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View Full Version : Florida Keys Trip Report------Just Back Today



mpd525
02-24-2008, 21:52
Me and the wife just returned from 4 days in the Keys. I'll start off by saying it was a great trip, it was our first "Dive" Vacation so we don't have anything to compare it too, it was still alot of fun. I figure the easiest way to do this is i'll make a post this evening of the first day, and then tommorow i'll finish up, because, to be honest, i'm tired, flight back, miserable weather here, unpacking, cleaning dive gear, looking at photos, and not being real good at doing corrections on them. I'm beat.

That being said, i'll start with us getting to miami, and the first day in Key Largo.

We flew into Miami, about 1:30, waited about 45 minutes for our rental car shuttle, and it was a gaggle once we got to the rental car place. So for future reference, don't use the rent car co., named, FOX, All american, or Frontier, they'll give you a real good shafting, that i'm still dealing with. Long of the short, told they were gonna charge one thing, and did another.

Anyway, finally got the car, and hit road, it's a real easy drive from miami to the keys, and it'll take about an hour to hour and a half. There's quite a bit of construction going on on Highway 1, so that will slow you up a bit. And this construction is from before you hit the keys, and more of it as you drive south through the keys, and with alot of the older generation (i'm not trying to be mean) being there this tends to slow things down. We finally made it to our motel about 3:30 (i think), it's a little secluded place called the Bay Harbor Lodge, I could not be more pleased with this place, it's quiet, quaint clean, and one of the more affordable down there, GREAT PLACE, beautiful sunset view from the bay side of the islands. I would reccomend it to anyone, staff was great and always willing to give advice on anything.

So we got checked in, yada, yada, so then we went just went exploring around a bit and made sure we knew where the dive shop was, and then later that night we went and ate at Tower of Pizza in Key Largo. It wasn't bad, a little greasy, and pricey, but then everything down there is pricey. Not the greatest of service, but we come to find out, that's not a big priority down there, or we just had bad luck.

mpd525
02-24-2008, 22:12
Dive Day #1

Well i'm a bit of an over achiever, so we got up, and went to the dive shop and got checked in at about 9am, even though we didn't go out till the afternoon trip. We dove with Conch Republic Divers, at the tavernier creek marina. Got our releases filled out, talked to the manager a bit, and then went exploring and did a bit of shopping, went back to the motel and got the gear ready to go.

WE got back to the marina about 12 for the 12:30 trip, got on the boat, and got our stuffed ready to go. The boat was about a 12-14 passenger boat, and there was only 4 of us going out.

Side note: Something i noticed, it seems that most of the ops do the deeper wreck dives in the morning, and the shallower reef dives in the afternoon, so if you don't have you AOW, or Deep Diver, then plan accordingly. I'm not positive on this but that's just what i seemed to gather. It wasn't a problem, just want everybody to know.

Met the Capt. whose name was george, great guy, willing to help, and let us pick the first site, so i threw Benwood out, and he said it was a long haul so i spouted off Molassess, and that's where we did our first dive. 50-60ft of viz, about 2-4ft seas, and moderate surge on the bottom. It was a great first ocean dive, tons and tons of Fish, we seen 1 stingray, got a good pic of him, some queen, grey and french angels, and a bunch of barracuda's, the section we were on was in about 25-30ft, but it was a good dive. Getting back on the boat was fun because of the seas, but manageble, and george was there to help. Then we hit, conch reef, wasn't too impressive, kind of a coral head type reef, pretty flat, and not alot of marine life, 2 green moray eels, and the normal cast of characters, the couple we were diving with did say they seen a good sized turtle, but we didn't, becasue i was on a mission to find the eels. The surge here was horrible, it was so bad, that it took alot of effort to move, but again we were in about 25ft of water, so most of that was surface current, but it still sucked.

Water temps, were about 74, on both dives, and somewhat cloudy, and about 14knot winds according to the capt.

