As we swam over the reef I suddenly caught a glimpse of the statue’s hand. I never would have expected to see a statue underwater, let alone in a coral reef, but there it was. A large statue of Jesus cemented to the ocean floor, rather unusual I’d say.
John Pennekamp State Park protects the third largest coral reef in the world, part of the National Marine Sanctuary. Off the coast of Key Largo, it’s a relatively quick boat ride to get out to the reefs and get snorkeling.
From the bronze and aptly named Christ of the Abyss statue to the incredibly colorful coral and fish, the snorkeling at Dry Rocks didn’t disappoint. We saw an incredible variety of fish, from snapper to grouper to angelfish and even a barracudda. The most amazing without a doubt though were the fan corals which seemed to be delicately blowing in the current. There’s even a turtle on the reef and two small kids from our boat swore they saw a nurse shark (their Dad was somewhat less sure on their sighting…)
Perhaps the best part of the snorkeling trip was becoming a classmate of the school of fish. Swimming amongst them, we were able to control the movements of the entire school, making these little one inch fish swim around the reef. Words can’t really explain how cool it was, hopefully the video is better.
The reef ranges from very shallow to deep, so there’s plenty of space for all snorkelers. When we arrived at the reef in the mid-afternoon the place was full of snorkelers, but by late in the afternoon we were the only boat left there. The quick story about the statue is that it was placed there in the 1960s after being donated to the Underwater Society of the America’s. It’s a bronze replica of an original Christ of the Abyss located off the coast of Italy.
IF YOU GO: John Pennekamp State Park is a little over an hour from Miami. It’s an easy drive down U.S. 1. You’ll find the State Park at what’s considered the upper keys, just south of Key Largo at Mile marker 102. Entry into the park is per person, when we went it was 4.50 per adult for the first two people and .50 each adult there after. Snorkeling tours leave three times a day and are $29.50 per adult, including the boat ride, but not including snorkeling equipment. All equipment can be rented, but we picked our own gear up before we went. There are showers and changing facitilies at the park as well as lots of picnic areas, beaches and even a snack stand. They also rent kayaks, paddleboards and canoes and sell a glass bottom boat tour for those that don’t want to snorkel.