Friday, May 17, 2013

Diving (and other fun) in the Upper Keys

As if I haven't enjoyed enough beautiful scenery in the past weeks' get-aways, I had the extreme pleasure of meeting up with an old college friend in Tavernier, Florida.  Even as we began booking the trip we didn't realize that this is a separate key, located between Key Largo and Islamorada.  Fortuitously, it also was exactly what we wanted.

Although I'd spent time in Key West, I'd never been to the upper keys.  The first pleasant surprise: upon crossing the 18-mile stretch, you are immediately somewhere else.  It's laid back, beachy, friendly, low-key.  Tavernier is a tiny little key, and our hotel was situated on a little beach on a harbor, with a few picturesque sailboats between us and the mangroves.

We had booked some dives before getting down there.  And if you find yourself in any of these keys, do yourself a favor and book with Conch Republic Divers - one of the best outfits I've been diving with yet.  They're professional, their equipment is top notch and they ensure every diver has the very best time possible.  The diving in the upper keys also happens to blow away that of Key West - the reefs are better, the wrecks are plentiful and we had great visibility, no currents, gorgeous marine life (including turtles, morays, nurse sharks, puffers, barracuda, schools upon schools of reef fishes, lobsters and more) and no unbearable choppiness.  In fact, after spending two days diving with this shop, we added a third.

Restaurants and bars in the upper keys are.... generally fine.  We ended up eating very well actually, owing to repeat visits to our fave spots.  Night life is pretty weak, but since my friend and I were looking to catch up - not to catch a fella - that was fine.  We could even have ridden a mechanical pig, would that have appealed in any way, shape or form.

So really, lack of action and photos aside, this was a perfect trip.  It's wonderful to reconnect with a friend after so long, and to feel as if it had been only a few days.  We talked for hours on end, enjoyed a couple of mini-adventures (paddleboards, mangroves, the local state park), and we dove, ate and drank.  What a fabulous vacation.

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