Keeping Careful for the Coral

Whether you're snorkeling, swimming, or participating in outright scuba diving in Key West, you're going to be kicking your legs and moving your arms -- and if you aren't careful, you could end up hitting a reef. Fish are pretty good about getting out of your way, but there is always the chance of accidentally hitting one with a swim fin if you aren't careful. Always be aware of what's around you and how close you are to the reefs. They're full oflife and very sensitive to being scraped or broken. Physically damaging the reefs would destroy the polyps in that section and reduce the amount of available food for other sea life.

Plus, the reduced size of the reef could have a long-term affect on the waves that reach the shoreline. Coral reefs can protect nearby land, so the smaller the remaining reef, the smaller the amount of protection given to that beach you so love to hang out on. That means more erosion and possible damage from strong currents in the future.

Ensuring you don't damage a reef is simple. Slow down when you reach the reef, and always look around you before suddenly taking off in another direction. Listen to any instructions you get from tour leaders, and don't stray too far away from your group and the boat. Avoid horseplay, and if you see a tour companion doing anything that could endanger the reef, get the attention of a tour leader immediately. Key West diving companies want those reefs to stay safe, and your vigilance is an excellent way to help out.

Travel and leisure activities like diving should be fun and relaxing, not guilt-inducing. Chances are, you've been waiting to go snorkeling or scuba diving in Key West, and now that you have the opportunity, the last thing you want is to harm the coral reef and other aquatic life. You can do a lot to reduce your figurative footprint on the reef. The result will be a safe, eco-friendly dive around one of the most fascinating coral reefs in the western hemisphere.