We tie up to a mooring ball located just above the magical, aquarium-like Sombrero Reef. About 3 miles offshore, this under water protected sanctuary and preservation area sits below the 140-foot Sombrero Key Lighthouse.

 Our friend Dave is with us. He’s visIting from Boca Raton for the long Thanksgiving weekend. The last time we saw him was in Vieques, Puerto Rico where he boarded an airplane that eventually took him away to South Africa for 10 years.

 Getting ready!Below the boat, we find coral canyons, big boulders of brain coral, tunnels and archways. It’s called a spur and groove coral formation. Since it’s shallow, the tones are bright. Brilliantly colored, electric purple fan coral sways with the ocean’s rhythm. There are too many fish to identify and remember.

 We hop in the dingy and drive up current so we can drift back over the reef with the kids. There are lines attached to the boat so we can hang on and stick together as we float over a larger area.

 We see some nice sized barracuda near the sandy patches. A friend suggested that we take bread out with us. Giant schools of snapper, porgy and grunt crowd us as we crumble it underwater and nibble our fingers. Fish come straight at me as my crystal necklace flashes in the sunlight. This bread has caused a feeding frenzy and we’re right in the middle—it’s so fun.

 Tristan says his first impression was “wondermazing.” Bodin says he felt great and loved his first open water snorkel. Visibility was 20-30 feet, and we could see far and wide. With wetsuits on, we stayed under water in this full-on fishy playground for about 2 hours.

Lets go!Scrawled filefish were new to us. They seemed curious and unconcerned by the bubbling and splashing alien snorkelers staring at them from above. The boys spotted (and really like the name of) the sergeant major fish. Queen, blue and French angelfish, neon gobies, blue tangs are all around. Rainbow, blue and green parrotfish nibble coral with their comically big front teeth. We see black grouper and vermillion snapper. A feathery hello from a huge green moray eel surprises us as Phill peeks under a ledge. 

With the big boat out here, we have all the comforts of home. Fresh hot water showers after our snorkel are such a luxury. Then toasted cheese sandwiches, cups of tea and snacks as we float above all the treasures below…

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