This 15-day program is your chance to learn to SCUBA dive, learn about and participate in coral conservation, and explore Everglades National park. As part of the ongoing recovery effort from Hurrican Irma, 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. Coral reefs are our first line of defense, and when degraded, we put ourselves at much greater risk. You can be part of alieviating some of that impact!
You will be able to 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 with Coral Restoration Foundation, started by CNN Hero, Ken Nedimyer. Make valuable connections with scientists and environmental professionals, while having the adventure of a lifetime.
My abilities as a diver, but also as an ambassador underwater were impacted by this trip. I learned to be more conservative with resources, and I learned to appreciate marine life and coral reefs through our service projects.” - 2019 RLT alum
Along with aiding the Coral Restoration Foundation, we will also support other local conservation efforts. 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.
Keep scrolling to learn more about our middle school SCUBA diving and marine conservation program in Florida and how you can make a real, lasting change on the seascape in the Florida Keys!
The Florida Keys Reef Tract is the third largest barrier reef system in the world and the only living coral reef system in the continental United States! Home to a wide array of flora and fauna, the Keys are a great place to learn to scuba dive or improve existing skills.
Founded by CNN Hero, Ken Nedimyer, Coral Restoration Foundation has grown more than 25,000 staghorn and elkhorn corals in 1-acre underwater nurseries. Click here to learn more about how the Coral Restoration Foundation and other organizations help ocean life fight climate change.
With an underwater slate and pencil, any diver can become an active ocean steward, citizen, and scientist while collecting data for Project REEF.
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.
First-hand research and education about the lionfish address the biological and ecological 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.
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.
Work with local conservation experts on water-based projects related to the re-population and protection of staghorn and elkhorn coral.
Other service opportunities include volunteering at a bird sanctuary, and beach clean ups in the area.
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, Advanced Open Water, or Specialty Course. Please call our office at 773-342-5200 for a list of PADI Specialty Courses available on this program.
Snorkel: Florida Keys
Sea Kayak: Everglades National Park (International Biosphere Reserve) and Dove Creek, North Key Largo
Explore: Wild Bird Center at Key Largo, The Everglades, Underwater Wreck, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary
REEF Classes: Fish Identification Study and Lion Fish Education
6 - 8
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. Following time in the ocean, participants will be swimming and rinsing off daily. 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.
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.
Students will work with top PADI instructors. Those new to diving will learn the fundamentals, completing a combination of pool and open water dives. Experienced divers will jump straight into the ocean to continue building on existing skills.
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 and help to protect and rehabilitate native and migratory wild birds.
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. Tour the Loggerhead Marine Life Center to learn how endangered sea turtles are rehabilitated.
Explore the remains of the USS Benwood, which sank during World War II.
Paddle and snorkel near grazing sea turtles around North Key Largo.
Say our final goodbyes in Ft. Lauderdale and board the flights home.
Students enrolled are required to complete the PADI eLearning course for their certification level before the first day of the trip. This separate fee is paid directly to PADI and allows for more time underwater diving! Courses will be completed on the island with the confined and open water dives and a skills review. Prices for each course are listed below.
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).
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.