This Week’s Dive Report

Conditions continued to be amazing this week. This was just in time for mini-season! Mini-season is always crowded, so it is important to watch where you drive your boats. As divers, always check before surfacing as there is way more traffic on the water during those two days than normal. When you’re in the water, be sure to still be mindful of the rules and the reef. Don’t take more than the limit, make sure every lobster you take is over the size requirement and watch your buoyancy!

We enjoyed taking out numerous lobster hunters for safe, successful dives. We drifted the bug hunters along the barrier reef that stretches through Islamorada. The wall through this part of the Keys can drop significantly from 40 to 90 feet in some spots, which makes for a spectacular drift dive. It was here that we encountered a very rare sight in the Keys: a manta ray! This graceful giant was directly below our dive boat. Mantas have been seen in our waters before, but it is not a regular occurrence. 

As if that wasn’t enough, we also saw a couple of hammerhead sharks! These predators are actually very skittish and shy, usually running away very quickly once spotted. It was quite the treat to see all of these amazing marine animals this week.

Our Keys coral reefs are full of a rich array of marine life. ERIC BILLIPS/Contributed

Next Week’s Dive Report

Next week continues to look gorgeous. These sunny, summer days are what make the Keys a spectacular place to snorkel, boat, dive, fish and explore. There are many ways to enjoy our waters, and we invite you to come out with us to find your favorite.

Conservation Update

This week was a special reminder about the importance of the work we do with coral restoration. Outplanting coral and cleaning up the reef provides critical habitat to so many animals. Coral reefs are the rainforests of the sea: they support a rich array of biodiversity and make our waters amazing to live near. 

When we clean up the reef, we ensure that these habitats can continue serving important ecosystem functions. When we plant coral, we cement the future of our reef and our Keys economy that relies on it.

Conservation Tip

I.CARE coral plantings are in full swing, with dive shops throughout Islamorada planting every Saturday. This Saturday, you can join us at Islamorada Dive Center.

I.CARE Tip

Remember: with aquatic life, look but don’t touch. This goes for everything from corals to sharks to mantas. They enjoy being photographed but not petted — for their safety and yours.

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Eric Billips is is the owner, captain and instructor at Islamorada Dive Center and Floridia Keys Dive Center. He specializes in scuba, rebreather, spearfishing and captaining in the Florida Keys