PADI Photography Specialty

Underwater photography is one of the most popular diving specialties, and with so many underwater cameras to choose from, it has become easier and more fun than ever to capture images of your underwater scuba adventures. PADI offers an easy way to jump straight into the world of digital photography

As Underwater Photography becomes cheaper and more accessible to the recreational diver,more and more divers are taking up the hobby of underwater photography.

What will you learn?

Through hands-on training during two scuba dives and guidance from your PADI Professional, you’ll discover:

  • How to choose the right underwater camera system for you.
  • The PADI SEA (Shoot, Examine, Adjust) method for getting great shots quickly.
  • Principles for good composition of underwater images.
  • Practical techniques to take great photos with your digital camera.

Interested? Call us at 305-453-3446 to get more info, or learn more at!

Elkhorn Coral

Many varieties of coral live on our reefs here in Key Largo. You can see such a huge variety each and every dive, but some are more obvious than others. Elkhorn Coral has a very distinct structure. And you can easily recognize it on any dive.

elkhorn coral horseshoe reef



The elkhorn coral is named for the antler-like shape of its colonies. It is a fast growing species and is one of the most important reef-building species in the Caribbean. It was formerly one of the most common corals on reefs throughout its range. Today, it is very rare and is considered critically endangered by reef scientists. You can hunt down this beautiful species on many of our reefs, but by far the best collection of it resides at Horseshoe Reef.


“Christmas Tree” Worms

Have you ever been swimming along and seen what looks like little fuzzy trees all along the hard coral? Turns out those are critters too! What may look like a fuzzy little plant is actually a worm. We typically call them “christmas tree” worms due to their appearance along the coral.


So what is it?

Christmas tree worms come in a variety of bright colors. They aren’t very big, averaging about 1.5 inches in length. However, because of their distinctive shape, beauty, and color, these worms are easily spotted. They are some of the most widely recognized polycheates, or marine burrowing, segmented worms out there. The colorful plumes, or tentacles, are used for passive feeding on suspended food particles and plankton in the water. The plumes are also used for respiration. Though the plumes are visible, most of these worms are anchored in their burrows that they bore into live coral. Christmas tree worms are very sensitive to disturbances and will rapidly retract into their burrows at the slightest touch or passing shadow. They typically re-emerge a minute later, very slowly, to test the water before fully extending their plumes.



You’ve seen fire coral and jellyfish, but have you seen another stinging organism called fireworms? Chances are you’ve been around them and never knew! Out on the reef they look like fuzzy underwater caterpillars. But make no mistake, these are not as cute and cuddly!


Fireworms are voracious predators that feed on soft and hard corals, anemones, and small crustaceans. They engulf the last few centimeters of the tip of a branching coral and remove the coral tissue right from the skeleton. They typically spend 5-10 minutes at each branch tip, visiting several, and the “skinned” branches are apparent by their white ends.


These beautiful flattened segmented worms have groups of white bristles along each side. The bristles are hollow and venom-filled. These can easily penetrate flesh and then break off if this worm is handled by a careless snorkeler or diver. They produce an intense burning irritation in the area of contact, hence the common name of the species. If you disturb them the worm flares out the bristles so they are more exposed.


The Nurse Shark

The Nurse Shark

Ginglymostoma cirratum

The Nurse shark is often encountered here on south Florida’s reefs. Most commonly observed between the size of 5-8 feet, the nurse shark can actually grow to over 12 feet! Nurse sharks are noctornal and spend most of their days napping in caves or along the sandy shallows along the reef which makes them appear sluggish. However, at night nurse sharks scavenge the bottom of the reef in search of mollusks, crustaceans, and small stingrays.

As a bottom dweller, they spend much of their time on the sea floor in tropical waters around coastal shelves, reefs, and channels. They seem to enjoy the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, especially around the Caribbean Islands. So when you’re out diving in Key Largo take a look under ledges and caves. You could come across this cute shark! Not sure if you’ve seen a nurse shark or some other kind of shark? They’re easy to identify! Look for two large dorsal fins (the fins on the top of the shark) and a elongated caudal fin (the tail) and you’ll be able to quickly ID the shark as a nurse.




