I never quite grasped Ariel’s desire to live on land when her underwater realm dazzled with vibrant colors, enchanting aquatic creatures and the joy of effortlessly floating amidst it all. When the team at Diver’s Paradise in Key Biscayne extended an invitation for someone from Tampa Magazines to join in one of their diving adventures, I gladly accepted, ready to embrace my inner mermaid.
Located just minutes from Miami, Diver’s Paradise caters to divers of all skill levels, from certified to aspiring, snorkeling to scuba-capable for the day; the organization can accommodate it all.
With approximately 25 dive sites on rotation, over 75 wrecks and numerous reefs, any expedition with Diver’s Paradise promises to be unforgettable. And it’s not just tourists who think so. Film crews with National Geographic, 60 Minutes and CNN have chosen its boats to capture underwater scenes. Even a few undisclosed celebrities have entrusted the Diver’s Paradise crew to guide them on their underwater adventures.
Moreover, it’s fostered a partnership with the nearby University of Miami, providing boat charters for coral restoration projects, Rescue a Reef and shark-tagging programs, the latter of which I witnessed as I arrived for my schedule snorkel time.
Though my initial plan was to embark on a scuba diving trip, I quickly learned that for a diving weekend in Miami, PADI E-Learning completion and necessary paperwork are prerequisites, including a doctor’s approval note if required. As it was a Saturday, I seamlessly transitioned to a snorkel trip while waiting for the shark-tagging group to disembark.
In the meantime, Ben, my guide for the day and Diver’s Paradise instructor, gave me a tour of the center. The facility boasts nearly 200 tanks for divers and offers rental equipment such as fins, snorkel masks, wetsuits, and more. It also provides a small pool for classes, ensuring students feel confident before venturing into the open water.
Once the research team docked, we boarded the nearby boat for a roughly 40-minute journey to Key Biscayne National Park. Diver’s Paradise holds the exclusive permit to bring divers into the park, a certification obtained just this year. The ride provided a refreshing breeze against the Miami heat, and Ben shared his wealth of knowledge of the area, pointing out Stiltsville, historic wood stilt houses once used as an outpost for smugglers during prohibition, and the Miami shoreline view featured in Lonely Island’s music video for “I’m on a Boat.”
Despite not being able to dive, I lived vicariously through the other divers, absorbing their stories of what they saw below a snorkeler’s range of view at the two designated sites, Brewster Canyon and Fowey Rock Lighthouse. I also enthusiastically watched the underwater footage they graciously took for me, revealing the fish and reefs existing just out of my reach.
The rocky waves made sea sickness inevitable, but the expert crew had us covered with water, ginger chews and insights on the best spot to sit for those, like myself, still developing their sea legs. However, the return journey made my temporary nausea worthwhile as we witnessed the sun paint the sky pink and set over the Miami cityscape.
Listening to the divers’ tales left me eager to return for a proper scuba dive to witness the beauty beneath my feet. Don’t worry, Flounder, I’ll see you soon!