Florida Keys:

 

Airports:  The Florida Keys are accessible by flying into either Miami International Airport (MIA) or Key West International Airport (EYW).

Currency:  The Florida Keys are part of the United States, and therefore use the US Dollar.

Climate:

Average High Air Temps for Key West

Jan

Feb

March

April

May

June

July

Aug

Sept

Oct

Nov

Dec

° F

75

75

79

82

85

88

89

89

88

84

80

76

° C

24

24

26

28

29

31

32

32

31

29

27

24

Average Low Air Temps for Key West

Jan

Feb

March

April

May

June

July

Aug

Sept

Oct

Nov

Dec

° F

65

66

69

72

76

79

80

79

79

76

71

67

° C

18

19

21

22

24

26

27

26

26

24

22

21

 

Water Temperature:

Average Water Temps for Key West

Jan

Feb

March

April

May

June

July

Aug

Sept

Oct

Nov

Dec

° F

69

70

75

79

83

86

87

87

86

82

76

72

° C

21

21

24

26

28

30

31

31

30

28

24

22

 

Language:  English is the official language of the Florida Keys.

Dive Landscape: 

Florida Keys Wreck TrekRecently, divers in the Florida Keys had a unique opportunity to explore the Florida Keys Shipwreck Trail as part of a new dive challenge called the ‘Wreck Trek Passport Program.’

One of the Florida Keys’ most appealing features is a string of sunken vessels and artificial reefs

Divers who took the challenge were given an ‘Official Florida Keys Wreck Trek’ logbook at the time of charter with participating dive shops. The dive log resembles a passport, and highlights nine of the Keys’ fascinating shipwrecks from Key Largo to Key West: Spiegel Grove, Duane, Bibb, Eagle, Thunderbolt, Adolphus Busch Sr., Cayman Salvager, Joe’s Tug and the Vandenberg, the southernmost addition to the Shipwreck Trail in May 2009.

Even though the passport program is now over, the challenge still sounds like a fun one!

The 9 wrecks, from North to South, are:

Spiegel Grove:

Depth Range: 60-130 feet

Experience Level: Advanced to Expert

Sunk June 10, 2002

The USS Spiegel Grove was originally a Landing Ship Dock (LSD 32). It was sunk of the coast of Key Largo in 2002 to create an artificial reef. The ship measures 510 feet in length and 84 feet across at its widest point. The ship now lies at 134 feet at its deepest point, its highest point being around 60 feet.

The sinking of the Spiegel Grove was very interesting. The ship began to rolling on the starboard side until it was upside down. The ship came to rest on the sea floor upside down with its bow pointing out of the ocean. The ship was then rolled to its starboard side. The ship laid on its side until July 2005 when Hurricane Dennis created a force large enough to put the ship right-side-up!

This world-famous artificial reef was until recently the biggest wreck in the world sunk especially for divers. The wreck is now upright. Most of the openings have been widened and secured with lines, so that advanced divers can easily do a variety of exciting swim-throughs with daylight. For “pros”, the wreck offers lots of additional possibilities.

 

Benwood:

Depth Range: 50 feet offshore, 20 feet inshore

Experience Level: Novice to Intermediate

Sunk 1941

An English built cargo vessel lost in a tragic chain of events in 1942. The Benwood rests on a level expanse of sand. Its fractured stern lies at a depth of 25 feet, while its bow points offshore at a depth of 45 feet. The bow section looms up out of the sand, in contrast with the rest of the ship which is almost wholly submerged.

 

Duane:

Depth Range: 50-130 feet

Experience Level: Advanced to Expert

Sunk 1987

This 327′ coast guard cutter was painstakingly sunk in 1987 as part of an artificial reef program sponsored by the Keys Association of Dive Operators. The Duane lies upright with a slight list to starboard at a depth of about 100 ft. This wreck is rewarding dive with a fascinating history. She is covered in different colored corals and teems with life.

