The towering sails of the Quicksilver rise like a snowy mountain over the turquoise waters of the Florida Keys, cutting a picturesque figure amid the early morning sky. The tranquility of this postcard-worthy scene is interrupted by the whoop of a lone figure running and jumping off of the catamaran, her body plunging into the waters with an ebullient splash. This bold leap prompts her fellow snorkelers to follow suit with hapless hurdles and controlled submersions into the water. Champions of introducing visitors to Florida's awe-inspiring reefs and the diverse wildlife therein, Reef Roamer Catamarans leads guests through the secrets of the salty depths with daily snorkeling adventures in and around John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park and the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
Setting sail on one of two 50-foot, custom-built catamarans equipped with on-board bathrooms and shaded cockpits, Reef Roamer's US Coast Guard master captains and first mates pilot groups of aquanauts out to open waters for early morning, midday, and sunset snorkeling sessions. Sojourns under the sea afford guests resplendent views of protected reefs teaming with multicolored citizens such as about 55 types of coral, more than 600 species of fish, and graceful turtles.
Lifelong diver Captain Slate is very popular with an unusual demographic: fish. For more than 35 years, he's been cuddling with nurse sharks, petting moray eels, and feeding barracuda by holding bait in his teeth. These animals—who have been featured with him on many television programs, including Ripley's Believe It or Not—have grown so accustomed to people that they report in regularly for Captain Slate's Creature Feature excursion, a dive that allows groups to touch the tamer beasts instead of just sketching them in waterproof notebooks.
Captain Slate labels the Creature Feature as his favorite dive, but it must have been hard to choose from so many different sites. On any given day, he might take clients through coral kingdoms or the hull of a shipwreck, such as The Eagle. (Look out for the two goliath groupers that live there—they're the size of cars.) New divers can earn their flippers beforehand at one of many diver certification classes. And, if you meet someone special during a trip, Captain Slate can even conduct your underwater wedding.
When you're on the cusp of North America's only living coral reef, you don't want to squander the opportunity. So, Silent World Dive Center pulls out all the stops: they handle certification courses, equipment rental and repair, and daily excursions out into the briny deep. Their team consists of certified dive professionals, each of whom is well acquainted with the best spots for encountering wildlife and the most complex verb conjugations of the Glub Glub language.
Silent World's United States Coast Guard inspected vessel makes regular stops at the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. There, groups of up to 12 divers can explore beautiful reef formations and their accompanying fauna. Other trips take experienced divers to the wrecks and artificial reefs of the Keys, including the sunken LSD-32 Spiegel Grove, where gigantic goliath grouper roam.
Sail Fish Scuba owners Chris and Jennifer Kerr want their clients to be able to do it all, exploring the water above and below with the necessary equipment, skills, and know-how. Beginner and advanced scuba divers can begin or further their underwater educations, or head out on one of the guided reef and wreck dives in a number of locales. Snorkeling outings are ideal for more casual explorers, as no extensive training is needed for open-water dives, and guides snap photos of participants during the trip that they can show to all their envious camel friends. Other outings include guided kayak tours, or leisurely boat rides through the mangrove trees.
Captain Curt has been fishing and diving in the water of the Florida Keys since he we a young child. Now, as the owner of Curt-a-Sea Fishing Charters, he leads groups on fishing expeditions and tours in these same waters. His groups go fishing for tuna and wahoo offshore and redfish and snapper in the backcountry. Inshore, the fishers can look for sailfish and even kingfish by keeping an eye out for their tell-tale scepters. For a bait-free outing, try a snorkel or scuba trip down to a submerged wreck or coral reef. Meanwhile, island-hopping trips take visitors to the best beaches, shopping centers, and restaurants around the Keys.
Staff Size: 1 person
Average Duration of Services: 4+ hours
Brands Used: Van Staal, Penn,Accurate reels, owner hooks, berkley braid
Pro Tip: please bring sunblock, sunglasses, for utlimate sun protection
Parking: Parking lot
Most Popular Attraction/Offering: paradise fishing trip
Recommended Age Group: All Ages
Q&A with Vince, Captain
Apart from your business's main attraction, do you offer any "hidden" services or activities that visitors are always delighted to learn about?
Aside from fishing, I ... offer sight seeing tours around the famous Miami islands, [such as] Star Island and other points of interest.
What is the one feature of your business that you're most proud of?
The boat's flexibilities- its a flats/bay boat that can go into ... places where other, larger boats can not go.
Also, the wide variety of fish available. And you never know what you may encounter: a pod of porpoises chasing food or a log-head turtle just getting air.
What’s your favorite part of your job?
Seeing the look on people's face catching fish. Its so gratifying as a guide to get your clients [a] fish. Aside from the fishing is when we all head up to a local sandbar, have the client decompress from fishing, and just wade in knee deep 85 to 90 [degree] water with their favorite beverage.