Tag Archives: Snorkel

Meet Tim

Tim the Manta Ray

I’m no Jacques Cousteau, but for a brief while I felt as if I might have been. Gliding by just a few feet below me was a several-hundred-pound manta ray, his winged silhouette illuminated by bright lights shining down from the water’s surface.

Tim is one of numerous manta rays that come to feed in a cove off Hawaii’s Kona coast, one of the few places where you’re almost guaranteed a sighting. The ocean dwellers—whose wing spans generally range from three to twelve feet—know that a buffet awaits them there each evening. The lights in the water attract plankton, which in turn make a tasty meal for the manta rays—and great spying ground for snorkelers and divers.

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John Pennekamp State Park

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park

The idea of a state park that is completely submerged struck us as both different and cool. When we heard that John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo, FL was the first undersea park created in the U.S., we put it on our list as a must-see destination. When combined with the adjacent Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, the park encompasses 178 square miles of coral reefs, seagrass beds and mangrove swamps. These areas protect and preserve the only living coral reef in the continental U.S.

Our original intention was to spend the day snorkeling, but the water and air temperature was a bit too cold. So we opted for the next best thing, a glass bottom boat ride. The 2 ½ hour tour passed over a number of shallow reefs teeming with wildlife, none of which allowed me to successfully photograph them. It was a worthwhile excursion, but next time we’ll come a little later in the year so we can explore these underwater treasures with our faces in the water.

The Dry Turtles

Dry Tortugas, Florida

Ponce de Leon found so many sea turtles around the island chain that he named the atoll Las Tortugas, or The Turtles. Years later, the name changed to The Dry Tortugas in mock reference to the lack of fresh drinking water on the islands, a real problem for those constructing and manning a defensive fort that occupies most of Garden Key. Our concern, though, wasn’t a lack of water, but too much. A nasty looking storm clouded the horizon and our spirits during the 68 mile boat excursion to the island from Key West. For much of the trip, we feared a complete washout. But shortly before we arrived, the skies cleared, the winds calmed, and the turquoise water beckoned.

The Dry Tortugas National Park covers 101 square miles, most of which is underwater. Its borders contain Fort Jefferson, seven small islands, miles of coral reef, dozens of diveable shipwrecks, hundreds of exotic birds, and thousands of colorful fish. We went for the snorkeling, which is amazing. But getting to one of the most remote National Parks in the system is no small feat. Dry Trotugas Sea Plane ImageIt’s a two and one-half hour trip by boat, or a 45 minute jaunt by seaplane. We found traveling five hours round trip for a few hours of snorkeling to be a bit much, although a couple of rum runners helped speed the return voyage. Next time we’re flying in on one of these bad boys, like guests at Fantasy Island.

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