 

Bibb:

Depth Range: 50-130 feet

Experience Level: Advanced to Expert

Sunk 1987

The Bibb is the twin of the Duane – both 327′ coast guard cutters were painstakingly sunk in 1987 as part of an artificial reef program sponsored by the Keys Association of Dive Operators. The Bibb overturned while sinking and lies on her starboard side; you will begin to reach the ship’s exterior at a depth of 95 ft. The Duane is more frequently dived because of her depth and lies upright with a slight list to starboard at a depth of about 100 ft. Both ships are an equally rewarding dive with a fascinating history.

 

Eagle:

Depth Range: 80 to 120 feet

Experience Level: Advanced to Expert

Sunk December 19, 1985

The 287 foot freighter Eagle was originally named the Aaron K and was used to transport scrap paper between Miami and South America. On December 19, 1985, the Miami and Dade County Bomb Squad set explosives that sent the ship to the bottom in 90 seconds. She now rests on her starboard side with her bow pointing towards shore in 120 feet of water on a sand bottom. Her cargo bays act like caverns with schools of fish swimming in an out of them. There is usually a slight current over this wreck, and visibility ranges from 50 to 100 feet.

  

Thunderbolt:

Depth Range: 60 to 115 feet

Experience Level: Advanced to Expert

Sunk March 3, 1986

The Thunderbolt was a 188 foot long cable laying work boat with a 37 foot beam. The Thunderbolt was finally sunk on March 3, 1986, in 115 feet of water.

Today the Thunderbolt sits upright and intact just south of Vaca Cut. Divers can see her two bronze propellers, enormous cable lying spool, penetrate into her wheel house or just marvel at the diversity and abundance of marine life that have found their home on this scuttled shipwreck.

Vandenberg:

Depth Range: 40 to 140 feet

Experience Level: Advanced to Expert

Sunk May 27, 2009

The USNS Gen. Hoyt S. Vandenberg is a 522 feet long former Missile Range Instrumentation Ship which was intentionally sunk on May 27th 2009 to create an artificial reef for divers and fishermen. She sits intact and upright at a depth of 140 ft seven miles off Key West. The superstructure begins at a depth of 40 ft.

Built in 1943, the Vandenberg had a long and varied career. In addition to her duty as a missile tracking ship, she also served as a World War II troop transport and even had a starring role in the 1999 movie “Virus.”

Cayman Salvager:

Depth Range: 40 to 140 feet

Experience Level: Advanced to Expert

Sunk August 1985

The Cayman Salvage Master was originally a lighthouse buoy tender for the U.S. Coast Guard. Built in 1936, this steel hulled vessel measures 186 feet in length, with a 37 foot beam. Her most distinctive feature is the cable pulley built into her bow.

Neglected for years, she eventually sank in the Navy Harbour at Key West. In 1985, she was refloated and her superstructure was removed in preparation for sinking as an artificial reef. While she was being towed to sea, the cable snapped and the unlucky derelict sank. She settled to the bottom on her side and remained that way until a powerful undersea surge from Hurricane Kate flipped her upright.

Today, the Cayman Salvage Master is one of Key West’s most popular wreck dives. Her proximity to Key West and her depth make her ideal for recreational open water dives. She sits almost upright on a sand bottom, with the stern in 92 feet of water. Her decks are at 70 feet and most of the vessel’s interior compartments and engine room are at 80 feet.

One of the lures of the Cayman Salvage Master is that she has become home and haven for several Jewfish. A small, 120 pound Jewfish is often seen in the engine room, while a much larger 800 pound behemoth sometimes appears loitering under the vessel’s stern. The great fish are wary of divers; they are often seen but less often photographed.

Other fish that hang out in the engine room area include Snook and, occasionally, a grouper. A large Green Moray can be found living in or under the cable pulley mounted on the vessel’s bow. It makes a great photo because the wheel is encrusted with colourful sponges and corals. Hanging above the wreck is a single Barracuda, motionless but alert.

