In Key Largo, it’s all about the world beneath the sea. Key Largo has been dubbed the dive capital of the world — with good reason, since it draws underwater enthusiasts from around the globe to experience its diverse, fascinating coral reef ecosystem alive with sea life and unique corals.
But Key Largo can boast another oceanic claim to fame: its weird and wonderful array of lighthearted underwater events.
Planning to carve a pumpkin for Halloween this October? Do it underwater in Key Largo.
Surrounded by spectator fish and a coral reef backdrop, divers will plunge beneath the sea to transform hollowed-out pumpkins into jolly jack-o’-lanterns during the annual Underwater Pumpkin Carving Contest — set this year for Sunday, Oct. 16.
Contestants submerge to a depth of less than 30 feet with only their creative imaginations and dive knives as tools. Prizes, including a dive trip for two, await the top three pumpkin sculptors at the contest presented by Amy Slate’s Amoray Dive Resort.
Craving a good poker game? Experience it underwater in Key Largo, where the most popular “suits” are wetsuits. Generally in late fall, watched by goliath grouper and other marine species, costumed pirates in scuba gear play free-wheeling hands of five-card stud beneath the sea. Their wacky Underwater Pirates Poker Tournament is part of the annual Key Largo Pirates Fest.
But pirates aren’t the only costumed characters known to immerse themselves in island waters. Want to catch a glimpse of Santa Claus before he embarks on his round-the-world sleigh ride? Look for him (where else?) underwater in Key Largo.
The jolly red-garbed guy appears every year before Christmas, seeming perfectly at home in the underwater environment. Beneath his bushy white beard, he looks a little like Captain Spencer Slate of Key Largo’s Atlantis Dive Center.
Wearing scuba tanks and a dive mask, Santa glides over shipwrecks and reefs in Key Largo waters, offering holiday wishes to fishes as part of a fundraiser for a local children’s charity.
And let’s not forget Easter, when a long-eared bunny hides brightly colored eggs for eager egg-lovers to find — you guessed it, underwater in Key Largo. Captain Slate typically hosts the annual Underwater Easter Egg Hunt shortly before the holiday.
Donning an extra-large bunny suit and dive gear, he hides eggs (real eggs decorated with non-toxic colorings, to prevent any negative ecological impact) in a secret location on one of the Keys’ pristine shallow reefs. Egg-seeking divers hop aboard the Atlantis boat, head to the secret site, and submerge in search of the sunken hard-boiled treasure.
Unlike the above, there’s one underwater event planned for Key Largo that didn’t quite happen: a world-record bid for “extreme underwater ironing.”
Yes, ironing. In 2010, event organizers hoped to draw approximately 100 divers to perform the unpopular domestic chore — ironing items simultaneously within a 10-minute time limit — at a shallow dive site in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
They were trying to break a world record held by an 86-person group of British scuba divers (and by the way, participants had to provide their own ironing boards and irons).
Sadly, a forecast of rough seas and strong winds forced the event’s cancellation — even though many ironing fanatics wanted to “press” on.
For additional wrinkles on Key Largo’s wonderful underwater world, click here.