(Just click on any of the pictures to enlarge them.)
We got up on Saturday morning at 5:30a.m. to head out to Key Largo to John Pennecamp Park. Uncle Jack had reservations on the 9:00a.m. boat, and it was a two-hour drive down to the park. Uncle Jack took the two of us and three of our cousins, Janeen, Brian and Kelly, so we loaded up their big van with dry clothes, food and drinks and "headed out"! Of course, we stopped at Dunkin' Donuts on the way. That's the first time that we'd ever been to one --- very cool! I had a fantastic coffee cake muffin . . . anyway, on with the story. :)
We arrived at John Pennecamp four minutes before the park opened, but there was a line all the way down the highway, so we had a bit of a wait once we got inside. Good thing Uncle Jack had reservations! We rented masks and fins and bought some snorkels. Cool. We all loaded up with sunscreen --- Janeen and the two of us covered ourselves in three different kinds of the stuff, just to be sure. ;)
Our boat was called "Endeavor". It was white, had two decks, and a two-man crew. On the way to the reef, Janeen and the two of us rode in the closed bow, but on the way back all six of us rode up on the top deck. Only twelve people were allowed up there at any one time. The reef where we were going to snorkel was five miles out, so it was a nice half-hour boat ride. When we arrived, Janeen and the two of us took the class on the "dos and don'ts" of snorkeling. Uncle Jack, Brian and Kelly had already done this before, so they got in the water.
The three of us girls decided to be each others' snorkeling buddies, so we set out with our underwater camera and started swimming. Uncle Jack took us over to see the statue of Jesus that the park put into the reef years ago. That was cool. There were two scuba divers down there, but unfortunately, we didn't get a picture.
We saw an Eagle Ray almost right off the bat. That is a huge kind of sting ray that has spots all over it. Its tail must have been five or six feet long!
We also saw a baby turtle. It was all spotted too, and just swam along right under us for a long time. Janeen was thrilled, as turtles are her favorite. Here is a picture of the little turtle. We saw a big one just as we were heading back to the boat, but I can't see that we've got a picture of it.
My favorite fish were were the purple tangs! Brian saw a barracuda, but there weren't many of those out that morning. After an hour and a half of snorkeling (which really only seemed like 45 minutes) they called us back to the boat. It had been thundering in the distance for probably half the time, so we had stayed close enough to the boat that it wouldn't take us long to swim back. We all took our gear off and tried to drip-dry a little as we headed up to the top deck for the ride home. What was really cool was that a pod of dolphins came and was jumping all over in the wake of the boat! That was so neat! That was also Elizabeth's favorite part.
Once we were back on shore it was time to turn in our rental gear. They had big troughs of clean water for you to rinse your masks and fins in, then we turned them in at the little rental hut. Uncle Jack headed over to the showers while the five of us went back to the van to get the bags of dry clothes. There were little showers outside where you rinsed off and shampoo-ed in your bathing suit and then dressing rooms where you changed. No problem. So, we all trudge to van, dig out the bags and head back through the parking lot. Suddenly, everything went totally quiet . . . then this really, really, really, really, really loud noise. It sounded like huge fireworks. Then these little round, white lights started dancing in the sky right above us. We were all standing in the middle of the parking lot covering our heads with our hands and bags. Then, we heard it. A huge crack followed the fireworks noise --- it was a gigantic bolt of lightening right above our heads. Our hair was standing up and everybody's eyes were big and round. Kelly took it fine, but the four of us "grown ones" looked at each other and started yelling "run"!!! We took off as fast as we could go in our soaked bathing suits, t-shirts and flip flops as we were carrying our beach bags. Needless to say, nobody took a shower! We practically jumped into our dry clothes, ran to the van and headed home.
All together, it was a really cool experience. We were all pretty quiet on the ride home. We had packed sandwiches and drinks, so we ate and just kind of watched the scenery out the window. It rained the whole time, but after almost being struck by lightening . . . nothing seemed bad!
That night, Mom and the two of us drove to Miami to visit Dad's family, but I'll write about that in another entry. I've got pictures coming from our aunt, so as soon as I've got those, I'll post them. :) 'Til later . . .