We finished up, and headed back to the marina, rinsed the gear, and went back to the room, showered, and off exploring again. We ate at Senor Frijoles that night, pretty good food, not the best service again, but decent, it's kind of on the water, we tried a Fried Bannana Buritto desert, and it was AWESOME, i loved it, so if you go down there get one, it's great. We sat outside on the patio area, because the weather was great about 78 at about 8pm, and a little bit of breeze, and no bugs bothered us. Again a little expensive but not bad for down there, from what we noticed.

We also went into diver's direct to look around, not a bad place, but it's almost like a mall, and dive shop in one spot, they did have a good deal on tanks but i didn't have a way to get them home so i didn't bother.

That was about it for day one, again we went exploring, and did a little shopping, and then we back and went to bed, because i was worn out.


If i missed something, let me know, or if you got any questions ask me.
I'm by no means an expert, i just figured i'd let everyone know our experiences. If the post get a little to lengthy or boring let me know and i'll shorten them up, and just tell you bout the diving.


Well i'm going to bed for this evening, but i'll finish it up tommorow sometime, and i'll post a few pics, and any of you photoshop wizards want to help a newbie at UW Photos out, i sure would appreciate it.

Lincoln

BuzzGA
02-24-2008, 22:54
Glad to hear you had a good time. We hit Molasses on the day after Christmas and had a great dive.. Haven't been on Conch Reef in probably 15 years. The Keys are a great place for your first ocean dive...the conditions are usually pretty good and the shallow depths on the reef usually mean nice long bottom times

rye_a
02-24-2008, 23:02
I'll be heading to Key Largo the week of March 17. I look forward to reading more.

FyVe
02-24-2008, 23:03
glad you enjoyed your trip. my brother took me to Tower of Pizza today after we dove, yeah, a bit greasy, not the greatest service, but the pizza is good.

TX1Chica
02-25-2008, 08:46
Thanks for the report. I'm looking forward to the pics. Don't worry about being to long. I love hearing about the diving and the stuff you can do on land. We can't be under water all the time and I have never been down that way before. Can't wait to hear the rest of the story...

scubasamurai
02-25-2008, 12:53
i had a laugh regarding the traffic report and "drivers' !!!!

mpd525
02-25-2008, 22:09
Dive Day #2

We dove day 2 with with conch republic again, of course i was overachieving again so we got there about 7:50, and we didn't need to be there until 8, but oh well. We were on their 42 foot boat today, nice boat, and there was about 16 divers on a 30 passenger boat, so we had some room. Capt. George took us out again, and our DM, was Jason, Jason was a good guy helpful, and accomidating, but canadian, (joke). The first dive was at Conch Wall, it's a ledge or sloping type reef that starts off at about 50ft, and bottoms out at about 100ft. There was a large group of divers from NC (i think) on the boat, and the were working on the AOW i think, but they weren't very friendly. They split us up into dive groups, and with them grouped together, that left 6 of us, me and my wife, and 2 other couples. 1 couple seemed ok, so they went with us, and when Jason asked the other couple if they wanted to dive with us, they got a little snooty, because there profile was to aggressive or something, so they wanted to go it alone. They had rebreathers, and expensive camera gear, so i guess we just were'nt up to par with them. I maybe making a generalization here, but that's the impression i got. So each group had to carry a dive flag, and i was asked to carry it on this dive, so i did. Because my wife gets a bit nervous at times, we all agreed to bottom out at about 80ft, and work our way back up, so that's what we did. I didn't take the camera on this dive, because dealing with the flag is enough, and i didn't want to task overload and get into trouble. The wall is supposed to be a drift dive, but i noticed absolutely no current on it, a little bit of surge, from the 4-6ft seas, but that was about it. It was an ok dive, a little boring to me, to be honest, but that's my opinion. My wife had some bouyancy issues at the end of the dive, and missed her safety stop, but that's another issue we've gotten straightened out. All it was, she didn't dump air before the ascent, and when she tried it was too late. Our bottom time was about 40min, she was sucking air bad for some reason.

