on August 28, 2006
One of the most exciting experiences we had while visiting Big Pine Key, was a snorkel trip out to the world-famous Looe Key (about 12 miles off shore of Big Pine). Looe Key is renowned for the well-preserved reef with extensive sealife and coral. We arrived at the docks for our scheduled tour departure time and were greeted with a friendly staff and were given our equipment. After chatting with several other excited tourists, we boarded the boat and took a seat for the half hour ride out to the reef. During the ride, the guides explain a little about the sights we pass as we travel out, and some facts about Looe Key. The reef is a national protected area and a "no-take" zone, so we are strictly warned not to remove anything from the water. We are then given a lesson in snorkeling from wearing the equipment (fins, life jacket, mask and snorkel) to the best way to swim around. When we arrive at the reef, there are several other boats anchored around the underwater treasure, but we anchor in a secluded area so we can enjoy swimming without too many other divers around. We jump off the boat one-by-one and the fun begins... At first it took me a while to get used to the breathing technique, but we I relaxed I observed Jewfish (large grouper), yellow-tail snapper, several nurse sharks, and even a couple reef sharks (which are quite scary and intimidating to be close to). I quickly swam back to the boat to ask the guides about this large fish, and they assured me that they were a normal sight and weren't aggressive. The snorkel stop lasts 1.5 hours and you can get on and off the boat as you like (which I did several time to relax). It was a wonderful day all around and I HIGHLY recommend this experience while in the keys. Reservations are recommended and the tours are offered twice daily, year round. The price was around $35/adult for the tour and equipment rental.
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