Florida's Scuba Diving Festivals
By Greg Johnston
Florida's scuba diving festivals cover everything from underwater photography, to boating, to below-the-sea musical performances (no, really).
It could be said that a trip to any of Florida's hundreds of dive sites would be cause for celebration, but there are a few organized festivities throughout the year that you might consider planning your next dive trip around.
January is when FOTOfusion kicks off, which would be of interest to any aspiring underwater photographer who is eager to better his photographic skills. Produced by the Palm Beach Photographic Centre, it is a five-day event for the amateur and serious photographer interested in capturing better images. The program includes photo shoots, computer labs, seminars and panel discussions on everything from new digital cameras to black & white photography – all taught by master photographers from around the world.
Next to owning a good comfortable pair of flippers is a good dependable dive boat. Each February, more than 2,000 of the world's leading marine industry manufacturers display the newest powerboats and sailboats, engines and accessories at the Miami International Boat Show.
It's a celebration, with wall-to-wall boats, that attracts more than 100,000 boaters and families, providing an annual destination to see and shop the latest in power and sail yachts, runabouts, sportfishing boats and inflatables, and to enjoy the boating lifestyle with attractions for all ages.
The first Sunday in May typically brings SunFest, the largest art and music festival in Florida, which is held annually on the waterfront in downtown West Palm Beach. It is also the time of year that brings the large sea turtles to begin nesting along the beaches. Divers can enjoy the experience of swimming alongside loggerheads, Kemp's Ridley, and other species of turtles that come from as far away as 2,000 miles to nest on the Florida shore.
Perhaps the most coveted celebration of any Florida scuba diver is the day mini lobster season begins. The 48 hours of lobster madness begins the last Wednesday and Thursday of July each year. Beginning at midnight, divers are allowed six lobsters per day and the carapace must be greater than 3 inches.
Don't forget your lobster equipment! You'll need gloves, a tickle stick or lobster loop, a hand net and a lobster gauge for measuring in the water is required at all times. Regular lobster season begins Aug. 6 and runs through Mar. 31.
The Lower Keys Underwater Music Festival
The month of July is also time to celebrate the ocean when The Lower Keys Underwater Music Festival kicks off. For more than 30 years, this one-day festival in early July has been host to the oxygen-challenged performers who play unplugged. The festival takes place at the Looe Key Reef, an area of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary just six miles south of Big Pine Key. The festival offers an offbeat take off on popular reality shows like ’Underwater Idol’ and ‘Dancing with the Starfish’. With mock instruments belting out simulated tunes from Beatles’ Octopus’s Garden to Jimmy Buffet's Fins, the event is also meant to help preserve the fragile coral reefs.
The music is interrupted occasionally by diver-awareness announcements from the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary officials offering tips on how to enjoy the reef without destroying it. But that's as solemn as it gets. After the music ends, everyone heads back to shore for a conch chowder cook-off.