KEY LARGO, Florida Keys - She might be entering her 31st year in the scuba diving business, but Amy Slate has not lost an ounce of her enthusiasm for diving, ocean preservation or the Key Largo community she has called home since the 1970s. Owner and operator of Amy Slate's Amoray Dive Resort, she is living a dream of being connected to marine life that began when she was a child growing up in Miami.
At age 6, a fortuitous swim with the dolphins at the Keys' Flipper Sea School launched Amy's passion. Afterward, convinced she would spend her life in, on and around the ocean, she excitedly told her parents, "This is it!"
Years later, as a teacher in what was styled a “self-contained classroom” in rural Jacksonville, Fla., Amy taught sixth-grade students lessons in all subjects with teaching tools derived from the ocean. Using seashells, students learned how to take measurements, use multiplication and explore scientific origins by reading about shells and marine life.
Amy also conducted dive training classes at the YMCA, yet the tug of her South Florida roots, coupled with morning frost on the car windows, were enough to make her decide, along with then-husband Spencer, to head for the Keys in 1978. There they started a dive business named Atlantis Dive Center.
In 1992, Amy dissolved her personal and professional partnerships to branch out on her own. After years spent studying other dive resorts, “research” that involved diving with humpback whales in French Polynesia and on the reefs of Bonaire, Cozumel and the Caribbean, Amy opened Amy Slate’s Amoray Dive Resort.
The property, and its name, were born from Amy’s deep love for the ocean and a play on her Italian family roots in the province of Sant’ Agata di Puglia. After every dive trip, the Amoray boat crew plays “That’s Amore!” on the return to the dock, and the resort’s signature logo is a moray eel in the shape of a heart.
“I am constantly learning and exploring new approaches to make Amoray a better place, and as comfortable as we can make it,” Amy said.
Keeping customers active, entertained, happy and hungry for a second helping of great service is what drives Amy and the resort’s staff to excel. The common thread at the resort is the Keys environment. All rooms are named after reef fish, brightly decorated with Caribbean-style colors, tropical linens, furnishings and wall hangings.
Amy and her Amoray Dive Resort also have earned a reputation for excelling at underwater weddings. Amoray Dive Resort ceremonies have been featured in “People” magazine and on a television show hosted by Geraldo Rivera. Rivera even blew a conch shell for his television audience. Future plans for the resort include development of a spa, tiki hut offering food and drinks, and a small underwater photography school.
Amy’s activities, however, aren’t limited to operating the resort. Among other community contributions, she has facilitated fundraisers for local dolphin care centers and shelters for women and children, and has been a board member for the Reef Environmental Education Foundation.
“If we don’t preserve what natural resources we have now, we won’t have them later to preserve,” she said.
To that end, she is active in facilitating coral restoration and transplantation projects with local marine scientist Ken Nedimyer. Despite her wide-ranging travels, she believes the Florida Keys are still the best place to dive. In fact, she said she considers diving to be therapy “like knitting,” and dives the Upper Keys’ Molasses Reef at least two afternoons a week to relax.
“Not everyone can live their passion,” Amy said. “But if you do what you love, the rest will follow.”
Amy Slate at Amoray Dive Resort, with her Lab retrievers, Mia and Tia. Photo by Peter Lorber
Amy Slate still dives at least two afternoons a week along the reefs and wrecks of Key Largo. Photos by Frazier Nivens
Amy exploring the City of Washington wreck site at Elbow Reef.