Diving Key Largo

Spiegel Grove: Diving in Key Largo

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It had been exactly a year since the last time I went diving. Every time I go that long without taking a dip, I get mighty nervous. What if I forget how to deflate my BCD and look like an idiot in front of all the other divers? What if I don’t remember how much weight I require to reach optimal buoyancy? What if I run out of air and can’t figure out how to take my equipment off at 80 feet below? Luckily, all the worrying is for naught because the moment I submerge, it feels as if I have never gotten out of the ocean in the first place.

Diving Key Largo

We were lucky with the swells, as rough seas the weekend before had kept the dive boats tethered to their docks. We woke up after a sleepless night on our second day in the Keys to find the seas calm and the swells at one feet; I didn’t even need the Bonine I had nervously gobbled down out of fear I’d lose the contents of last night’s dinner. (Now our dives on Key West were a different story entirely.)

Diving Key Largo

We were scheduled for a two-tank dive with Amy Slate’s Amoray Dive Resort, where we stayed for two nights. The rates start around $100 per person per night included two dives daily, which is about the lowest prices I’ve seen for diving anywhere. What we didn’t realize about the Keys is that if you don’t have your advanced diver certification, you also have to hire a guide on top of that. In the hundreds of dives I have logged, I have never been out with a commercial outfitter that just allows you free rein on the reef and doesn’t send the group out with a divemaster, but such is the way of life in the Keys. As one divemaster told me, “the way we see it is you got your certification, so you can do what you want out there.”

Diving Key Largo

Only, while I have my advanced, SVV has never gotten his; he only has his basic open water. Until now, it hasn’t been a problem. We have done advanced wreck sites at 120 feet, night dives and more all around the world where rules are a bit more lax. So we bit the bullet and hired a guide (at $35 per person per dive) so he could go down with me. It was for the best anyway; I’d much prefer to go down with someone who knows the terrain versus trying to find all the good stuff on my own in a quick 40-minute dive.

Diving Key Largo

The first site we attempted was the Duane. Now, I’d heard for awhile if you do two dives in Key Largo make it the Duane and Spiegel Grove. What I didn’t hear until the night before is that just a month ago, they spotted a 13-foot great white shark off the Duane. (Wha?!? I thought those guys only paroled cold water! My mind is officially blown.) So let’s just say I wasn’t all that gutted to arrive at the Duane and find the currents were too strong for us to anchor there.

Diving Key Largo

Instead, we continued on another mile or so to the wreck at Spiegel Grove and dropped anchor. We were a bit bummed to find the visibility so low; I’d venture to say it wasn’t more than 15 or 20 feet. This means pictures are cloudy, but more importantly, it’s easy to lose your dive buddy down there.

Diving Key Largo

But such is life, and when you dive, you never know what the conditions might be like. Once we had our bearings, we were happy to see the reef so alive with fish and activity. On the first dive, we saw a couple big ol’ French angels, a barracuda or two and a grouper that was, no joke, four feet long. No sharks, nothing else big, but it was a nice dive anyway.

Diving Key Largo

Diving Key Largo

On the second dive, we didn’t have a guide as it wasn’t considered an advanced site. At this point, the ocean floor was so churned and the water so cloudy, we could hardly see a thing. We tottered around for 30 minutes or so on the cloudy bottom and then surfaced, making our way through the sea of moon jellies and back to the boat.

Diving Key Largo

It wasn’t the best diving ever, but it was a nice dive nonetheless. And besides, the dive that would blow our mind would happen on the last day of our vacation while in Key West. Better to save the best for last, right?

Wreck Diving in the Florida Keys
Wreck Diving in the Florida Keys
Wreck Diving in the Florida Keys
Wreck Diving in the Florida Keys
Wreck Diving in the Florida Keys
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COMMENTS
  • December 4, 2013
    Theresa

    If you ever go diving in Key Largo again, I can highly recommend the Scuba-Do dive company. They include a guide on all their dives (I, too, thought that the lack of included guide was so strange!), and their prices are more than reasonable. We dove with them for three days and had a great time. It was September, so low season, but on two of the days we were the only two divers so it was like a private charter.

