Among the Florida Keys’ most iconic landmarks is the "Christ of the Abyss" statue, placed in the waters of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary in 1965. Also called “Christ of the Deep,” the 9-foot bronze is a symbol for Key Largo's John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, which is part of the sanctuary.
Renowned photojournalist Stephen Frink, quite possibly the planet’s most prolific published underwater photographer, makes his home in Key Largo — a place he values for its incredible marine life population, offshore reef and legacy marine conservation restrictions. He’s passionate about using his stunning underwater images to inspire people to appreciate the coral reef.
In the 1800s, the wrecking industry made Key West the richest city per capita in the United States. The Florida Keys wreckers were famed for their courage in salvaging crews and cargoes from sinking ships. Yet few people know they once salvaged a sea monster off Key Largo’s Carysford (today called Carysfort) Reef.
In his previous life, Mike Goldberg was a Bear Stearns money manager. But things change, and a year ago, he and marine biologist Kylie Smith, a Florida Wildlife Commission scientist, spearheaded the founding of I.CARE — the Keys’ only Islamorada-based reef restoration organization — partnering with Mote Marine Laboratory and the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation.
As well as human visitors who come to the Florida Keys for rest and renewal, marine creatures in need also come calling. Some have health problems, while others are injured, orphaned or lost. Throughout the island chain, ailing sea turtles, manatees, dolphins and whales encounter dedicated professionals and volunteers ready to provide care.
The buccaneering spirit of adventure and individuality is one of the most intriguing — and enduring — attributes that help define the Florida Keys island chain. The Keys’ renegade seafaring heritage is alive in museums and attractions, colorful shipwreck and treasure tales, dive and snorkel trips to wrecksites, and sailing cruises aboard historic tall ships.
There is no other acrobatic fish on the inshore fishing scene that’s more coveted by anglers than the tarpon. Known for their high-leaping ability, these “silver kings” are powerful and tenacious. It’s sometimes easy to get them to bite a bait, but often they have lockjaw and can frustrate anglers and captains alike.
Conservation-minded divers and snorkelers can enjoy a unique underwater concert that supports reef protection Saturday, July 11, in the Florida Keys — home to the continental United States' only living coral barrier reef. The Lower Keys Underwater Music Festival takes place at beautiful Looe Key Reef in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
Rachel Bowman, the Florida Keys’ only female commercial lionfish harvester, is passionate about protecting native species by controlling the population of invasive lionfish. A licensed boat captain, she moved to the Keys nearly two decades ago. Now she captures thousands of pounds of lionfish annually, contributing significantly to the “conservation through consumption” movement.
Whatever open-ocean adventure visitors are seeking, chances are they can find it in the waters around Key West -- with two LGBTQ on-the-water leaders poised to share incredible experiences with customers. Spectacular reefs lie only a short boat ride from shore, often located in water that’s just 10 to 15 feet deep.