of diving quite frankly, and there were only a handful of days with bad diving conditions. El Nino is partly responsible for these conditions, as this Pacific Ocean phenomenon generally causes hotter than normal waters in the Atlantic, and generally less wind. We certainly saw that this year! But, it’s a good news-bad news thing…as unfortunately, the warmer than normal water temps brought some bleaching, which we haven’t seen to any great extent in many years. It appears that the Keys were affected less than other areas, like Hawaii for example, but any bleaching is significant. Not all the news is bad on this front, as the Coral Restoration Foundation are making huge strides in “actively restoring our reefs” by harvesting, growing and transplanting corals. Now they are even using data they’ve obtained through operations to harvest and transplant more bleach-resistant strains of corals! Amazing stuff, and hope for the future! (The CRF operates on donations, so for scuba divers who want to help preserve our reefs this is the place to start.)
As many divers already know, Key Largo diving always means marine life. But quite possibly the best in the Caribbean! As many islands throughout the Caribbean struggle with marine life conservation, the Florida Keys has some of the strongest conservation enforcement capabilities in the world. The implementation of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary has been a windfall for marine conservation here. So all the “no-take” zones, additional rules and enforcement resources have had an effect, as can be seen in the abundance and diversity of the marine life on our reefs and wrecks. Scuba Divers are seeing things that had become almost non-existant…like Goliath Groupers, Spadefish, and Reef Sharks. A very good sign for the reef system here, and of course the strong marine life continues to make Key Largo a world-class dive destination!
Your staff here at Sea Dwellers Dive Center of Key Largo wants to thank everyone for a great 2015, a special year of scuba diving! We appreciate your patronage, and hope to see you diving with us again soon!
Every summer, Sea Dwellers Dive Center hosts a couple Divemaster Interns. During this time, usually around 3 months or so, these interns earn their certifications while working with us… a type of “symbiotic relationship” if you will. It usually works out well, we get extra help during our busy time, and the Interns scuba dive a lot, earn their certs, and have a pretty good time hanging in Key Largo. This year, we’ve been lucky to work with Jacob in this capacity. Jacob has been quite the asset for us, he works hard, and is a pleasure to be around. we knew Jacob prior to his internship, like many of the Interns we get, so it was not a surprise that he was going to be one of the great ones!
Jacob has had an interesting relationship scuba diving the Florida Keys over the last 8-9 years. And he was involved with a pretty amazing High School Project on reef coral ecology which involved many visits to the Keys, and much Key Largo scuba diving! I’ll let him tell the story, one I think those who love scuba diving Key Largo will appreciate!
“In eighth grade I wrote an essay for the chance to win an opportunity to come down to south Florida on a school-run marine biology trip to scuba dive and study the unique subtropical ecosystem here in the Florida Keys. For someone born and raised in Westchester County, New York, it was an incredible experience to explore this unfamiliar environment. Additionally, I became more aware of the environmental issues and concerns in this region. Where I grew up, we did not have daily reminders of environmental damage and its ripple effects, so I wasn’t truly aware of how serious it can be.
After that first trip in 8th grade, I made it into a yearly endeavor that greatly expanded my knowledge of the local reef environment. In my sophomore year of high school, I chose to take join a 3-year science research course where I had to develop my own science experiment with an original hypothesis. The same year on the marine biology trip to the Keys, we added a day working with the Coral Restoration Foundation to the curriculum. On each of our trips, a group of 10 to 15 of students worked with the Coral Restoration Foundation (CRF) in the water to help prepare, restore, and outplant, or directly place Acropora cervicornis coral fragments onto reefs. I was not only able to dive down and attach coral fragments to restoration structures, I also got the opportunity to scrape algae off the reefs, attach blue play-doh like epoxy, and meticulously put coral fragments into place so they could thrive in the wild. Each experience enhanced my interest in the ocean and our recognition of the seemingly endless list of negative impacts on the reefs: rising ocean temperatures, pollution, disease, and bleaching. The reality is clear. The reefs have become so degraded that they currently cannot recuperate without human intervention.
If I had not visited the Keys and learned about the current environmental crisis here, I would have never thought about how I could help and started the journey that led me here today. Learning about the problem and its possible solutions helped me to choose coral growth and restoration as my research topic in high school. As I presented my project at several symposiums and explained it to various people I was constantly educating people that are not directly affected by these problems about what’s happening to the reefs.
On all of our marine biology trips we always dove with Sea Dwellers Dive Center, where environmental conservation is stressed in every dive briefing. In May of this year I left my hometown of Croton-on-Hudson, New York to spend the summer first as an intern as I worked towards my Divemaster certification and then as an employee working as a Divemaster on the boat. In both of these positions, I am able to constantly educate people about what affects our reef ecosystem and why we need to change our lifestyles to conserve the places we love to dive.”
Jacob was one of the best Divemaster Interns we’ve had in the almost 22 years at Sea Dwellers Dive Center of Key Largo. We had a great summer, one of the busiest we’ve had in years. We all worked extra hard, engaged in much Key Largo diving, and got to know our new Divemaster and friend, Jacob. Thanks for everything Jacob!
Sea Dwellers Dive Center of Key Largo
This year marks the 50th anniversary of one of Key Largo’s most iconic scuba diving sites. Popular with both Scuba divers and snorkelers it has been attracting visitors to Key Largo since it was sunk on Aug 25th 1965. The Statue of Christ of the Deep, or more accurately, “Christ of the Abyss”, sits in fairly shallow water in what is now the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
Plans to protect the coral reefs off Key Largo started in the early 1930’s, but opposition from property owners as well as the Monroe County Commissioners stopped the plan. It wasn’t until the editor of the Miami Herald, John Pennekamp, led the fight to protect the reefs for scuba divers and snorkelers that action happened. President Eisenhower proclaimed the reefs as the Key Largo Coral Reef preserve. This name was changed in 1963 to the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State park. The Statue was sunk in 1965 onto a concrete pad constructed by Park rangers after the Underwater Society of America had donated it to the park.
Even though most people visit Key Largo Dry rocks to see the statue, most are amazed at the amount of fish that live in the area. As part of a Special Preservation Area, all of the corals, shells and fish life in the area have been strictly protected for over 50 years!
Join Sea Dwellers Dive Center of Key Largo as we celebrate 50 years of diving this world famous dive site. Throughout the month of August, we will be featuring special dive trips to the Christ Statue. More information on diving the Statue will be posted as it becomes available.
Thanks to All!
Sea Dwellers Dive Center of Key Largo