    • December 4, 2013

      Thank you–that’s great info to have! I didn’t know any of them didn’t charge for the guide, and I’m glad you also thought that odd =)

  • December 4, 2013
    SVV

    Bubbles!

  • December 4, 2013

    Yay! Diving! We always say a bad day of diving is still better than a good day at the office 🙂 Can’t imagine sending divers out without a guide… we don’t even encourage shore diving here because a lot of divers can’t seem to figure out the NO TOUCHING rule in the marine park! I’d definitely suggest SVV gets his advanced certification if he has the time. I always get guests saying “but in Mexico they took us to 150 feet!”. At our shop (and basically all of them in the Bay Islands), we stick to the standards and won’t take you past 60ft if you don’t have the credentials. You can also just do a Deep Adventure Dive and be certified to 100ft in one dive instead of the whole advanced course, super easy!

    • December 4, 2013

      It’s more a matter of a lack of time (he has an office job) and not of him not wanting to do his advanced (he grew up on the California coast and was more or less born with fins!). We tend to only dive a day or two on vacation vs. going on a full-on dive trip, so that makes it hard to squeeze in the classwork and time for check-out dives, so great to know about the Deep Adventure Dive!

      It’s funny to experience the different rules in different countries. Our first ever dive trip (both as just open water divers) was actually to Roatan for eight days, and we went straight on down to 117 feet, no questions asked. Then the only other dive trip we took where we were diving daily was our three-week vacation in Borneo, and again, they let us do all the dives. But after the Keys, I’m now researching where in TN Scott can get his advanced so we don’t run into this problem again!

      • December 4, 2013

        Oh my gosh, really!?! I would be fired on the spot if my boss ever caught me taking Open Water certified guests to 117ft. I do think it’s a bit silly for guests who have thousands of dives and great buoyancy skills, but it’s not my dive shop 🙂 (One day!) I don’t know if you guys are PADI certified but if so, I definitely recommend doing the e-Learning option for the AOW course for him… he can do all the bookwork and knowledge reviews online which speeds up the process – then all that’s needed is the checkout dives for the 5 dives. You can knock them out in a day and a half!

        • December 4, 2013

          It was at Anthony’s Key–been there? Don’t tell on ’em; I had no idea they weren’t supposed to do that 😉

          I’m PADI, he’s SSI, but now that you say it, I do remember doing the AOW online. But I did have a bit of classwork to do before my dives when I got down to Bonaire. He’ll do it…eventually! Sadly, our next big vacation (next summer for his 40th) is in the Med where there’s not a lot of diving!

  • December 4, 2013

    OMG I’m so glad you said that because every time I go diving I think I’m going to forget how. Loved my dive in Key Largo too!

    • December 4, 2013

      Glad I’m not the only one!

  • December 4, 2013

    Having dived once, very briefly, off Key West with no certification I quickly discovered I’m not a diver. In this life I have no gills. So I’m always glad to see the photos taken by others. The ship dive seems very cool, but no sharks please. Sure hoping for better visability on that ‘last day’ dive.

    • December 9, 2013

      Hey, you never know. I’m the most unlikely dive candidate given my stifling fear of the ocean and I’m still a semi-regular diver… =)

  • December 5, 2013

    Very nice post! Cool pics, I love to do diving. But when I had gone to Key Largo first time I had go for Scuba-Do dive company.

    • December 5, 2013

      That’s what another commenter said, too! Maybe next time I’ll check out Scuba-Do (cute name).

  • December 5, 2013

    Not sure there’s such thing as a bad dive! At least you’re having fun in the water instead of sitting in a cubicle.

    We went on a “bad” snorkel trip according to our guide, but I still thought it was great!

    • December 5, 2013

      Oh don’t get me wrong, that’s my philosophy, too. I just try to be honest about dive expectations should anyone follow my footsteps and be disappointed. But I’ve yet to go on a dive where I didn’t have fun!