PADI Wreck Diver Specialty

Have you ever been diving and come across a wreck? Interested in the history that lies beneath the ocean but don’t know where to start? PADI wreck diver specialty is the perfect place to begin! Whether sunk as an artificial reef for scuba divers or lost as the result of an accident, wrecks are fascinating windows to the past. Ships, airplanes and even cars are fascinating to explore and usually teem with aquatic life. Each wreck dive offers a chance for discovery, potentially unlocking a mystery.

Course Outline

There are many different types of wrecks, some of which are protected by laws that guard their historical and cultural significance. Your training starts by reviewing guidelines for researching and respecting wrecks. During four dives you’ll learn:

  • Safety considerations for navigating and exploring wrecks.
  • Surveying and mapping a wreck.
  • Using penetration lines and reels to guide exploration.
  • Techniques to avoid kicking up silt or disturbing the wreck and its inhabitants.

These four dives are split over 2 days, and increase in skills progression allowing you to eventually penetrate wrecks with safety! When you complete your class you will have a stronger knowledge of interest points in wrecks, and how best to dive them.

Are you interested in learning more? Then give us a call here at 305-453-3446 or go online to learn more and book!


PADI Underwater Naturalist Specialty

PADI Underwater Naturalist Specialty

Underwater Naturalist specialty certification course at Sail Fish Scuba dive center is fun and rewarding.

This course takes only a 2 tank dive to complete. You earn a PADI Specialty Diver certification at the end of the course.

If you are already a certified Open Water diver and you have a desire to understand better what you are seeing when diving, this is the course for you.

Course Overview

Make two open water scuba dives under the direct supervision of a PADI Underwater Naturalist Specialty Instructor.

Before you jump off the boat to go diving you will need read the UW Naturalist manual.

As with all training manuals there are knowledge reviews to complete as well.

What you learn topics

Ecology is the study of living things and their interrelations with each other and with their environment.

Community  is a collection of different organisms living and interacting in an ecosystem.

Population is a group of the same species living and interacting within a community.

Habitat includes the area and conditions in which you find an organism.

A microhabitat exists on a very small scale.

An organism’s role in it’s habitat is called its niche.

Grecian Rocks Reef Lettuce Sea Slug
Lettuce Sea Slug on Grecian Rocks Reef

Dive 1 skills

Passively observe aquatic life.

Apply diving techniques used to preserve bottom dwelling organisms and minimize disturbance of all aquatic life.

Locate and identify, by common or scientific name, at least two local aquatic plants.

Locate, observe and identify, by common or scientific name, at least four local aquatic invertebrate animals.

Locate, observe and identify, by common or scientific name, at least five local aquatic vertebrate animals.

5 Marine Symbiotic Relationships

Lettuce Sea Slug Key Largo Grecian Rocks Reef
Lettuce Sea Slug

Dive 2 skills

Passively observe aquatic life.

Apply diving techniques used to preserve bottom-dwelling organisms and minimize disturbance of all aquatic life.

Identify and observe as many examples of symbiotic and predator/prey relationships as possible.

( Review the symbiotic relationships: mutualism, commensalism, and parasitism.)

Locate as many indications of impact by man on the local aquatic environment as possible, and evaluate the possible causes.

Cool Examples of Symbiotic Relationships in the Ocean

Do you know why divers should avoid ever feeding aquatic animals?

Want to know the answer? Sign up now for this course!


Local delicacy – Caribbean Spiny Lobster

With lobster mini season just around the corner, let’s take a look at our local tasty friend!

About Spiny Lobster

During the day, Caribbean spiny lobsters remain hidden in caves, under ledges, and in crevices on the reef surface.  During the twilight hours and at night, spiny lobster are much more active and forage along the reef.  Caribbean spiny lobsters will eat most things that they find.  Unlike the famous Maine lobster, Caribbean spiny lobsters do not have enlarged front claws and are harmless to people.  Even so, if a SCUBA diver or snorkeler grabs onto one without gloves, the sharp spines covering the head and body may cut the hand.

Spiny lobsters make their homes in the protected crevices and caverns of coral reefs, sponge flats, and other hard-bottomed areas. The lobsters spawn from March through August and female lobsters carry the bright orange eggs on their undersides until they turn brown and hatch. Larvae can be carried for thousands of miles by currents until they settle in shallow nearshore areas among seagrass and algae beds. They feed on small snails and crabs. The lobsters are solitary until they reach the juvenile stage, when they begin to congregate around protective habitat in nearshore areas. As they begin to mature, spiny lobsters migrate from the nursery areas to offshore reefs.

