FLORIDA KEYS — Family vacations in the Florida Keys mean that moms, dads and especially teens, 'tweens and youngsters can embark on a variety of adventures along the 125-mile island chain that parallels the continental United States' only living coral reef. Try new immersive sports together such as scuba diving or introductory one-day underwater experiences in the ocean or an aquarium — each with personalized attention in a destination perfect for diving fun, adventure and memories.

Learning to scuba dive is increasingly popular among families. The Keys' year-round tropical weather and calm, clear waters provide a safe, easy learning environment for parents and children to practice skin diving and scuba skills virtually any day of the year. Training conditions are nice and easy, with light currents and great underwater visibility.
Dozens of dive charter operations are staffed with working professionals who actively teach and train every day.
Kids as young as age 10 can learn to be junior scuba divers. Options range from introductory one-day courses through open-water certification classes with three to five days of training that includes concepts such as basic physics and physiology, ocean waves, marine life and monitoring time and depth during a dive.
During pool and open-water dives at the reef, students learn further about underwater coral and natural formations during an ocean dive, surrounded by bright colors and a variety of reef fish and marine life.
Scuba divers also can go on to become underwater photographers, treasure hunters, marine biologists or even underwater archeologists. Certification lasts a lifetime. Visit fla-keys.com/diving.

No prior diving or snorkeling experience is required for Snuba™, which blends the simplicity of snorkeling and the excitement and freedom of scuba diving to create a way for people of all ages to explore the Florida Keys' underwater world.
The sport is particularly suited for family adventurers — children age 8 or older, couples or seniors — as well as people interested in an underwater breathing experience who may go on to become certified in scuba diving.
Snuba "divers" breathe underwater by means of a 20-foot air line attached to an air supply that sits on a rubber pontoon raft at the water's surface.
After a 15- to 20-minute briefing during the trip to the reef, a professionally trained diving guide takes Snuba participants on an underwater tour of the marine environment. During the experience, participants are never more than 20 feet from the security of the floating raft while viewing undersea wonders that might include reefs, wrecks and diverse sea life such as rays, sharks, tropical fish, sponges, corals and much more. Watch a video to learn more at fla-keys.com/familytravel/.

Kids can enjoy an immersive experience with reef fish, invertebrates, stingrays and even sharks — without entering the ocean — at Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters. They also can feed reef fish, an experience not allowed when snorkeling or diving in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary because it disrupts their natural behavior.
The hands-on marine life attraction in Marathon spotlights the importance of marine conservation and the complex underwater habitats of the Florida Keys. A signature feature of the facility, located at the foot of the Vaca Cut Bridge at 11710 Overseas Highway, is a coral reef exhibit and shark habitat housed in a massive 200,000-gallon interconnected saltwater aquarium.
Coral Reef Encounter participants receive an instructional presentation and then immerse themselves in the tank to hover over an artificial coral reef structure using tethered diving technology. They can interact with tropical reef fish, rays and other reef-dwelling marine species that are part of the in-tank ecosystem.
The encounter enables individuals without any prior scuba experience to enjoy the in-water opportunity with supervision from trained professional dive instructors. Children age 5 and older can participate with a parent or guardian. A large fortified Plexiglas window divides the coral reef tank from a shark and predatory fish tank, and participants can hand-feed these creatures through underwater feeding ports in the wall.
Other interactive encounters include snorkeling in a shallow protected lagoon; exploring touch tanks with starfish, conchs and horseshoe crabs; and feeding debarbed stingrays and docile baby nurse sharks. At each encounter, a staff marine biologist provides educational introduction and guidance.

Florida Keys diving information: fla-keys.com/diving

Florida Keys visitor information: fla-keys.com or 800-FLA-KEYS (352-5397)

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Read full article at Monroe County Tourist Development Council Website