Every once in a while we here at Aquarium Tip Tank get the chance to take some vacation, get out into nature, and do the things that got us interested and excited about nature and the underwater world. I had aquariums before I started SCUBA diving, but really got interested in keeping an underwater ecosystem in my home when I strapped on a tank and dove for the first time in St. John, USVI. We had a little bit of a long weekend for Memorial Day this past weekend and were able to jump on a buddy’s sailboat out of South Florida for 4 days. Dry Rocks Coral Reef and the Christ of the Abyss in John Pennekamp State Park off the East coast of Key Largo is one of the places that we had the opportunity to SCUBA dive.
It was our second day of sailing and we were on our way to Key Largo Sound in John Pennekamp State Park to grab a mooring ball for the night. On our way we decided that we may as well stop at Dry Rocks coral reef. When we arrived it was late afternoon and there were several boats with snorkelers that had already grabbed the mooring balls closest to the statue. We grabbed the mooring ball on what I believe was the South West side of Dry Rocks coral reef. Of course, this was the one farthest from the buoy marking the Christ of the Abyss statue. No worries though. We had the gear to allow everybody to swim on over and plenty of air for those that were certified and wanted to strap on a tank.
We got all geared up, I grabbed some coordinates to swim to on my compass that I was diving with, we performed all of our checks, jumped in, and started swimming to the Christ of the Abyss statue!
This reef is quite spectacular! Honestly, I was delightfully surprised by the health and beauty of this coral reef! I’ve been on a few dive trips with SCUBA dive charters in the Key Largo, FL area before and I seem to remember them saying something like, “Well, its nothing special.” or, “It’s only in 20 feet of water, so its better for snorkelers.” I disagree.
First, the reef is something special. There was an abundance of thriving coral and fish swimming happily through the reef. Some of the brain corals were gigantic! I saw schools of blue tang, grunts, a spotted box-fish, golden trevally, lobster, conch, and many more! What I didn’t see was any lionfish, and that is also a delightful surprise.
Second, so what if it is a shallow site? Okay, I’ll agree that when you’re paying for a dive operator to supply you with tanks, take you out to nice coral reefs, and you’re paying to rent SCUBA gear that maybe you want to go someplace deeper than 20 ft. so that you can feel as if it was necessary to pay all of that money. I’ll also admit that we have all of our own tanks and gear so we weren’t paying for any of that anyway. However, I’ll let you SCUBA divers in on a little secret, corals like sunlight, and a lot of the beautiful reefs with lots of colorful corals and fish are going to be found in shallow waters where they get maximum mid-day tropical sun. I was also bringing my underwater camera with me. I knew that I was going to want to be at the bottom of the Christ of the Abyss statue at 20 feet deep taking pictures of people with the statue. I wanted to hand my camera to somebody so that they could take a picture of me. This is a lot easier to do if you don’t have to hold your breath.
In the end, it ended up being a fantastic dive for the people with tanks on their backs and the people without! Then, I was able to use the pictures that I had taken to educate some of the less informed on the boat about what they saw, how the organisms live, and the beauty of the underwater ecosystem!
Have any fun SCUBA or snorkel stories? Leave a comment below!