In late February, I had the pleasure of making a two-tank dive trip in iconic Key Largo, Florida. My dive buddy for the adventure was a lifelong friend named Jackie. She is my “sister” in my much loved, mutual extended family.

key largo

Key Largo has, in no small measure, transformed me as a scuba diver over the last twenty-plus years.

It was here where I took my Advanced Open Water course and, several years later, my Rescue Diver course. Over the years, Key Largo has unselfishly provided dives throughout the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park from Christ of the Abyss to the far corners of the shallow reef systems within the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. As my experience level grew, dives of Key Largo’s “Shipwreck Trail” became addicting. Favorite shipwreck dive sites include the Spiegel Grove and the Duane.
Our recent dives were fun and a sensory overload per the norm. The second dive site was the “Hole in the Wall’. This shallow reef dive had a visibility of 50-55 feet. The rainbow of living colors around us offset the chilly 71-degree F. water temperature.

key largo

Many of the usual reef-dwelling locals were there going about their business in the underwater city that is a coral reef.

A beautiful tan nurse shark rested quietly on the sandy bottom with her nose tucked under a coral outcropping. Oblivious to her were multiple species of parrot fish contentedly grazing on coral nearby. A magnificent indigo-colored midnight parrot fish three feet long was unphased by countless much smaller, multi-colored stoplight parrotfish.

A graceful hawksbill sea turtle passed by unhurriedly, crossing over coral canyons and purple sea fans swaying in the current. We watched as the turtle made its way to the surface to gulp in some sweet salt air. A barracuda watched as well, deciding that the turtle was not ideal prey.

Weightless in the sun-dappled turquoise marine world, we glided past multiple cleaning stations where fish waited patiently in line to be cleaned by smaller fish and red and white banded cleaner shrimp. An oceanic dentist and spa in full swing. No appointment necessary, swim ups welcome.

Nearly every imaginable color was represented by the tropical fish along the reef. We witnessed a property dispute between a large bright green moray eel and a much smaller spotted moray who had taken a liking to the home of the larger eel. The little fella wisely refused to vacate the cranny in the coral that the resident green moray called home.

Further down the canyon wall was a “small” goliath grouper in the 200-250 lb. range. These fish, which largely resemble a freshwater largemouth bass in body shape, can reach 700 lbs. or more. This fellow was hiding under an outcropping of coral and, like all predators along the reef, spent more time evaluating prey than actually chasing it. Energy must always be conserved on the reef. For here, the hunter can become the hunted in the blink of a predatory eye. Goliath groupers are also called “boomers.” They frequently hunt by making a booming noise, the sound waves of which temporarily stun smaller fish, making them easy to pick for goliaths for a short time.

I never have been and never will be a person who measures happiness by the size of my bank account.

Affluence by no means guarantees happiness. I have also never found a lost pirate treasure while scuba diving. However, scuba diving has gifted me with two invaluable treasures. One is the ability to embrace further my lifelong love of the sea and all things aquatic. The second treasure is the crystal clear understanding that whether snorkeling or scuba diving, the most important thing is the time spent and the life-changing experiences shared with loved ones.

To the divers and future divers out there, think about this next time you fill out your dive log book.

My log books are non-traditional in that in addition to the mundane dive data and much cooler sea life descriptions, I always include notes on who was on the dive with me, including “bubble watchers,” those awesome folks along for the boat ride and the chance to experience what a trip on a dive boat looks like.
When life does its ugly dance, which it invariably will, and throws nasty, unexpected things at you, a dive log book can be a very soothing thing indeed. Glancing over old notes of dives with people no longer with us or no longer able to dive is soul-enriching. It is a “freshening wind of cherished memories.”
Bubbles up!

One Response

  1. Great to see that you and Jackie are still connected. Looks like a wonderful life ❤️

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