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1st Time Snorkeing in the Keys - Looe Key Reef/Big Pine or John Pennecamp State Park/Key Largo?

1st Time Snorkeing in the Keys - Looe Key Reef/Big Pine or John Pennecamp State Park/Key Largo?

Old May 20th, 2003, 05:36 AM
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1st Time Snorkeing in the Keys - Looe Key Reef/Big Pine or John Pennecamp State Park/Key Largo?

Any ideas on which is preferable, especially for beginners who are not great swimmers? Any charter company reccomendations? Thanks.
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Old May 21st, 2003, 08:28 AM
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ttt
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Old May 21st, 2003, 09:44 AM
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I think the snorkelling at Looe Key is the best in the Keys. Any of the dive shops on Big Pine would be fine. However, if you are in the Pennekamp area (or planning a day trip from Miami), the boat from the state park is also good. It is only snorklers (as opposed to Looe Key, which will combine snorklers and divers). It is a big stable boat, which may be more comfortable for you.
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Old May 21st, 2003, 11:52 AM
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Looe Key is the best, fine for beginners. Check out Looe Key Dive shop
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Old May 21st, 2003, 01:04 PM
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The first time we snorkelled, was at John Pennecamp Park. It was fun(with 2 teenagers, also). The next time, we snorkelled out of the Looe Key Dive Shop. That trip was great. The boat stopped at 3 different location on the preserve.It was not a big deal being on a boat with scuba divers. We all went our seperate ways. It was a great experience. Although, if any one gets motion sickness, take medication before departing. The boat had about 7 people that couldn't enjoy themselves over the 6 hour trip.
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Old May 21st, 2003, 04:44 PM
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Looe Key Dive Shop operates out of Looe Key Resort on Ramrod Key about 27 miles north of Key West. That's a good snorkeling operation. There are also a couple of places - Underseas Inc and Strike Zone Charters come to mind - on Big Pine Key
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Old May 22nd, 2003, 07:33 AM
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The first time we snorkeled was at Pennekamp while the second was at Looe Key. Each time we went with the state park concessionaire (the concessions at Pennekamp and Bahia Honda are actually owned by the same company). We were happy with the service at both places. Both trips were snorkel-only. The trips were very similar in travel time and time at the reef. I am not a strong swimmer but that's not a problem because they give you an inflatable vest -- you can put enough air in it to feel like you're floating on an air mattress.

There were differences between those two locations, which I'll list, but in the end your experience will be determined more by the weather and similar "natural" factors than by which of those places you snorkel.

We saw a lot more fish and coral at Pennekamp than at Looe Key. However, there are lots of reef spots at each location so that might not be typical. Also, the trips were two years apart, which might make all the difference. Another thing we really enjoyed about Pennekamp was that we were on a sailboat instead of a motor boat. The sailboat trip (which costs more and takes fewer people) isn't available at Bahia Honda. A third factor was that the snorkels we rented at Bahia Honda seemed to leak, or maybe they were harder to use somehow. It wasn't water splashing over the top; we had an exceptionally calm day at Looe Key.

Other than snorkeling, we enjoyed Key Largo more than Big Pine Key as a place to stay, though the beach at Bahia Honda is very nice.

All in all, we'll probably go back to Pennekamp next time. But I wouldn't turn down a trip to either place! I hope you have a great time!
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Old May 22nd, 2003, 09:21 PM
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We were in the keys in march and took the Looe Key snorkel trip through the Bahia Honda concession. I'd say it's worth going from there just because of beauty of the beaches and water there.
We just loved it...powdery white sand & 80 degree clear water with striations of dark blue where some seaweed gathers and only waist high for what seems like forever.

It's about a forty minute catamaran ride out to the reef. Looking behind you and seeing the overseas highway and the old railroad pieces was really awesome--great scenery. The water was a little choppy from the wind that day, and since it was my first time, I had some trouble getting used to swimming with my face down & breathing through the snorkel, but once I learned to relax, I got the hang of it & it was really cool. I am not real keen on swimming in the ocean and what I would say to you as beginners/not great swimmers is to relax--when I first got in the water, I thought I had to swim out to the reef, which seemed like a tremendous task and also really far to my non-aquatic eye (which it really wasn't)...the water was a little choppy which made me feel worse and I was just struggling against the water...I actually had to get back on the boat and have the guide help me...you just have to relax and trust yourself to breathe and just float and kick gently and just move with the current...just like a chinese finger torture toy, struggling only makes it worse. You don't really ever have to "swim". And the inflatable vest thing they gave us REALLY helped me a lot, it made me more confident, and also, when I came up from having my face down in the water, it helped me stay afloat with much less effort, which is great especially if you're playing with your mask or snorkel or whatever--those tasks are just less of a struggle with the vest (which can be inflated to yr preference).

Also, be careful you don't suddenly drift into very shallow water where coral is right at the surface--all of the sudden we realized we were scraping our knees, not even having realized we drifted so quickly. Coral scrapes not good for you or them.

We didn't have any trouble with our rented gear either, and the snorkel they give you in new and yours to keep--no one's used it before.

Anyway, Bahia Honda is really beautiful and I'd totally recommend going to Looe Key from there...have fun!

love
roxy

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Old May 23rd, 2003, 07:52 AM
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thanks everyone for all the info!
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Old May 27th, 2003, 12:40 PM
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We snorkeled with Strike Zone Charters in April at Looe Key and LOVED it. It was the first time for my 5,8 and 11 year old. They had a superb first time experience. We had incredible conditions, and saw alot of marine life - giant lobsters, HUGE barracuda, a Hawksbill turtle and a nurse shark. There were only snorkelers on the boat - divers were on a separate excursion. I dive and was very impressed with their operations. We also did an Island Excursion with them that the kids loved. Best snorkeling was in the DRy Tortugas - day trip via seaplane from Key West. INCREDIBLE waters. Snorkeling from the beach was a definite plus.
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Old Jul 28th, 2003, 04:59 AM
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hey there snorkel fans,

we're heading to the keys in august and your comments on the dry tortugas are most helpful. do you know if the boats to the area will allow you access to the same snorkeling waters that the seaplane flight does? many thanks!
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Old Jul 28th, 2003, 07:41 AM
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There are two ferries that go out to Garden Key, but the trip is more than 2 hours each way. Going by seaplane gets you there is 30 minutes. We did the full day trip - expensive but worth it in my opinion.
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