Despite the sweltering heat of a Florida summer, we chose to take a dive trip to the Florida Keys this July and I couldn’t have been more excited. The day after we landed and drove the four hours from Miami to the last Key in the Florida Keys, Key West. Once we got settled into our place, the next day we headed down to Front Street to Southpoint Divers Dive shop to get checked in and head to the dive boat which was parked in the nearby harbor. From there, we hopped on and headed onto the boat and headed west for about 45 minutes to get to our dive site.
Admittedly, I was quite nervous, as I went through my gear check. See, this was the first time I’d dove since our trip the previous year in Hawaii on the island of Maui, right after I got certified. I did my best to go through all my refresher materials ahead of time, but it wasn’t the same as having it fresh in my head like it was the previous year. Despite how I felt, I strapped on my BCD, walked to the back of the boat, and took a giant step into the the translucent blue water below. As soon as I added air to my BCD, and became positively buoyant, all my worries melted away and this felt like second nature. I signaled to my wife and father-in-law that I was good to go, and we descended down beneath the surface for our first dive here in Florida!
The reef at Dry Rocks was shallow, sitting only at 15-25feet under water, drastically different than my first dive in Maui. But with the shallow depth came incredible colors! The reef was full of life and color, highlighted by giant sea fans that waved with the current passing by. There was every species of coral that I’d ever seen, all in one place with so many fish going about their lives all around it. To which, we swam and explored all around each of the fingers on the reef. Our dive master on the boat explained to us that this reef was shaped like a giant starfish, with a new finger to explore around every corner.
On this first dive of the day, I was admittedly too excited, wanting to see every little thing I could as fast as possible. Shooting photos and videos with the GoPro of everything that moved. As always, focusing way too much on the big fish right away, being captivated by the schools of fish swimming around or hiding in the cracks of the coral reef. Got even more exciting when a few barracuda came in close to inspect what we were up to. Unfortunately, this dive I also got to experience fire coral for the first time. I wasn’t paying attention to where my fins were and accidentally kicked a piece of fire coral and made contact with my exposed ankle skin. And as its name suggests, it burns like fire on any bit of skin it touches for about 15 minutes. It was quite painful, but all the learning I needed to never go that close again.
After the first dive, we climbed back onto the boat to swap over to a fresh tank. The dive boat motored to the other side of the same site to give us something new to see, but only took a few minutes to do so. Because the dive was so shallow, we didn’t require a surface interval, which was new to me. So as soon as we were ready to go, we could hop back into the water for our second dive. For this dive, I decided to take the advice of my dive partners, and spend more time really trying to see every little aspect of the reef. So I took my time, drifting along, really focusing on any little place that a sea critter could hide. And that advice really paid off. I was able to see boxfish, Christmas trees, pufferfish, angelfish, and so many other little crabs and life hiding among the reefs’ endless contours.
Overall, incredible time on our first dive in the Keys. I don’t have much to say about the dive shop that we went through, as it was a generic cattle boat with loads of people, the dive was self-guided, and their choice of dive sites was less than desirable. I can only say that because later on in the trip, we dove at one the most incredible sites I’ve gone to so far with double the visibility, deeper, and sharks! But beggars can’t be choosers and any day under the water getting to blow bubbles is a fantastic day to me! This whole diving thing is really sinking its hooks into me, and can’t wait to go on our next trip!
My name is Zachary Kenney and I’m an adventure filmmaker & photographer. My passion is to tell stories that will hopefully motivate you to go live a more adventurous life. Whether that is to experience the view from the summit of a mountain, or wandering through a new town on a road trip. Currently based out of Park City, UT.