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Florida Scuba Diving

Florida Manatee photo by Donald TiptonFlorida’s diverse dive offerings run the gamut from fresh water to salt water and cave diving to drift diving. The state of Florida offers more shipwrecks than many countries!  Florida pretty much has it all and the best part? You can dive it.

Gulf Coast
Along Florida’s west coast you can find beautiful coastal islands, warm waters and a subtropical climate. With artificial reefs, natural dive sites teeming with tropical marine life and wreck dives, it’s also quite a desirable dive spot.

Types of Diving and Best Dive Spots
Artificial Reefs/Wrecks
Artificial reefs abound along the Gulf coast ranging from sunken vessels to rock piles to boxcars.

  • You can find more than 80 artificial reef systems off of Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte and Lee counties. In these locations you can make dives that range from shallow shore dives to deep dives over 34 metres/110 feet. 
  • An excellent wreck dive is the Bay Ronto, a 122-metre/400-foot British freighter sunk in 1919. Now sitting at 33 metres/100 feet, is home to abundant sea life.


Natural Rock Formations
Siesta Key’s Point of Rocks is a remarkable location that features natural limestone rock formations otherwise known as beachrock.

Marine Creatures
During the summer you may stumble across spotted eagle rays and the occasional whale shark. But, even if you don’t, there are always plenty of goliath grouper, hogfish, amberjack, barracuda and lobster to keep you company. The Gulf Coast is also home to manatees and sea turtles.

Dive SeasonFlorida Dive Boat
Year round

Average Water Tempuratures
28° C/82° F in summer, 16° C/60° F in winter

Topside Treasures
• Crowley Museum and Nature Center – You can take a self-guided
   nature tour through this 77-hectare/190-acre wildlife
   sanctuary in Sarasota.
• Marie Selby Botanical Gardens – Explore the amazing display of
   rare orchids and other flowers in this 3.4 hectare/8.5 acre
   tropical paradise on the shores of Sarasota Bay.

Crystal River
Located on Florida’s west coast about 113 kilometres/70 miles north of Tampa, Crystal River has both salt and fresh water springs that attract scuba divers and snorkelers. Crystal River is a known Mecca for manatees and there are many dive shops that offer the unique experience of swimming with these gentle giants. Crystal River is the only place in the United States where you can snorkel with these remarkable creatures.

Types of Diving and Best Dive Spots
Kings Bay is the primary dive spot in Crystal River. This tranquil, spacious bay features a group of fresh water springs that make for fun and exciting diving amongst caverns, rock formations and a multitude of fish. Depths can reach 18 metres/60 feet and visibility can exceed 24 metres/80 feet.

Marine Creatures
Manatees take advantage of the warm water in Kings Bay and you shouldn’t miss the chance to be in the water with one of these animals. You’re also likely to see tarpon, snapper, redfish, large mouth bass and garfish.

  • Fun fact – Did you know manatees can grow up to 4 metres/12 feet long and can weigh more than 680 kilograms/1500 pounds?

Dive Season
The official manatee season runs from 15 October –to 31 March but some of the creatures are year-round residents.

Average Water Tempuratures
25°C/77° F in summer, 13°C/55° F in winter

Topside Treasures
• Homosassa Springs State Wildlife Park – Here you can watch alligators, bobcats, western cougars, white-tail
  deer, black bears, pelicans, herons, snowy egrets, river otters and even a resident hippo.
• Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge – This area is a home for diverse wildlife like alligators, raccoons, river
   otter, black bears and bobcats.
• Crystal River Archaeological State Park – Investigate history at this center of early Florida’s earliest inhabitants.
• Yulee Sugar Mill Ruins Historic State Park – You can see how sugar was made at this former 2064 hectare/5100
   acre sugar plantation
• World Woods Golf Club – avid golfers can tour the links at these two top rated courses.

South Florida
Southeast Florida has some of the largest artificial reefs and wrecks in the country. Plus many of Palm Beach and Broward South Florida Wreck DivingCounty’s 60 wrecks are perfect for new divers.

Types of Diving and Best Dive Spots
Drift Diving
The Gulf Stream makes its closest approach to the shoreline along Florida’s southeast and maintains an average one knot current. The gentle current effortlessly carries you along rows of spectacular coral reefs and clouds of colorful fish.

