Scuba Diving in the Florida Keys Brings with it One BIG Challenge
Scuba diving in the Florida Keys brings with it one big challenge - deciding where to dive. With so many phenomenal choices, narrowing it down can be tough. In this article, we will identify some exceptional dive sites in the Florida Keys to consider for your next trip. Whether cave diving, shipwreck diving, or diving in shallow lagoons, you can be sure your experience will be one to remember.
For starters, you might venture over to the San Pedro wreck located in the Upper Keys. Great for beginners, this Spanish ship was a part of the 1733 treasure fleet on its way to Spain from the New World when the ships were hit by a hurricane, pushing 21 galleons onto the reefs. Almost the entire fleet ended up being destroyed, each leaving behind a massive pile of timbers, ballast stones, and treasure. Although most of the treasure was salvaged by the Spanish and then by the Americans, even today divers find pottery, coins, and other artifacts encrusted with coral.
The French Reef is another area in the Upper Keys that reaches to 100 feet in depth. Great for all skill levels, this dive is most famous for the impressive limestone cliffs and interesting caves, crevices, and tunnels. Common creatures seen during dives include moray eel and cooper sweepers. You will also find shallow reef areas of golden brown Elkhorn coral, brain coral, and star coral, abundant with life to include parrotfish, grunts, yellowtails, damsels, jacks, snook, permit, and pork fish.
The San Jose Wreck is located in the Upper Keys has a depth of 35 feet. This Spanish ship was another of the 1733 treasure fleet heading to Spain. What makes this particular ship of the fleet so special is that it has been more productive for treasure than the other ships. In fact, 30 years ago, a salvage team discovered 50 yards of the main wreck holding more than $30,000 in gold and silver, on the first day of searching alone. Although a large pile of rocks, this wreck still has the keel and ribs exposed with a beautiful surrounding sea bottom.
Pickles Reef in the Upper Keys has depths of 10 to 25 feet and is a great beginner to intermediate site. The collection of what appears to be encrusted pickles barrels is where the name comes from, which are found near a scattered shipwreck. However, experts believe the barrels probably contained cement or mortar at one time on their way to one of the forts. Although this is an easy dive, it is also known for the Pillar Coral Forest, one of the largest pillar coral formations in the Florida Keys, definitely worth seeing.
Finally, there is Alexander’s Wreck in the Lower Keys. This dive site reaches to 40 feet deep. Named after Chet Alexander, known for sinking more artificial reef ships than anyone else in the Florida Keys, he bought this destroyer escort for $2,000 from the Navy and then sank her in 1972. Although the wreck is broken in half with the stern in 150-yards to the north of the bow, the ship provides a home to fish such as pork fish, groupers, angelfish, hogfish, sheepshead, spadefish, and snappers.