KEY LARGO, Florida Keys — Ocean lovers who enjoy diving, snorkeling and kayaking are invited to get on or in the water to explore and learn more about Florida Keys coral reefs during the annual REEF Fest, set for Thursday through Sunday, Oct. 14-17, in Key Largo.
Hosted by the Key Largo–based nonprofit Reef Environmental Education Foundation, REEF Fest celebrates the importance of marine conservation, positive impacts of citizen science and education initiatives in the Florida Keys and around the world.
The four-day lineup features coral reef dives, snorkeling excursions with REEF fish surveyors to share helpful fish species knowledge, and guided three-hour kayak eco-tours with Keys operators to search for wading birds and nearshore marine life.
REEF Fest events kick off Thursday, Oct. 14, with afternoon marine conservation programs from 1-4 p.m. at the Murray Nelson Government and Cultural Center, mile marker 102 bayside. Sessions are free and open to the public, although registration is requested. Visit reef.org/reeffest/seminars.
Thursday evening at the REEF Campus, mile marker 98.3 in the Florida Keys Overseas Highway median, attendees are to be welcomed at a 5-7 p.m. open house gathering to mingle with fellow conservationists and enjoy wine and craft beer, tour the interpretive center or walk a native plants trail.
Friday and Saturday mornings, dedicated boat charters have been reserved for dive and snorkel excursions. A REEF representative is to be onboard with fish identification and survey materials. A limited number of spots also are available for a private lionfish collecting dive charter.
For paddlers, fully guided three-hour kayak tours can be reserved Friday and Saturday mornings. They include all rental equipment, a lesson on paddling techniques, snacks, water and the services of an experienced guide.
Sign up for a dive, snorkel or kayak trip at reef.org/reeffest/diving.
Friday evening, REEF is to host a happy hour social with food and drinks from 5-6:30 p.m. at the Murray Nelson Government Center, followed by a keynote presentation by marine biologist Dr. Richard Smith.
Throughout the weekend, afternoon ocean-themed education seminars are scheduled at the center. Pre-registration for seminars is recommended. Registration is free. Visit reef.org/reeffest/registration.
At Saturday night’s “For the Love of the Sea” open-air celebration, festivalgoers can connect with friends over dinner, drinks and a Keys sunset over the waters of Florida Bay. Held at a waterfront venue on Key Largo's Blackwater Sound from 5-9 p.m., the event is to feature passed appetizers, various culinary station selections, full-service bar and a large silent auction. Tickets are $75 per person and can be purchased upon registration for REEF Fest at reef.org/reeffest/registration.
Sunday, Oct. 17, attendees are free to explore Key Largo and surrounding areas and may participate in self-guided tours highlighting conservation activities in the Florida Keys. For several suggested options, visit reef.org/reeffest/conservation.
Event information: REEF.org/REEFfest or 305-852-0030
REEF Fest celebrates the importance of marine conservation, positive impacts of citizen science and education initiatives in the Florida Keys and around the world.