Artificial Reefs/Wrecks
Divers will find a string of wrecks running from Fort Lauderdale to Miami. In addition to dozens of wrecks are three former oil platforms called the Tenneco Towers. Another notable feature in the area is Miami's Wreck Trek - several wreck sites close together. Sites include a 20-metre/65-foot steel tugboat, two M60 tanks, a 34-metre/110-foot Barge, Antennae Reef and a host of large freighters.

Marine Creatures
Divers will find abundant fish life and the occasional larger pelagic animal like sea turtles, sharks, sailfish and whales.

Dive Season
May to September

Average Water Temps
25° C/77° F in summer and 22° C/72° F in winter

Topside Treasures
• South Beach Miami –Stroll down Ocean Boulevard and check out the sleek architecture or head out on the town
   when the sun goes down.
• Lummus Park Beach – sunbathe with celebrities and supermodels at this famous strip of sand.
• Lowe Art Museum – located in Coral Gables, the museum features 13 exhibits spanning 5000 years.
• Monkey Jungle – Escape on a jungle safari and through Amazonian Rainforest to witness hundreds of exotic
  monkeys running wild.

Florida Keys
The Florida Keys are a popular dive destination and for good reason – it’s breathtaking and ideal for all types of divers. Florida FlamingoHead to the Keys and you can dive North America’s only living coral reef or tour the area’s shipwrecks. Opportunities abound for underwater photographers but with the area known as the Keys encompassing 7252 square kilometers/2800 square miles throughout Florida Bay, the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean – you’ll be able to find something for everyone.

Types of Diving and Best Dive Spots
The 202 square kilometer/78 square mile John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park features 40 living coral species and 650 fish varieties.

  • Off Marathon Key is one of the region’s top dive sites. The 57 metre/188 foot Thunderbolt sits upright in 35 metres/115 feet of water and is home to colorful sponges, corals and hydroids and a 227 kilogram/500 pound Goliath grouper.
  • Close to Looe Key is the 64-metre/210-foot Adolphus Busch - currently the largest wreck in the Lower Keys.
  • The Spiegel Grove is one of the Keys’ most popular wrecks. The 155-metre/510-foot vessel lies in 40 metres/130 feet about 10 kilometres/6 miles off Key Largo intentionally sunk as an artificial reef.

You also won’t want to miss the nearby wrecks of the former United States Coast Guard cutters Bibb and Duane.

Marine Creatures
Many types of fish, such as barracuda and jacks, now call these sites home.

Dive Season
Year round

Average Water Temperatures
26° C/78° F in summer and  22° C/72° F in winter

Topside Treasures
• Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum – Stroll through the historic Key West home of one of America’s iconic
   authors.
• Gatorpark – Experience the Everglades National Park via airboat and check out alligator nests, an Indian fish
  camp and all sorts of wildlife.

Read more about the Florida Keys

 

The Springs
Florida’s springs offer a range of fresh water diving - from deep cave diving done mainly by researchers and scientists at Wakulla florida cavern diversSprings to recreational cave diving. Here, you can go where few others have been.

Types of Diving and Best Dive Spots
Cave and Cavern Diving
The central portion of northern Florida is one of the largest and most active cave diving regions in the United States. Known for strong currents and crystal clear waters, springs fed by the North Florida Aquifer open to a labyrinthine cave system.

  • Ginnie Springs and Peacock Springs - some of the most visited freshwater dive spots in the world – are two spots you truly don’t want to miss.
  • The Leon Sinks cave system near Tallahassee is a massive underwater cave system thought to be one of the most extensive in the world. 

Marine Creatures
In caves and caverns, divers can find the occasional crayfish, catfish, eel or turtle.

Dive Season
The winter months

Average Water Temperatures
22° C/72° F year round

Topside Treasures
• Ginnie Springs offers amazing diving along with canoeing, camping, swimming, volleyball and hiking.
• Gainesville Raceway is the spot for professional drag racing.
• Kanapaha Botanical Gardens – Take a stroll through the butterfly, hummingbird, bamboo, water and rock
   gardens. If you’re lucky, you might even see alligators and bald eagles.

What’s the difference between cave and cavern diving?siloutte of cavern divers
In cavern diving, you always have the entrance to your overhead environment in sight, so you ascend to the surface. Cave diving, on the other hand, means divers can’t see the entrance. Both types of diving can be beautiful but require specialized equipment and training.

Special Training
Cave and cavern diving can be dangerous activities and require advanced skills and training.

Want to know more? Visit www.scubaearth.com for further information on thousands of dive sites, marine species, destination essentials and more.