Itâs February. Nobody seems sure whether that pesky groundhog saw his shadow or not â or what it means when he does. Whether youâre stuck in the snow belt or the âgray skies belt,â itâs a great time to escape to the pristine blue waters of the Florida Keys.
One of natureâs greatest wonders is a living coral reef â and the only one in the continental United States parallels the Keys. That means the island chain is an unbelievable place to learn to scuba dive.
Check out the facts here, and then consider heading to Floridaâs southernmost islands to âtake the plunge.â
WHO can learn to dive?
Any healthy, active person as young as age 10 can learn and enjoy the adventurous sport of scuba diving.
WHAT certification classes are available?
If youâre seeking entry-level certification, allow three to five days for training. Also called âOpen Waterâ certification, this requires classroom work and pool training, followed by one or more open-water dives at the reef.
Once you pass a knowledge test and complete the required number of dives, you become a certified recreational scuba diver â eligible to rent dive gear and book dive trips with most operations worldwide.
Generally, basic certification covers depths to about 60 feet.
Short on time? Use an online computer program to complete classroom work at home â dealing with concepts such as basic physics and physiology, and the importance of monitoring time and depth during a dive. (For some online courses, students must be at least 13 years old.)
Once thatâs done, schedule time in the Keys to complete your water skills during open-water dives âŠ and explore the reef.
HOW MUCH will it cost?
Scuba is an investment in adventure. The price varies, but a basic certification course generally runs a few hundred dollars.
When youâre researching professional dive operations, make sure you consider value versus price, what rental equipment is included in the cost, and whether or not you receive personalized, one-on-one service and training.
WHERE do students receive their dive training?
The entire Keys are an unparalleled dive destination. Some of Americaâs very first businesses offering recreational dive training were opened in the Keys.
You can choose from dozens of dive operations staffed with working professionals. Keys dive instructors actively teach and train each day â not just seasonally.
WHEN are classes offered?
In the Keys (unlike other U.S. destinations), year-round subtropical weather and clear, warm seas mean an ideal learning environment virtually any time of year â which sure beats learning to dive in a cold, dark quarry or lake up north.
WHATâS the âclassroomâ like?
Training usually is conducted in small groups, allowing personalized or even one-to-one attention.
Training conditions at the Keysâ shallow barrier reef are nice and easy, with light currents and great underwater visibility. Youâll learn about ocean waves, marine life, beautiful corals and navigation around natural formations during a dive.
Ocean depths from the shoreline to the reef rarely reach 20 feet. The reef lives in waters as shallow as five feet and as deep as 50 feet, but most reef divers log a maximum depth of 20 to 30 feet.
Keys shallow diving means you can safely spend more time on the bottom, and colors are brighter and more vibrant because more natural sunlight reaches shallow depths.
WHY dive the Keys?
The Keys attract some of the worldâs most diverse species of fish, and you also can enjoy a âwreck trekâ of venerable historic wrecks and ships intentionally sunk to create artificial reefs. These artificial reefs are home to a huge variety of corals and fish.
In fact, Keys sites offer divers â from recreational to expert â the chance to experience the underwater worldâs beauty, diversity and serenity.
And thatâs awfully appealing âŠ especially in February.