Lobster Hunting

Every year in Florida a 2 day mini season on the last Wednesday and Thursday of July marks the start of lobster hunting. Strict limits are placed to ensure they are not over-fished. When you catch and individual carrying eggs or who are too small it must be released. There are also regulations on how they can be caught in many places. When you go lobstering you must catch the lobster in such a way that it can be released unhurt. You allow the lobster to then continue to thrive should it be too small or have eggs.

The Hammerhead Shark!

Ah yes, the Hammerhead Shark. Take one look at this amazing fish and you’ll know how it got its name. With the projections on the side of it’s head, it’s a very distinctive shark. Did you know there are 10 species of hammerheads?

Hammerheads in Key Largo

In Key Largo most common species you are likely to see are the Scalloped Hammerhead, Smooth Hammerhead, and rarely the Great Hammerhead. While it may be tough at first glace to tell which is which, there is a way. If you look closely at their heads you can spot the differences.

Scalloped Hammerhead

The scalloped hammerhead is a coastal pelagic species: Occurring over continental and insular shelves and in nearby deeper water. They are found in warm waters worldwide and can be found down to depths over 1,600 ft but is most often found above 82 ft. During the day, they are more often found close to shore and at night they hunt further offshore.  On average, males measure 4.9 to 5.9 ft and weigh about 64 lbs, larger females measure 8.2 ft and weigh 180 lbs on average. The maximum length of the scalloped hammerhead is 14 ft and the maximum weight 336 lbs. A female caught off of Miami was found to have measured 10.7 ft and reportedly weighed 440 lbs!

However, scalloped hammerheads are on the “globally endangered” species list. In parts of the Atlantic Ocean, their populations have declined by over 95% in the past 30 years. Among the reasons for this drop off are over-fishing and the rise in demand for shark fins.

Smooth Hammerhead

The second-largest hammerhead next to the great hammerhead, the smooth hammerhead typically measures 8.2–11.5 ft long with a maximum recorded length and weight of 16 ft and 880 lbs. It differs from other large hammerheads in its head shape. It has a curved front margin without an indentation in the center. Among the hammerhead sharks, the smooth hammerhead is the species most tolerant of temperate water and occurs worldwide to higher latitudes than any other species.

At present, this species remains relatively common and has been assessed as “vulnerable” by the World Conservation Union.

Great Hammerhead

The great hammerhead is the largest species of hammerhead shark, attaining a maximum length of 20 ft. They are found in tropical and warm temperate waters worldwide, inhabiting coastal areas and the continental shelf. You can distinguish a great hammerhead from other hammerheads by the shape of its “hammer”. If you look closely, it is wide with an almost straight front margin. Another distinctive feature is the tall, sickle-shaped first dorsal fin.

And with great hammerheads being listed as globally “endangered” it is a rare sight to behold when diving.


If you dive Molasses Reef here in Key Largo, there is always a chance you could see one of these rare sharks! With Molasses being close to the gulf stream compared to many other dive sites, you can some days catch animals on their migratory paths. Occasionally large animals will make a pitstop through the reef and give a great photo op! These sharks are not a threat to divers. And more often than not they will be long gone before you can get a photo.


Great Barracuda

The Great Barracuda: Chances are you’ve met this common ocean fish! They have gotten a bad reputation but barracudas are actually interesting to dive and snorkel with. They can range anywhere from less than a foot to nearly 6 feet long! You can often spot them in their sandy spot of choice, observing. You don’t have to worry though. They are attracted to shiny things, but are not interested in divers and snorkelers. They can tell the difference between fish scales and your earrings! It’s almost like they treat divers/snorkelers like a “big ugly barracuda” that they don’t feel like messing with. Treat them just like a dog you don’t know–don’t mess with them and they won’t mess with you.

About the Great Barracuda

The barracuda is widely spread across the oceans but is more commonly found in the more tropical regions where there is an abundance of food. Although barracudas can be found in the deep ocean, they tend to prefer coastal habitats along continental shelves and close to coral reefs. But you can see them just about anywhere, including our deep wrecks and reefs. The barracuda’s diet consists of different types of fish: groupers, anchovies, mullets, snappers and sometimes squids and crustaceans.

Since they are large fish barracudas have few natural predators other than humans, sharks, and killer whales. So you will often see them act relatively unconcerned about your presence in the water. Often they will be the typical silvery-gray, but can show mottled black and gray as camouflage and territory display.