  • December 5, 2013

    I always thought Great Whites were only found in colder waters, too… until I downloaded the Shark Tracker app and found they’re all over the East Coast. WHAT THE HECK. Something tells me I’m more ok with that than you =) Anyhow, cool pics and good info. Never heard of anyone charging for a dive guide, but I suppose the Keys have always done whatever they want!

    • December 5, 2013

      Girrrrrrl, you could not pay me to download that app! You crazy.

  • December 5, 2013

    Christ Of The Abyss- This famed bronze statue rises so close to the water´s surface that it can be easily viewed by snorkelers as well as divers. The statue is nestled between the coral formations of Key Largo Dry Rocks reef in just 25 feet of water.

  • December 7, 2013

    Wow…incredible! I have no idea about diving, but I loved your pictures. 🙂

  • December 7, 2013

    On the liveaboard I went on in the Bahamas, they also sent everyone off guide-less! I was scared pretty witless, but a lot of the return customers keep coming back for that exact reason. Strange.

    Also, YES to lax dive standards around the world. It’s amazing how quickly people drop those standards when customers start to walk away! “Well you need your advanced… Okay just an adventure dive… Alright it’s fine we’ll totes take you no questions asked!”

    • December 9, 2013

      Oftentimes, I’ve never even been asked! But I remember in Borneo, they were hesitant to send SVV out on a night dive without his advanced (um, I might not have had mine then either?) and as soon as we said we’d done it before (not sure we actually had at that point), there were all, “OK! Suit up!”

  • December 8, 2013

    I have to make sure to do diving next year. 🙂

  • December 8, 2013

    You are making me so jealous with all your diving stories. I still don’t have a PADI! 🙁

    • December 9, 2013

      I’m sure you could get it with no trouble. It’s a very quick class, you just need three or four days to include the checkout dives.

  • December 8, 2013

    I’ve never been diving — have always been so scared — but these are so beautiful!!

    • December 9, 2013

      Diana, I was (still am) cripplingly afraid of the ocean but one beginner dive in the Maldives had me hooked. Go somewhere gorgeous with great underwater vis (like Indonesia, etc.) while in SE Asia and do a Discover Scuba dive with a great guide to see if you like it. (I have a strong feeling you will!)

  • December 8, 2013

    It may not have been the best dive but the photos are fantastic.

    • December 9, 2013

      Thanks, girl! Someone commented on Twitter that this looked like excellent vis but I guess as someone who likes to take underwater photos, anything with a bit of sediment is considered “not stellar,” heh. The first dive was about 50 feet but the second dive was only 10 feet or so, hence no photos at all from that dip!

  • December 9, 2013

    Not the best of conditions out there for sure, but hey, still good fun I !

    • December 9, 2013

      ALWAYS fun when underwater!

  • December 9, 2013

    Looking at your photos makes us want to go diving so bad.
    We are heading back down to Koh Tao, Thailand in February to do some more diving and we can’t wait. Beautiful photos.

    • January 20, 2014

      Oooh I hope you do! I hear the diving in Thailand is some of the best in the world, but sadly have yet to check out that claim firsthand.

  • December 10, 2013

    Awesome photos dude,,, felt like we were with you. It must have been an amazing experience in the water.

  • December 10, 2013

    I love visiting the keys but still have never been diving – looks like a good area to get underwater!

    • January 20, 2014

      I got my diving certification with Angie years ago…maybe the two of us should take you to get yours! =)

  • December 16, 2013

    I’m so spoiled with pristine water that I get really disappointed when it is cloudy.

  • December 26, 2013

    I was unaware that you need a guide without advanced certification. The photos were very nice, making me want to dive soon.

    Thanks for your post.

    George
    Wesaidgotravel

  • December 29, 2013
    Mitchell

    Love the pics. I spent three years on the other 327 foot Coast Guard Cutter Bibb. The Bibb rests next to the Duane but ended up on its side. Although sank the same way. Go figure. Hopefully my dive club will go to the Keys sometime,

  • January 10, 2014

    If you haven’t dived for a while and feel unsure about your scuba diving skills, you can do a Scuba Review / Refresher course. It starts by reviewing all the fundamental scuba skills such as mask clearing and regulator recovery and then, take you out for a regular fun dive !

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