This is what we came to Key Largo to do: scuba diving. Possibly the last chance to do so courtesy of BP.
Reefs are shallow and thus accessible here. Water is not as clear as we remember from Curacao or Caymans making dives even more otherworldly: a gigantic eagle ray flows majestically flapping its wings like a giant bird. A turtle slowly swims by to the surface. One nurse shark sleeps under a reef.Another one feeds with its snout under a rock and goes still when we approach. Later we spot a stingray half hidden in sand waiting for prey. Dive guide points out a peacock flounder that we cannot see until it moves.
During our first dive I am still waiting for the marine case for my camera to arrive and in the meantime share Damian’s disdain for taking photos. If it wasn’t for trawlers, underwater photographers would be the major reason of reef destruction - kick, break, scrape - anything for a shot.
The shop we are diving with is full of very nice if somewhat disorganized people. I am slowly getting used to the general lack of urgency typical in the tropical climate. It works to our advantage today as we decide to go diving at the last possible moment and arrive at the dock after scheduled boarding time and still manage to get on the boat.
This is the first time we dive in US and notice small differences: the crew helps switching tanks between dives and assists getting on and off the boat both at the dock and on the water. They are freakishly efficient getting everybody in and out and motor between sites in stark contrast with dillydallying departures. Captain is not shy to remind divers that the crew works for tips. And the tips are expected after every trip in cash - can’t charge them at the end when one settles the bill. Dives are unguided unless one requests a guide and most operators charge extra for that (not Rainbow Reef though - their major selling point is providing diving guides for free, i.e. for tips).
Speaking of tips. I don’t like the idea. Do we really need this last vestige of servitude of non-egalitarian society? Let’s call it a service charge, set the amount once and for all, and be done with it. Most restaurants here seem to be moving in this direction adding 15%-18% automatically - for the diner convenience as they put it - which is unusual for US.