TAVERNIER -- Amber Holmes left her home of Concord, Ga., in July to pursue the job of her dreams. She has opened AKA Diving Charters at Tavernier's Mangrove Marina.
When Holmes recently asked husband David for a new Dodge Charger, he countered with a dive boat. And so began her new adventure.
David Holmes works for the U.S. Department of Defense and is encamped with a U.S. Marine unit in Afghanistan's Kandahar Province. He is serving his second tour and is expected to join his wife in the Keys by the end of the month.
"He knew I could handle it," she said about making the move to the Florida Keys while her husband was overseas. "I am so proud of him."
She said she talks to David about twice a day and isn't sure whether he'll join the business full-time or find something in the law enforcement field upon his return.
"This is our life's dream," Holmes said. "We've worked really hard to get here."
Holmes has spent the last 20 years raising her family, working in hospital offices and becoming an Emergency Medical Technician. She left Georgia to the envy of her friends and quickly grew accustomed to the Keys lifestyle.
"I love being in flip-flops," she said.
Holmes says she has spent the last few weeks getting her two daughters enrolled in school and ready for the academic year. Kimberly, an eighth grader at Plantation Key School, and Alexis, a 10th grader at Coral Shores High School, both help run the dive shop and boat with their mom.
"Now my main focus is the business," she said.
Holmes is on a first-name basis with many of the marina's live-aboard residents. She said everyone is willing to help each other.
"Everyone is so friendly here," she said.
Along with offering charters, Holmes' business also includes a dive shop that sells everything to meet one's diving needs. From flashlights and spearguns to general apparel, the shop will carry even more stock soon, she said.
After interviewing more than 15 candidates, Holmes hired Capt. George Griffin of Jacksonville to come down and run the charters.
"He is a good Christian man and we liked that," she said.
Holmes said she wants to focus on family-oriented trips and keep the group size under six people. Her company offers two- tank dive trips for $75 and four-hour kayak rentals for $30. In addition, she offers snorkeling trips and eco-tours. The shop also refills air tanks.
Holmes also plans to organize a program to get children diving. She said she has held preliminary conversations with school officials.
AKA Diving Charters offers a 10 percent discount to law enforcement and military personnel with proper identification. For more information, visit www.akadiving.com or find them on Facebook.