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Conch Reef

The sandy flats and areas of sea grass behind Conch Reef house lots and lots of queen conch, which is a protected species in the Florida Keys. They exist in about 10 to 20 feet of water so it will be easy to spot them, even if you are snorkeling. This used to be a very prevalent source of food in the Keys, and the term "conch" is sometimes used to describe the locals. You might have also heard of the "Conch Republic", formed in the 1980s by the Keys partly in jest but also as a protest-response to roadblocking of US 1 between the Keys and mainland Florida. This was an attempt to stop the influx of Cuban refugees who landed in the Keys during the Muriel boatlift of 1980. There also used to be a tradition where the birth of a baby would prompt the proud family to place a conch shell on a stick outside the home, like a Keys-style flag, to announce the delivery.

Whatever the root of the name and its folklore, Conch Reef is a deep reef, located in 25 to 90 feet of water but with the best diving in the middle range of depth. It's located five nautical miles from shore and visibility ranges from 40 to 70 feet. Once in a great while there will be some strong currents but usually they are not too bad.

You will find the Aquarius Underwater Habitat, a research station at Conch Reef, where scientists can stay for days at a time underwater studying the marine ecology. There are buoys, and divers are invited to peek at the research station. There is also a Sanctuary Preservation Area (SPA) here at Conch Reef, and a Special Use Area for research, where you cannot enter unless you have a permit.

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