Upper Florida Keys -- Warm water and a warm welcome await water enthusiasts at Island Sun Splash '08, slated for Wednesday through Saturday, June 11-14. Organized by the Upper Keys Association of Dive and Snorkel Operators, the event includes activities for everyone from expert divers to families visiting North America's only living coral barrier reef for the first time.
Special events directed at youngsters and families are a hallmark of Island Sun Splash.
"People can come try diving for the first time, take a dive resort course or get fully certified," said Captain Gary Mace, one of the event organizers.
Discover Scuba diving classes are to be offered so visitors can get an introductory taste of diving. Snorkeling lessons are set to make sightseeing from the water's surface a fun and safe experience.
Underwater photography and video seminars are to be accompanied by photo and video contests, with separate divisions for kids and adults. A Land Sea Photo Scavenger Hunt also is planned, during which contestants must seek out and photograph local landmarks and beautiful reef fish to earn points and win prizes. Every kid age 15 and younger that participates in the junior division wins a prize.
Kids also can enter the Junior Olympics, a set of in-pool games that focus on fun, sportsmanship and competition.
The Reef Environmental Education Foundation is to conduct its popular fish identification classes so no introductions will be necessary when snorkelers and divers come nose to snout with local underwater inhabitants.
Shallow reefs and wrecks in calm, clear water await newly certified and less-experienced divers, while advanced divers can make the journey down to vessels such as the U.S. Coast Guard cutters Bibb and Duane and the freighter Eagle.
Extremely experienced divers can attend a daylong technical-diving session followed by a seminar on deep technical diving and the use of rebreathers.
Other schedule standouts include a visit to the Florida Keys History of Diving Museum, which houses an unparalleled collection of historic dive gear. The museum features a special collection dedicated to Art McKee, a treasure diver from Islamorada regarded as the "father of recreational diving."
Dr. Sally Bauer, co-founder of the museum, is to offer a private reception and seminar on the history of diving and show how recreational diving actually got its start in the waters off Islamorada.
Modern treasure hunters Carl Fismer and Captain Gary Mace are to conduct a seminar on the 1733 Spanish Fleet that was forced onto Keys reefs by a powerful storm. Fismer and Mace plan to lead tours to local wreck sites after each session.
Rounding out the Island Sun Splash roster of events are kayaking trips and introductory sailing lessons at Founder's Park in Islamorada, a fishing clinic, dinner parties and a family-style barbecue and awards celebration.
Admission wristbands to Island Sun Splash cost $20 per adult and $10 per youngster age 10 to 14. Children under 10 are admitted without charge.
The wristbands allow entrance to all seminars, the Try Scuba pool sessions and 10 percent discounts on dive trips, dive gear, apparel, meals at participating restaurants and merchandise at participating retailers.
A 25 percent discount is to be offered on refresher courses and peak performance buoyancy clinics.
For the latest schedules and lists of participating dive shops, restaurants and retailers, visit www.islandsunsplash.com.
To find out about Key Largo accommodations, call the Key Largo Chamber of Commerce at (305) 451-4747 or (800) 822-1088. To find out about Islamorada accommodations, call the Islamorada Chamber of Commerce at (305) 664-4503 or (800) 322-5397.
More information about lodging and activities throughout the Keys can be found on the Florida Keys Key West Web site at www.fla-keys.com.