Fort Lauderdale is a city of contrasts, and nowhere are the contrasts more startling than when you stand on the corner of Las Olas Boulevard and A1A. To your left, you'll see the infamous Elbo Room, where young out-of-towners receive their drinking badges. It can be humanity at its worst. But then look at the Atlantic Ocean. About a third of a mile from where you stand is one of the world's most beautiful coral reef systems, an underwater paradise home to thousands of creatures much more interesting than the ones you'll find at the Elbo Room. Fort Lauderdale's reef system consists of three separate coral ridges that run parallel to shore. Depths of the ridge closest to our pearly-white sand are as shallow as eight feet, giving snorkelers an opportunity for breathtaking views of nurse sharks, sea turtles, goliath groupers, and other reef-dwelling creatures. Among the companies offering snorkeling trips to this local wonder of a reef system are Pro Dive, 515 Seabreeze Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, 954-776-3483; and Sea Experience, 801 Seabreeze Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, 954-467-6000.

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