I wanted to fill you all in on a secret aquarium-related getaway I experienced while in the Keys. For the aquarium hobbyist who has never seen a wholesale operation, staying at the vacation rentals offered by Tom and Carol Scaturro of Divertom.com will give you a unique glimpse into the life of a full time Florida fish collector. I’d seen Tom’s rentals maybe a year ago, so I jumped at the opportunity to stay there before speaking in Orlando at ORCA’s Southeastern Reef Conference.
I’m not going to sugar coat or exaggerate the amenities – if you’re looking for a 5-star luxury experience, I’m thinking that VRBO (Vacation Rentals By Owner) isn’t going to be your thing. However, my wife and I have found this alternative form of lodging to be a great way to travel and get a much bigger bang for your buck. Tom and Carol offer both a studio and 2-bedroom rental. Rates vary with the season of course – I found them to be very reasonable. I was especially pleased to be able to give my money to someone in the aquarium industry as I traveled through the Keys. Located in Tavernier, between Key Largo and Islamorada, the drive was a total of about 1. 5 hours from Miami International Airport. Tavernier happened to also be some of the cheapest gas we saw in the Keys, so be sure to fill up when you’re there!
We stayed in the 2 bedroom apartment @ Carol & Tom’s. Very clean, plenty of space, separate AC in both rooms, free WiFi, fridge, kitchen, living room, bathroom and shower…all the stuff you need. It’s not beachfront property (there is a public park within walking distance), but the private rooftop Tiki Bar is nothing to scoff at! Of course, we had such a good time I never even thought to take pictures of the apartment or the overall building. With only Tom & Carol and one other vacationer around (staying in the studio rental) we had plenty of privacy. Our hosts were gracious and friendly of course, but I don’t want to give the impression that they’re running some sort of bed & breakfast where they are everywhere you turn. Staying only 2 nights, we barely scratched the surface of things to do – I guess we’ll try the canoeing some other time (if you can get us out of the ocean!).
Oh, and yes, the ocean was just awesome off the shores of Tavernier. I have no frame of reference for how things perhaps “used to be”, but for a guy with an unnatural fear of being eaten by sharks, I got over it pretty quickly and really enjoyed getting wet (the good water clarity helped).
Frankly, I cannot wait to get back there if the opportunity arises, although I’m probably going to make it pretty hard to get a reservation after this post (they’re already pretty booked up – a testament to the value and quality). Without a doubt, if you’re a marine aquarist traveling to the Keys, you owe it to yourself to get out of the traditional tourist rut and consider spending some time with DiverTom if you can.