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Question:
I love snorkeling on the coral reef near Key West, but Iím giving up on
the short fast trips that only go out to Sand Key and come right back.
Although they are cheap, they donít last long, are very restrictive, and
most of the coral I see is dead.
I enjoy the ďStars and StripesĒ sail very much because it is the opposite of
everything I mentioned, but Iím wondering if there are other options for
those of us who really enjoy snorkeling on a live reef and not being rushed.

Answer:
Florida has the third largest living coral reef in the world. As you
know, living coral is very delicate and can be killed by too much human
activity. Therefore, access to the reef is controlled. The best living
reef that you swim around is in Key Largo, about 100 miles towards the
mainland from Key West. The John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
has
tours that run for about 3 hours. My sister loves to go there whenever she
visits us, although she really prefers scuba to snorkeling. You could
drive round-trip to Key Largo from Key West in a day, but my sister
prefers to spend the night on Key Largo when she's at Pennekamp.

A little closer to Key West is the Dry Tortugas National Park, about 70
miles away, and it also has a living reef. You have to take a ferry or
a seaplane to get to the Dry Tortugas, which takes a few hours and is
not cheap. As far as I know, there are no hotels on the Tortugas, but
you can camp out on Garden Key. My father was a Forest Ranger whose
first
posting was here and he has very fond memories of the experience. He
did not snorkel, though, so I don't know how this rates against
Pennekamp.

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