KEY LARGO, Florida Keys — Ocean lovers who enjoy diving, snorkeling and kayaking eco-tours can explore and learn about the latest in Florida Keys marine conservation during the annual REEF Fest Thursday through Sunday, Oct. 19-22, in Key Largo.
Ocean conservation, education initiatives and demonstrating positive impacts of citizen science in the Florida Keys and around the world are at the core of the nonprofit Reef Environmental Education Foundation’s mission.
The four-day festival features a full slate of social events, ocean-themed seminars, coral reef dives, snorkeling excursions with REEF fish surveyors to share helpful fish species knowledge, and guided kayak eco-tours with Keys operators to search for wading birds and nearshore marine life.
REEF Fest events kick off Thursday, Oct. 19, with morning dive and snorkel trips with area operators. From 4 to 7 p.m. at the REEF Campus, mile marker 98.3 in the Florida Keys Overseas Highway median, attendees can participate in an evening open house gathering for conservationists to meet and mingle, enjoy wine and craft beer, tour the interpretive center or walk a native plants trail.
Friday and Saturday, participants can again join morning dive, snorkel or kayak trips. Dedicated boat charters are reserved for the Thursday, Friday and Saturday dive and snorkel excursions. A REEF representative is to be onboard with fish identification and survey materials.
For paddlers, guided three-hour kayak tours can be booked Friday and Saturday mornings. Tours include all rental equipment, a lesson on paddling techniques, snacks and water, and guide. Visit REEF.org/REEFfest/diving.
On Friday and Saturday afternoons, marine conservation programs are at the Murray Nelson Government and Cultural Center, mile marker 102 bayside. Sessions are to begin each afternoon at 2:30 p.m. and are free and open to the public. Registration is requested. Visit REEF.org/REEFfest/registration.
A Friday social hour is planned for 5-6:30 p.m. between seminars.
At Saturday night’s “For the Love of the Sea” open-air celebration, festivalgoers can connect with friends for dinner, drinks and a Keys sunset over the waters of Florida Bay. The event, from 5-9 p.m., is to be held at a waterfront venue next to Quiescence Diving Services, mile marker 103.6 on Key Largo's Blackwater Sound. The limited-seating dinner event is to feature passed appetizers, culinary stations, open bar and a large silent auction. Tickets are $95 per person and can be purchased during registration.
Sunday, Oct. 22, attendees can join in a guided nature tour at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. Coffee and pastries will be served before the tour. Visit REEF.org/REEFfest/conservation.
Event information: REEF.org/REEFfest or 305-852-0030
Ocean lovers join together for the four-day REEF Fest with filled with social events and ocean-themed seminars, plus coral reef dives, snorkeling adventures and kayak expeditions. Photo courtesy of REEF.
Coral reef dives take place Thursday, Friday and Saturday. A REEF representative will be onboard with fish identification and survey materials Photo courtesy of REEF.
Three-hour kayak ecotours through mangroves forests and across tidal flats take participants through areas that serve as nursery habitat for many species of fish, including those that populate the nearby coral reef. Photo: JoNell Modys
Saturday's dinner is an open-air celebration with beautiful sunset views featuring passed appetizers, culinary stations, open bar and a large silent auction. Photo courtesy of REEF.