Second dive of the day was at Betty's reef it was about a 40ft max depth dive, quite a few fish, a couple of barracuda, and the wife found a spotted eel in a small hole on the top side of the reef, how she spotted it i don't know but i was proud. But she says in my excitement, i somehow broke the seal on her mask, and it flooded a bit, and she couldn't get the water out of the nose pocket so she began to get a little stressed, and i have little patience, so after about another 40 minutes we aborted that dive. The seas were horrible again, about 5 foot, and getting back on the boat today was a rodeo, and the current was really bad on the surface. But we made it, and she got seasick on me twice and rightfully so. Betty's was a decent reef, but alot of the same.

After the dive we got lunch at wendy's and that hit us for 12 bucks, WOW, and other expletatives came out, but that's tourism for ya. Then we set up our Dolphin Excursion at Dolphin Cove. I wanted to do a natural dolphin swim, they didn't have it and there affiliate was booked up, and she wanted to interact with them, so we decided to do a Structured dolphin swim, it was ok, a 20 minute educational breifing, and then hopped in the water and did some behaviors with them, and bad 65 bucks for about 30 pics to be taken, all in all it was good, don't know if it was worth the 350, but that's the way it goes. Plus i really don't agree with 7 dolphins in a 25ft deep lagoon, that's not much bigger than some people's pools.

So for dinner we decided on a place called Lazy Days, The food was decent, I tried a Grouper sandwich LAzy Day Style, it was a grouper slice, tomatoes, and cheese, and a couple of other things on it. It was real good i liked it. I also tried the Conch fritters, didn't really care for them, but i had to try. They also bring out bread, and it had bannana nut bread in it which was weird, but it was really good. This place was a little expensive, but it was about the norm that we found. Again the service wasn't great, but, i think it was worth the trouble.

So dive day 2 was good, barring a few dive mishaps, and an arguement about the dolphin thing, but, it all turned out great.

dallasdivergirl
02-25-2008, 22:27
you guys have had some adventures. Good to hear about your diving.

I would suggest you not going to london and eating dinner....

mpd525
02-25-2008, 22:35
Dive Day #3

We were supposed to dive Conch Republic on today, but there schedule, and some things that we wanted to do were'nt gonna work out, so we thought about skipping the day. So after we got done doing the dolphin thing, we stopped and talked to Allison at Silent World about diving on saturday (day 3), and they had 2 spots left on the reef trip. And after The Wife's somewhat deepish dive at Conch wall she was almost up for diving the grove, but i thought it would be better just do the reef, although, she told me that she wanted to go back and dive the Grove and the Duane and Eagle. WOW, i about fell over when she said it. So we got signed up for the reef's, and they gave us our weight for the next day.

We got up a little early because i had left my C-card in the room, and i wanted to drop some weight so we had to go back by the dive shop, got that all done, and met allison's husband Chris, (they own the OP) real nice guy, as was allsion. it's about a 3 mile drive from the shop to the dock where you leave for your dives, but it's really easy to find, and a nice little setup there. We got to the dock, and waited on the capt. to tell us to board and started getting set up.

Again we were on a boat with another class of OW students, and it was really crowded. It's was a fairly crowded boat, and a few people had no manners, and were just throwing gear wherever they could with no respect any space for anyone else, and it was getting annoying. I think there was about 11 of us on a 12 passenger boat, so it was crowded, plus the middle of the deck was a big cover for the engine, so it was tight.

So since we were with some OW students we did 2 shallow dives in about 29ft max depth. Seas were good today about 1-2 feet, and not much surge on the bottom, until you got on top of the reef. First dive was on Mid reef, good dive, it's got a small broken up wreck on it called Mikes wreck. We seen the normal cast of characters, some grey angels, couple of barracuda, and heading back to the boat, i noticed something on the bottom that looked weird, and as i got closer, it was an octopus, I was so excited i almost spit my reg out. So i snapped a pic, and started descending to take a couple more, and he got angry turned blue, and took off under a rock. Then i was depressed. Got back on the boat, and headed about 500 yards to the next dive, which is called train wheels, which i guess was an old barge hauling train wheels that got caught in a storm and sunk. Needless to say there are some perfectly round patch reefs here. Again About 28ft max depth. Again normal cast of fish, and really didn't see anything spectacular here. We had 2 good dives, no problems, and both dives we had about 55 minutes of bottom time, and we both got back on boat with plenty of air on both dives. The viz wasn't real good, probably about 30ft, and alot of particulate in the water, so i had some backscatter on the pics, but some turned out ok.

