LOOE KEY, Florida Keys — Divers and snorkelers can explore a portion of the world's third-largest coral barrier reef while enjoying a unique sub-sea concert Saturday, July 9, in the Lower Florida Keys.
The 32nd annual Lower Keys Underwater Music Festival, a melodic experience that spotlights coral reef protection and environmentally responsible diving, takes place at Looe Key Reef, an area of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary approximately 6 miles south of Big Pine Key.
The sanctuary recently marked its 25th year of protecting Florida Keys waters including the continental United States' only living coral barrier reef, which parallels the island chain.
The Underwater Music Festival is staged from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday by Keys radio station US1 104.1 FM. Participants swim among Looe Key's vivid marine life and coral formations while listening to music broadcast by the radio station.
Tunes are piped underwater via Lubell Laboratory speakers suspended beneath boats above the reef. The playlist typically features marine melodies ranging from haunting humpback whale songs to Jimmy Buffett's "Fins" and the Beatles' "Octopus's Garden."
Those planning to submerge themselves in the festival can stop by Looe Key Reef Resort's Dive Center, 27340 Overseas Highway on Ramrod Key, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Friday, July 8, for a free dive clinic that includes buoyancy tests and equipment checks.
A 6 p.m. welcome gathering with hors d'oeuvres and beverages is planned Friday at the resort's Tiki Bar. For ticket prices and reservations, call 305-872-2411.
In addition, a post-festival party is planned featuring informational booths and displays by Keys environmental groups.
During Saturday's aquatic action, divers and snorkelers might spot "mermaids" and other costumed characters beneath the waves — including some pretending to play quirky musical instruments sculpted by Florida Keys artist August Powers.
As well as the unique undersea experience, participants get valuable insights into preserving the Keys' rich coral reef ecosystem. The broadcast incorporates diver-awareness announcements emphasizing ways to enjoy the reef while minimizing environmental impacts.
Divers and snorkelers interested in participating can reserve space on boats run by Lower Keys dive operators or launch their own boats from public ramps and marinas in the area.
A seahorse strums a guitar during the 2015 subsea songfest.
Participants may just spot a mermaid swaying to the music.