Snorkeling! Finally! An underwater adventure was at the top of our “must do” list while in the Keys. For the past 7 weeks (can you believe we’ve been here for that long?) we’ve been waiting for the prefect day to snorkel. Our requirements were no wind, bright sun, and a previous stretch of warm temps to bump up the water temperature. Oh, and we are limited to weekend days only. That shouldn’t be too hard right? I mean this is a tropical paradise. Well, the weeks ticked by and the weather refused to corporate. Every weekend brought high winds and cool temps (low 70s). Finally, with only one weekend left before we start our slow trek north we decided to just go for it. I booked us on a snorkel tour at John Pennekamp State Park and we hoped for the best. Snorkel day rolled around and it wasn’t looking good. The sky was a bit overcast, the wind was whipping through the palm trees, and the thermometer read 55! I almost bailed. But in the end I packed myself a giant bag of warm clothes and off we went.
John Pennekamp is at the very top of the Keys. The state park has a campground (not a very nice one in our opinion), a tiny beach, and some trails. Most people go for one reason – the coral reefs. The water around the park is doted with several coral reefs and the park offers snorkel, scuba, and glass bottom boat tours. We chose the 2.5 hour snorkel tour. It was $30/person, but after renting equipment (mask, fins, snorkel, & wetsuit) and paying the entrance fee to the park, it came out to about $100 for the two of us. Not bad for an afternoon in an awesome underwater world.
I guess I wasn’t in my normal picture taking mode (must have been the cold weather) because I didn’t take any pictures of the park or the boat. All I got is this one of us on our way out to the reef. It was a 30 minute chilly ride. The boat was rocking and rolling and the waves were splashing over the sides. Thankfully neither of us are prone to motion sickness.
Once we go to the reef we suited up, received instructions on where we could and could not explore, and into the water we went. My first thought was, oh the water is warm. It was about 15 degrees warmer than the air, and with our rented wet suits we were feeling pretty good. My second thought was, oh boy, those waves are big! I wish we had taken a picture of the surface of the water. The waves had to be at least 2-3 feet high. I was sure the water was just going to go right down my snorkel. After a small moment of panic I managed to calm down and stick my face in the water. I bobbed along with the waves and realized that I was not in fact going to be inhaling mass quantities of sea water, and we were good to go. I stuck close to Tim (who is a very strong swimmer) and off we went in search of fish.
The reef we visited is called Key Largo Dry Rocks. It’s most well known as the resting place of the Christ of the Deep Statue.
This 8 1/2 foot tall, 4,000 lb bronze statue has been underwater since 1965. The original “Il Christo Degli Abissi” statue was placed in the Mediterranean Sea off Genoa, Italy in 1954. In 1961, a second statue “Christ of the Deep” was cast from the same mold. The Cressi family of Italy donated the statue to the Underwater Society of America, who in turn donated it to the Florida State Park Service in recognition of the conservation efforts involved in the creation of America’s first underwater park. Today it’s one of the most visited underwater sites on earth.
After viewing the statue we slowly circled around the reef a few times immersing ourselves in the amazing underwater world. Tim did a great job taking pics and video with our GoPro camera. The water was a bit murky from all the wind, but we were still able to see numerous fish and some really spectacular coral.