Florida Getaways of the Day
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Key Largo: Look. Don't touch.( PHOTO COURTESY FLORIDA STATE PARKS )
The coral is beautiful and unscarred by careless climbing, and predatory collectors must look elsewhere for their shells and rocks. The fish glitter like fine jewels at a private party.
Around us in all directions a rainbow of tropical fish swam over the pastel corals or loafed to and fro with the tidal surge. Completing the picture was a statue of Christ permanently anchored to the bottom of the sea, a gift to the public from the Florida Keys' Italian fishing community. Speckled with fire coral, he raises his arms in permanent supplication.
The variety of fish is the main attraction, but the reef itself is fascinating, too. The water temperature along the reef's edge, where we snorkeled, was about 74 degrees and dramatically clear. Coral heads erupt from the rocky mass below to form dramatic shapes: brain coral indeed looks like big single-sphere brains six feet across. Antler coral gropes out like so many elk horns; some are fan-shaped, others tubular, like bones. All have a distinctive color.
The fish came like Shakespeare's troubles, "not in single file, but by regiments." A stunning assemblage: blue, green and gold queen angelfish and dark French angelfish about a foot across, blue and gold shy Hamlets, angular-shaped trunkfish, blue-spotted and yellowtailed damselfish.
-- JOHN McCAFFERTY and SHARON DIRLAM, Los Angeles Times
FYI: John Pennecamp Coral Reef State Park, on U.S 1 at Mile Marker 102.5. This living reef, the nation's only underwater park, can be seen on glass-bottom boat trips, by snorkeling, or scuba for certified divers. A boat takes divers out over the reefs on daily excursions, and three glass-bottom boat trips run daily. Reservations are recommended, call 305-451-1202. Pennecamp also has an aquarium, nature trails, an elevated boardwalk, picnic tables and a nice beach. -- Jean Allen, Sun-Sentnel
On the web, go to www.floridastateparks.org/pennekamp and www.fla-keys.com/keylargo/diving.htm