The Road Less Traveled
2331 N. Elston Ave.
Chicago, IL 60614
June 24 - July 11, 2018 // 18 Days
July 14 - July 31, 2018 // 18 Days
Join us on our 18-day teen SCUBA community service trip and marine conservation program in the Florida Keys. As we begin to piece together the damage from Hurricane Irma in Florida, scientists are pointing to the ongoing loss of coral on the already threatened barrier reef as a key environmental factor that may have made the storm’s impact worse.
This summer, earn your PADI Open Water Scuba Certification and/or build upon previous certifications while diving in one of the world’s most versatile and breathtaking dive destinations. Work alongside conservation scientists and marine biologists to reconstruct coral reefs at CNN Hero, Ken Nedimyer’s coral restoration non-profit. Make valuable connections with scientists and environmental professionals, while having the adventure of a lifetime.
This trip showed me just how important it is to take risks and experience what I am passionate about, because seeing the world and making the most of what it has to offer with people who have the same desire gave me what a million words and pictures could never do.” - Hayley S., Florida: Conservation is Key
Putting our passion for marine biology to work, we aid in underwater fish identification and lionfish eradication, visit a sea turtle hospital, help with turtle conservation efforts, volunteer at a bird sanctuary and support efforts to restore these animals to their habitat. We explore the Everglades and surrounding waters by sea kayak and snorkel the fauna-rich waters. We also experience the depths of an ancient ship wreck, attend a local fish festival, explore the charming Keys, and dive in the continental United States’ only living coral barrier reef. For those interested in land-based work, we help in the rebuilding efforts throughout the keys with local organizations.
Coral reefs are our first line of defense, and when degraded, we put ourselves at much greater risk.
Keep scrolling to learn more about our teen SCUBA community trip and marine conservation program in Florida and how you can make a real, lasting change on the seascape in the Florida Keys!
Learn free-dive and snorkel techniques along with earning either an Open Water certification, an Advanced Open Water certification, working towards a Rescue Diver certification, or obtaining additional specialty certifications.
Founded by CNN Hero, Ken Nedimyer, the Coral Restoration Foundation has grown more than 25,000 staghorn and elkhorn corals in 1-acre underwater nurseries.
The Turtle Hospital is the world’s only state-certified hospital for sea turtles. The hospital has four main goals: to rehab injured turtles and return them to the sea, educate the public, conduct and assist with research, and work toward legislation making the beaches and waters safe for the turtles.
“A river of grass flowing imperceptibly from the hinterland into the sea," the Everglades protect nearly 800 species of land and water vertebrates (including 14 threatened species). Resident species include 25 mammals, over 400 birds, at least 60 reptiles, amphibians and insects (including two threatened swallowtail butterfly species and the indigo snake), and more than 275 fish, plus the threatened manatee. Whew! Explore this remarkable landscape with the help of renowned guide Garl Harrold, location expert on the award-winning National Geographic film "The Everglades - A Watery Wilderness," who has provided his local knowledge and expertise to CNN, The New York Times, Disney IMAX, and many others.
With an underwater slate and pencil, any diver can become an active ocean steward, citizen, and scientist while collecting data for Project REEF.
First-hand research and education about the lionfish address the biology/ecology issues raised by this invasive species.
More than 2,900 square nautical miles of water surround the Florida Keys. Administered by National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, the national marine sanctuary offers world-class diving, swimming, snorkeling, and fishing.
Since 1995, the Florida Keys Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center has rescued more than 16,000 birds and returned them to their natural habitat. Volunteers assist with the bird care at the center.
Florida is home to the only living coral barrier reef in the continental U.S. Reef fish, lobsters, and turtles abound amid the pristine beauty. Warm waters and shallow depth make it very inviting for snorkelers, too.
Coral Reef Restoration, turtle habitat protection; bird sanctuary
A Certificate of Community Service indicating the total number of hours worked and a Presidential Volunteer Service Award will be issued upon successful completion of the program.
PADI Scuba: Open Water Diver Certification or work on next level certifications (Advanced Open Water, Rescue Diver, Nitrox & other PADI Specialties)
Snorkel: Florida Keys
Sea Kayak: Everglades National Park (International Biosphere Reserve) and Dove Creek, North Key Largo
Explore: Turtle Hospital at Marathon Key, Wild Bird Center at Key Largo, Key West & southernmost point in the US, Key West Butterfly Reef
REEF Classes Fish Identification Study and Lion Fish Education
We stay in a private home. Bedrooms will be divided by gender and participants will sleep slumber party style – in sleeping bags, rotating available beds nightly. Showers are available; however, we shower every three to four days to conserve resources and support sustainability. Bathrooms are flush toilets.
Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Join in on the fun! Check out #CitkRLT for a behind-the-scenes look at photos from past participants and leaders.
Reforesting and replanting endangered species of coral on some of the world’s most spectacular reefs, scouting wetlands of international significance, kayaking through clear waters, and diving to the depths of an ancient ship wreck ... the Florida Keys provide a superabundance of conservation and adventure opportunities.
Surrounded by the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Gulf of Mexico, we have access to some of the world’s largest coral reefs and rarest plant and animal species.
As one of the most important ecosystems in the United States, the Keys are home to manatees, whales, sea turtles, dolphins, seals, and hundreds of other endangered species. Unfortunately, as the Keys have grown in popularity, damage to the delicate ecosystem has increased. Traveling as stewards and conservators, we carefully explore how this rare environment will sustain itself for the future.
We obtain our PADI SCUBA certifications and learn free dive and snorkel techniques (for open water, advanced open water, and other specialty certifications).
Next, we work with The Coral Reef Foundation founded by CNN Hero Ken Nedimyer on a variety of water-based community service projects for the protection and restoration of staghorn coral around Molasses Reef. Our community service includes mounting new coral to the reef and expanding the nursery to accommodate future additions to the bank.
Afternoons are spent learning about the multitude of fish that make the Florida Keys their home. We learn not only how to identify them but how to catalog our findings in a database for scientists worldwide to use in their conservation efforts. We explore one of the largest threats to the reefs of Florida, the lionfish, and learn how divers throughout the Caribbean are coming together to help eradicate this invasive species. We get to know the lionfish in-depth while viewing a dissection to understand why what they eat is integral to the eradication process.
Weekends take us to Everglades National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site and International Biosphere Reserve and the only subtropical preserve in North America. Guided by local conservationist Garl Harrold, location expert on the award-winning National Geographic film "The Everglades - A Watery Wilderness," we explore vast forests, rivers, and cypress swamps by kayak.
At a special hospital, we support the rescue, rehabilitation, and release of sea turtles. We learn about the effects of human migration, fibropapilloma (a disease specific to sea turtles), and the crises loggerhead turtles face in the 21st century. We also work with the Florida Keys Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center to help rebuild habitats for some of the Keys’ flighty residents. The center serves as a sanctuary and rehabilitation clinic for birds found throughout South Florida and the Keys.
Paddling in sea kayaks through North Key Largo, we stop to snorkel the pristine waters famous for their abundance of fish.
We celebrate the end of the program with our traditional final feast, and by the time we go home we know unquestionably, conservation really is the key!
Arrive in Ft. Lauderdale, FL and meet the group. Move on to Sunset Cove in Key Largo.
Spend time getting to know one another as we swim, snorkel, and BBQ at John Pennekamp State Park.
Those new to diving will learn the fundamentals. Anyone with diving experience will learn new skills from top PADI instructors.
Explore the mangroves of the everglades. Float the most fascinating river in the world, passing alligators, manatees, and great blue herons - all with the help and insights of an expert guide and conservationist!
Do service work with the Florida Keys Wild Bird center helping to protect and rehabilitating native and migratory wild birds.
Visit Key Largo and celebrate the Fourth of July watching the parade and the enjoying the celebrations.
Stand at the southernmost point in the U.S. Explore Key West, home to key lime pie and Cuban delis. Meander through the magical Key West Butterfly Conservatory. Tour the Loggerhead Marine Life Center to learn how endangered sea turtles are rehabilitated.
Using PADI open water skills, harvest staghorn coral from the nurseries off Key Largo and replant it on Molasses Reef to help reverse the damage done by natural and human disasters.
Paddle and snorkel near grazing sea turtles around North Key Largo.
Explore the remains of the USS Benwood, which sank during World War II.
Relax, hit the waves, and celebrate earning your PADI certification. Close the trip with a final banquet.
Say our final goodbyes in Ft. Lauderdale and board the flights home.
The Road Less Traveled does not require any vaccinations or immunizations to travel with us, other than an up-to-date tetanus shot or booster (within the last nine years).
Please click below to view your program’s equipment and packing list!
To receive an emailed copy of this program’s day-to-day calendar, please call our office between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. CST at 773-342-5200, and we’ll happily send you one!
It is highly recommended that participants on this program are comfortable being in the water and swimming.
It is imperative that no one make any travel arrangements until RLT provides instructions for specific arrival and departure time windows. Those details are typically released in mid-spring.
Families are individually responsible for booking their own airfare to get their student from home to the starting destination (Ft. Lauderdale, FL) on the first day of the trip, and from the ending destination (Ft. Lauderdale, FL) back home on the last day of the trip.