One thing that just sent me through the roof, was before we left the dock the capt. told everybody where the camera bucket was, and after the second dive while everyone was putting there gear away, 1 goober, goes over, and starts rinsing his regs in the camera bucket. Yes i know not a big deal, but really just chewed right threw me, but i kept my mouth shut, and just left it alone.

After getting back to shore, and rinsing, and getting dressed, went back to the shop turned in our weight, and bought a couple of shirts, talked to chris a bit and then went and got lunch at burger king, (another 13 bucks) went and got showered, and went out to do the gift shopping and souvenir stuff. That night we went and ate at Marker 88 resturaunt, i ate the Mahi Mahi onion encrusted. I really didn't care for it at all, it was kinda dry, and a bad after taste to me. This was by far the worst service we had, the waiter, just kinda threw our bread on the table, and i waited 25 minutes on a refill of coke, and we waited 15 minutes just to get the waiter. And when he brought out our food he just threw (literally) on the table and walked off. And after watching him, he was hamming it up with the older folk(big tippers i guess), and the hot blondes in the outside dining area. So needless to say he didn't recieve much of a tip.

And that's about the end of the trip we went back, got packed, and sat outside and reminesed a little bit.

We took some beautiful sunset shots that night. And some other pics, and while watching the sunset my goofy wife seen a starfish in the water in under the dock so she hopped in the seaweed to go look at him. Needless to say i got some funny pictures of her.

We also sat down and talked to a couple of people that ran the lodge we stayed at, and they were great. I had some questions about getting back to Miami airport and the right terminal, and they were really helpful, and fun to talk to.

We called it a vacation about 11pm, because we had to leave about 530 to get back to catch our flight. Stupid planning on my part setting our flight back at 8:10am, but it's a lesson learned.

mpd525
02-25-2008, 22:36
Oh and i forgot, we drove about 20 miles to go to robbies, and feed the tarpon, that was a BIG tourist trap, pay 5 dollars to feed a bucket of fish to fish, that the pelicans ususally get. But she wanted to do it, so we did.

Was it worth it, no, but it made her happy, and that's all that matter right!!!

mpd525
02-25-2008, 22:46
So in conclusion, diving was good, I would HIGHLY suggest Bay Harbor Lodge to stay at, and would not think twice about reccomending it. To give you an idea, we left out all our gear to dry for all day saturday and most of the night, and not one thing was touched, plus the owner told us that she would make sure nobody messed with it, and she had never had an incident with stuff coming up missing. I was impressed.

The viz was quite varied, between about 30 and 60ft, and the water temps seemed to stay around 72-75. The outside weather was in the 80's, and at night down to about 70. It was pretty breezy, and the seas were pretty nasty the first couple of days, but calmed down on day 3.

As far as the dive ops, i would suggest either. The boat on Silent world was crowded, and the capt. was decent, and Chris and Allison were great, really nice. At Conch we didn't get to meet Gary and Brenda the owners, who helped us set all this up, but Dean the manager was ok, no complaints. The captain, and the DM at Conch Republic Divers were top notch. On the way out to the dive site i sat at the top of the boat and talked to george on the way out, and he was great to talk to. I would reccomend either, but here's they way we kind of broke it down. Conch had nicer boats, and crew, and Silent world had more of a friendly approachable office staff. That's not saying that anyone was rude, by no means, but these were tiny difference, and pretty much negligable, in who was the better op.

I've got to get the pics resized in the next day or 2 so i can get them posted, but i spent all day today getting them fixed so we could get them printed, and i was tired of staring at the computer. so give me a day or 2.

if you guys got any questions, feel free to ask, because i'm sure i left something out.

