Key Largo is one of the Florida Key islands and if you travel from the Florida mainland on the Overseas Highway, Key Largo will be the first island you reach. The Florida Keys form an archipelago in the south-eastern part of Florida at the United States eastern coast. The southern part of the island called Key West is no more than 90 miles (145 km) from Cuba. Key Largo is located between the wild Everglade National Park and North America’s only living coral barrier reef. The waters surrounding all the Key islands are part of Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Key Largo is a very popular destination for scuba divers, underwater photographers, sport fishers and kayakers and the locals like to refer to their home as the Scuba Diving Capital of the World. A down side to the popularity is of course that the most popular scuba diving sites, such as the Spiegel Grove wreck and the Molasses Reef, can feel crowded, especially during “the season”. Each reef has 25 mooring balls just to prevent diving boats from having to wait in line.
Key Largo is closer to the Gulf Stream than any other of the Keys and sometimes the Gulf Stream will have its route just a few miles away from the reef. The stream clears the water and provides excellent visibility. 60 to 80 feet (18 to 24 metres) is the average during spring, summer and fall, with 40 to 50 feet (12 to 15 metres) during really bad days. On a good day you can expect visibility to reach above 100 feet (30 metres). The coldest winter months at Key Largo have water temperatures around 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21° C). Springtime will raise the temperatures to about 75 - 79° F (24 – 26° C) and during summer and early fall temperatures will often reach 86° F (30°C).
The nation’s first undersea preserve – John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park – was founded at Key Largo in the early 1960’s. In 1975 Key Largo National Marine Sanctuary was created, banning all coral collecting and spear fishing in the area. As mentioned above, the waters around Key Largo are today a part of Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, a protected area of 2,800-square-nautical-miles. It’s a paradise for fishes and scuba divers alike, since even hook and line fishing is prohibited in the six Sanctuary Preservation Areas (SPA’s) within the park, creating a unique sanctuary for an abundance of species.
The most popular scuba diving sites are Spiegel Grove and Molasses Reef. Spiegel Grove is a 510-foot Navy transport ship that was sunk in June 2002 to provide a backbone for a new coral-reef system. It is still the largest ship ever intentionally sunk to form a coral reef. To smaller ships, Bidd and Duane, were sunk for the same reason in 1987 and is today covered in several types of colourful coral and gorgonians. Benwood Wreck is one other and much older shipwreck outside Key Largo. The ship sunk during World War II and has had plenty of time to establish it self as home to massive schools of grunt and porkfish. The Elbow reef is a dangerous reef were a lot of ships have found their last resting place and it is also a good reef for scuba diving if you wish to encounter moray eels and barracuda. Statue of Christ of the Abyss is a truly remarkable scuba diving experience. It is a bronze statue of Jesus nestled at the coral formations in Dry Rocks reef. The water here is no deeper than 25 feet (7.6 metres) and the statue can be easily reached by snorkelers as well.