It’s the season for sharing what we’re thankful for so let me tell you about that time I slept in the campground behind Publix.
I’d heard about this annual event in Key Largo called “REEF Fest” five years ago when we were still living in Ft Lauderdale. Something to do with fish and diving. I’d just gotten my US resident / green card and was working part time at a dive shop. It sounded cool and I had the time, so I signed up.
Wanting to keep costs low, I borrowed a friend’s pup tent and headed for the only campground that had a spot – that one behind the grocery store.
I had some adventures there.
Raccoons trying to climb into my hammock.
Monsoon-like rains causing a mini river under my tent.
Cooking a beautiful steak over the fire and then realizing I forgot to bring a knife to eat it with.
Great fun that took me back to my younger days of hiking and camping in the mountains back home in South Africa.
REEF is an international organization that gets divers, snorkelers, and other ocean-loving people actively involved in marine conservation. Most famously, their Volunteer Fish Survey Project trains volunteer SCUBA divers and snorkelers to identify and count fish, then report information for scientists to study.
Maybe you’re thinking about that Dr Seuss book. But there’s a little more to it than “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.”
Over 16,000 volunteers have completed surveys so far. Their data has helped scientists sound the alarm about invasive lionfish and protect important grouper spawning habitat. Some volunteer fish counters can identify 100s of species by sight. Very cool.
REEF Fest weekends include special dive trips each morning. And every afternoon there are really interesting talks by scientists.
In between the diving and the talks, there are Happy Hour-type mixers. Lots of people know each other from past events or from going on special REEF-organized dive trips in different parts of the world.
Now it probably doesn’t surprise you that I know a lot of scuba divers from lots of trips around the world.
I was standing around by myself during a social event Bayside Grill, feeling alone (and still a little damp), when I saw an empty spot at a picnic table where Celia was sitting. She and I started talking about her REEF adventures and diving stories and hung out together for the rest of the days at REEF Fest.
We kept in touch and Celia was one of the first people we told when we launched the business. And she was so excited for us!
At the 2018 REEF Fest, Lucky Fish Scuba had been in operation for about 6 months. We were so proud to have Celia and her friend Al go out with us for a couple of dives.
The following year we made more new friends.
Last year there was no in-person REEF Fest because of COVID and we honestly didn’t know how things were changing and what people we’d see back here again.
But this year REEF Fest was back and there were happy hugs all around when we reunited with Celia in the parking lot.
We sat together again at the lectures, shared another table at the dinner and — most fun of all – got to go diving together!
On Sunday we took advantage of great conditions for a long lazy ‘brunch’ dive …. Followed by actual brunch at the Buzzards Roost.
Want to see the video? Click here.
When you learn to scuba dive they tell you that one of the best things about it is meeting cool people who love the water. People you don’t mind sleeping in a soggy tent for. People you look forward to diving with, year after year. And it’s actually true!
P.S. More amazing REEF people — Marta, Paul, Fred and Summer — just staked out an official new Fish ID spot when diving at a nice fishy spot I brought them to. They actually named it Lucky Fish Ledge (awww!). We’re going have more about Lucky Fish Ledge up on the blog soon!
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– Theresa N.
Oh my gosh! What a perfect day for a very very special occasion…a surprise, underwater proposal. They showed us a beautiful, private dive spot and made sure that the proposal went off without a hitch. The videos are perfect. Jill, Glen, and Stephanie, thank you. Thank you. Thank you!
– Em S.
What an awesome time!!!! Every year for my birthday, I look for different things to do with my friends. This year, it was a sunset cruise, which far surpasses a dinner at yet another restaurant. … A plus is their actual head (toilet) aboard. Their cat is a perfect size for 6 passengers. It is well appointed, spotless and very stable. Highest praise for Jill, Glenn and Suzy!
OMG. To be honest I booked this charter because the boat had a full functional bathroom. Luckily, I never needed it. … The boat was beautiful and immaculate. The little detail that was actually quite useful and made us all very comfortable was the fresh water shower after each dive. We got back to the dock feeling refreshed and not sticky and gross. Jill was responsive in following up with my initial inquiry and follow up confirmations etc. the dive sites were quite impressive. Overall an amazing experience and won’t be our last.
– Lance H
Lucky Fish Scuba is a top notch diving operation, very professional, and so much fun! Glenn & Jill made had everything prepared and ready when we arrived. Once we arrived at the dive spot, they were very helpful explaining where we would go, what we would see, and then proceeded to guide us through the dive. Since this was our first time diving in Key Largo, having a dive master guide us was very comforting. In between dives, they provided drinks and snacks. The boat is perfect for small groups and very comfy and it has a head if needed. In addition, Jill provided us with a short video of our dive a few days later. We loved it! This biz is a gem amongst all other dive operations in the Keys. You will not be disappointed booking here. We can’t wait to go back!
– Jose B.
Lucky Fish Scuba is where you need to go in Key Largo! Both Glenn and Jill are extremely professional, courteous, and fun. They will keep you laughing throughout the trip while always being very attentive to your needs. The boat is super comfortable and they are able to make a customized plan according to what you want.
– Heather P
HIGHLY recommend. 5 stars isn’t enough Took my 11 year old daughter diving. Jill and Glen are amazing- a hidden gem. They are extremely personable, the boat is phenomenal, and the level of customer service is top notch. Worth every penny. They will be my go to scuba diving resource from now on. And they are super kid friendly Thanks Jill and Glen we had an amazing time.
– David T
Worth every penny. Great tour and super friendly and knew all the right dive spots. Look no further. Also took amazing photos for us.
– Linda K
Inclement weather in Marathon Key did us a great favor. Our trip with Lucky Fish Scuba in Key Largo surpassed anything we could have imagined…