And finally, we fell in love with it down there, and in the next year or 2, i'm gonna work on trying to get a job with the sheriff's dept, down there, and move. I was almost depressed when we got back to Tulsa yesterday, so we are seriously looking at moving down there when her deployment is over. Maybe it's just a pipe dream, but i am sure gonna try to make it happen.

FyVe
02-25-2008, 23:16
if i were you i would try to avoid living in any of the keys, but try and get somewhere in the homestead area. cost of living in the keys sucks (as you may have noticed)

mpd525
02-28-2008, 09:47
ok, finally some pics.

TX1Chica
02-28-2008, 13:45
The dive opp "Conch", is this the same one that is on the treasure channel on the high def channels on Dish network? It just sounds familiar. On that show Gary is one of the treasure hunters.

mpd525
02-28-2008, 14:21
yep that's them, Gary wasn't at the shop when we dove there, but i talked to him a couple of times before we went down, and he seemed like a great guy.

scubasamurai
02-28-2008, 15:23
glad you had a good time there, just double check before moving down there!!! love to have you guys but, homeowners insurance is a bit much if you can get it and they just passed a big tax cut down here so lots of public service personal are getting the mandatory retirement package. but if you play your cards right you can get a very very good deal on some homes, so happy hunting and see you down here next year

mpd525
02-28-2008, 15:28
it'll be a year or 2 before we can do it. I want to get about 5 years, at my current dept. before i go, that way i can use some of my built up retirement, to help with the move.

rfb3
02-28-2008, 15:55
The dive opp "Conch", is this the same one that is on the treasure channel on the high def channels on Dish network? It just sounds familiar. On that show Gary is one of the treasure hunters.

I love that show and have written Gary about a metal detector... He resonded in about twenty minutes! Very nice guy!

TX1Chica
02-29-2008, 08:40
Cool. I really like that show. I haven't seen any new shows on in a while. I hope they bring it back.

rfb3- did you get your metal detector yet? I love hearing about things people have found. At the scuba park in Athens the owner showed me a lot of stuff he found while detecting. It was pretty neat to see all the stuff.

rfb3
02-29-2008, 08:56
I have not. Gary recomended the FW Fishers 8X Pulse. Its $1500. I will soon probably, but I've been too busy... I'll keep you posted.

capt gary
05-02-2008, 21:20
Hey All,

Guys sorry we weren't at the shop when you were down. The Admiral and I were up in Chicago freezing at a dive trade show. Don't know how people can stand that kinda weather. Really doesn't go well with my open toed shoes.

As for the show, we're still waiting to hear if the network wants us back. If not then hey, it was fun and we move on with our life blowing bubbles and searching for treasure.

Hope you guys can make it down again soon and maybe this time the Admiral and I will be there.

Good Diving/Hunting,
Capt Gary
Conch Republic Divers / Treasure Divers TV
CONCH REPUBLIC DIVERS VOTED #1 DIVE SHOP IN FLORIDA KEYS..2006 & 2007 (http://www.conchrepublicdivers.com) / Treasure Divers HD - A Show on the TreasureHD Network from VOOM (http://www.treasuredivershd.com)
305-852-1655 Office

ChrisC
05-04-2008, 22:37
I also just returned from our family's first dive vacation in the keys. We dove out of Key West for 2 days and stopped in Tavernier for an afternoon dive on the way back to Ft. Lauderdale. We dove with Subtropic and Captain's Corner down in Key West. The Subtropic guys were a pleasure, but the Captain's Corner folks were a bit stand-offish (except for when it was time to hit everyone up for a tip at the end of the trip!). All in all I won't be using Captain's Corner again. I would dive with the Subtropic folks again, but the diving was much better in the Key Largo area, so I don't think we'll be heading as far down as Key West again. I have to say that diving with Conch Republic was fantastic! We dove last Thursday afternoon with Capt. George and had a great trip, despite the 4-7 Ft seas. It was quite a challenge hanging on to the ladder with one hand and getting the fins off with the other! All of the staff was helpful and friendly. I would highly recommend Conch Republic, and plan on seeing them again soon on our next trip down to South Florida. :smiley20: