Marine conservation, education initiatives and demonstrating positive impacts of citizen science in the Florida Keys and around the world are at the core of the nonprofit Reef Environmental Education Foundation’s mission.
The four-day festival features a full slate of social events, coral reef dives, snorkeling excursions with REEF fish surveyors to share helpful fish species knowledge, and guided kayak eco-tours with Keys operators to search for wading birds and nearshore marine life.
REEF Fest events kick off Thursday, Oct. 13, with morning dive and snorkel trips with area operators. From 4 to 7 p.m. at the REEF Campus, mile marker 98.3 in the Florida Keys Overseas Highway median, attendees can take part in an evening open house gathering for conservationists to meet and mingle, enjoy wine and craft beer, tour the interpretive center or walk a native plants trail.
Friday and Saturday, participants can again join morning dive, snorkel or kayak trips, followed by afternoon marine conservation programs at the Murray Nelson Government and Cultural Center, mile marker 102 bayside. Sessions are to begin each afternoon at 2 p.m. with pre-seminar socializing and are free and open to the public. Registration is requested. Visit REEF.org/REEFfest/registration.
A Friday happy hour social is planned for 5-6:30 p.m. between seminars.
At Saturday night’s “For the Love of the Sea” open-air celebration, festivalgoers can connect with friends for dinner, drinks and a Keys sunset over the waters of Florida Bay. The event is to be held at a waterfront venue next to Quiescence Diving Services, mile marker 103.6 on Key Largo's Blackwater Sound.
Set for 5-9 p.m., the limited-seating event is to feature passed appetizers, various culinary station selections, an open bar and a large silent auction. Tickets are $100 per person and can be purchased upon registration for REEF Fest at REEF.org/REEFfest/registration.
Dedicated boat charters have been reserved for the Thursday, Friday and Saturday dive and snorkel excursions. A REEF representative is to be onboard with fish identification and survey materials.
For paddlers, fully guided three-hour kayak tours can be reserved Friday and Saturday mornings.
They include all rental equipment, a lesson on paddling techniques, snacks, drinking water and the services of an experienced guide.
Sign up for a dive, snorkel or kayak trip at REEF.org/REEFfest/diving.
Sunday, Oct. 16, attendees are free to explore Key Largo and surrounding areas and participate in self-guided tours highlighting conservation activities in the Florida Keys. For suggested options, visit REEF.org/REEFfest/conservation.
Event information: REEF.org/REEFfest or 305-852-0030
Key Largo visitor information: fla-keys.com/keylargo
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