In the summer of 1999, my friend Maureen and I travel down to Key Largo, knowing it is a scuba paradise, and knowing that it was “Dive Week” because the lobster season has started. It turns out to be an extremely enjoyable and relaxing weekend.
Our lodging is at Largo Lodge, which features full kitchen and bath facilities, and a front porch area perfect for wet scuba gear. It is nestled within a very lush, tropical setting, enabling us to lounge at the water’s edge (the photo shows Maureen enjoying the ambiance).
The lodge is just down the road from our dive outfitter—Quiescence Diving Services. [Qui•es•cence \kwi[long i]-es-n(t)s \ a state of repose; still; tranquil; serene].
Quiescence turns out to be a very good outfitter for our two days of diving. They feature friendly and helpful boat captains, and small, personalized boats (ours carries 6 divers), in stark contrast to the infamous “cattle boats,” which carry 30 or 40 divers.
At first, I am somewhat apprehensive, since this would be my first open-water diving, and first dive in ocean water. But it turns out to be extremely pleasurable, safe diving in clear, warm, 30-50 feet of water. After the first day, I am very eager to do as much diving as I can. Suiting up is easy with only 6 divers (that’s me on the right, suited up and ready for a dive), and for the 2 days, we do 4 dives, each of which lasts 45 minutes to an hour (me and Maureen emerging from a dive in the photo below). And each dive is in the Key Largo National Marine Sanctuary, which means that we see an abundance of marine life.
Our first dive is at “Elbow Reef,” which consists of fingers of coral reefs we follow during our dive. On the way there, we see a large green sea turtle surface near our boat. The second dive on our first day is a drift dive along “The Slabs.” The drifting makes for an very low-energy, casual dive.
On the second day, we dive “North North Dry Rocks Reef,” and we come across a big eel, several rays, and several spiny lobster (which we could not take because they are protected in the Sanctuary, and because we had no gloves). The coral on this reef was especially colorful. Our last dive is again at “Elbow Reef,” but this time we explore a 1917 shipwreck, as well as the nearby reefs.
On both days, we are treated to an explosion of bright colors: queen angelfish, four-eye butterflyfish, brain coral, large flower coral, large snook, yellowtail snapper, yellow goatfish, soft coral, bowl coral, and elkhorn coral.
Both nights after the dives, we are fortunate to find excellent restaurants with great views. In fact, while dining on our second night, we watch a spectacular, famous Keys sunset from our table (see photo below right).
More About Key Largo
Southwest of Key Largo are the most extensive coral reef systems in the U.S. The John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park and the Key Largo National Marine Sanctuary help protect the reefs. The reefs contain over 52 species of West Indies Corals and are home to 500 fish species. The Elbow is also known as the “wreck reef,” since it is littered with parts of various ships.
Go to this link to see more and better photos of this adventure. When the link takes you to Picasa, select “slideshow” in the upper left for the best view: https://picasaweb.google.com/105049746337657914534/KeyLargoFLAugust1999?authuser=0&feat=directlink