For those looking for an excursion from Miami, you’re in luck! Heading South by car, you can discover why the Florida Keys are so popular with tourists. The first stop is Key Largo, just an hour from Miami, this area offers some of the best coral diving and snorkeling available in the United States. The cost is very affordable if you go by way of the John Pennekamp State Park-where you can rent equipment and catch a ride out to the coral.The process is slightly tedious, renting equipment, scheduling the which boat you will take and waiting for the departure. But it’s worth the effort. While waiting you can also snorkel right from the shore of the park, within 30 meters of the beach, you will be able to see the remains of a sunken ship, where only it’s cannons remain shaped in the outline of the deck that they once were fastened to. Fish surround you as make your way through the murky water experiencing the discovery of the sunken remains. Sunblock is a critical element as the cool water can deceive you into thinking you are not getting burned by the strong Florida sun.
Finally the departure of your water transport will arrive, and you will be processed along with the other 30 snorkelers onto one of the ships. A quick briefing is given as the boat makes the 5 mile trek out to sea. You will notice the water becoming clearer as sudden openings start to appear in the Atlantic floor. It will seem as if the water is only a few meters deep as you see the bottom easily, but in reality the depth is more than 10 meters in most places and grows deeper as you head away from the coastline.
When you arrive at the coral reef, the guides caution everyone to respect the fragility of a living coral system and not to touch anything you see. The anker drops and you marvel as you can see it from the deck of the ship, as if it has not touched bottom, but that is the magic of the clear waters in this area. A customer asks if sharks inhabit the water, the guides dismiss by saying, “Cmon, you know where sharks live.” Meaning-of course there are sharks! But no one has been attacked in this area, making it safer, but also possible to see a shark while exploring the reef.
You will be outfitted with an inflatable vest that can be deflated for diving purposes or reinflated to help you float. as you swim towards the reef, you will see a simple ocean bottom, made of some sea grass and white sand, then suddenly, as if you are flying over a mountain, you see the reef reaching upward toward you. The tropical fish swarm around you as you take in the color and intrigue of the reef. To most, is is like traveling to another world, full of mystery and intrigue.
As you hover over the reef, you can make your way to the center where a statue was placed, known as Christ of the Abyss. It is quite spectacular to take in the beauty of such nature and be inspired with reverent thoughts. Below you, scuba divers make their way at lower depths at the base of the reef, working their way through the valley and ocean floor the reef rests on.
If you’ve wondered if the tropical seas are as beautiful and majestic as they portray them in movies, the answer is “Yes-even more so”. The entire experience will stay with you for a lifetime and cost you less than $50 for everything except transportation to the park. Additional coral reefs exist along the Keys but the fastest way to experience one is to make the one hour ride to Key Largo and find out what it’s all about. An underwater camera is a must have item, as you will not be able to describe what you see there!
Transfers from Orlando and Miami are available through FloridaTur, an exclusive VIP service for Russian speakers, and includes all equipment and transport costs.