 

Key Largo (Upper Keys) Diving and Signature Sites:

Key Largo has had a long history of marine conservation. beginning in 1960 with the creation of the nation’s first undersea preserve, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, and then with the designation of the Key Largo National Marine Sanctuary in 1975, Key Largo has been protected from spearfishing and coral collection for four decades. Now, as an integral portion of the 2,800-square-nautical-mile Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, Key Largo features six unique Sanctuary Preservation Areas (SPA’s) where even hook and line fishing is prohibited. Nowhere on earth has more friendly fish than Key Largo, creating an absolute paradise for underwater photographers!

Statue of Christ of the Abyss - This famed bronze statue rises so close to the water’s surface that it can be easily viewed by snorkelers as well as divers. The statue is nestled between the coral formations of Key Largo Dry Rocks reef in just 25 feet of water.

Spiegel Grove – This 510-foot Navy transport ship was sunk in June 2002 as the latest addition to the Key Largo area’s impressive shipwreck portfolio.

Molasses Reef - High profile coral heads and massive congregates of tropical marine life define this popular reef.

Benwood Wreck - A casualty of World War II, this shipwreck is now home to huge schools of grunt and porkfish.

The Elbow - This reef offers several historic shipwrecks, as well as the thrill of face-to-face encounters with friendly moray eels and barracuda.

Bibb and Duane - These twin 327-foot US Coast Guard cutters were sunk intentionally as dive attractions in 1987 and now are virtually cloaked in colorful coral and gorgonian.

Minnow Caves –  This is a beautiful shallow reef loaded with marine life. Each year the “cave” portion of the reef fills with thousands of small glassy minnows; giving divers a chance to swim through the open cave amongst them. The swarm of minnows parts like a curtain as divers swim in and out of the cave.

Minnow Caves offers superb photo and video opportunities, so bring your cameras!

Marathon (Middle Keys) Signature Sites:

Marathon dive sites offer the diversity to fulfill any diver’s fantasy. If you’re new to diving, this is the perfect place for learning.  For advanced divers, Marathon offers fantastic wrecks, beautiful coral reefs and a mind-blowing assortment of tropical fish to see.

Thunderbolt:  The Thunderbolt was built for the US Army and used by Florida Power and Light as a research ship. It was donated to the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and scuttled in 1986 to create an artificial reef. It is 188 feet long and rests upright in 120 feet of water. She is one of the most spectacular wrecks you’ll ever dive on; and, given her size, one dive is never enough. Goliath Grouper are often spotted on this wreck.

Adelaide Baker/Porkfish:  What remains now of the wreck Adelaide Baker is her 77-foot mast lying in just 20 feet of water. A very healthy shallow reef known as Porkfish has developed here. Watch for snapper, nurse sharks, lobster, moray eels, parrotfish, grouper, many types of coral, sea fans, sponges and, of course, Porkfish.

Day After:  This is a ledge-type of reef with an east-west orientation that offers depths of 16 to 28 feet. It’s a rugged, undercut reef that offers safe haven to the many fish seen here and great exploration for the divers who visit. This site is easy to navigate.

Doughnut:  A round reef surrounded by sand. Ledges can be found in the middle of the reef as well as around the edges. The gray angelfish can be very friendly. A young hawksbill turtle that cruises the surrounding area often visits the site. Watch for the many rays that bury themselves in the sand surrounding the reef.

Elbow:  This is a nice, colorful reef for divers and snorkelers alike. In the shape of an elbow and forearm, this reef rises to within 10 feet of the surface. Marine life is abundant, with several varieties of reef fish inhabitants and coral species. Brilliant colors.

Smokey Mountain:  This is one of our deep reefs, dropping to 85 feet. Here you’ll find larger corals and marine life than at shallower reefs. The currents and anchor area makes this dive more challenging and creates shorter bottom times.

Coffins Patch:  Coffins Patch has been designated as an NOAA SPA (Special Protected Area). This protection allows for larger fish and a variety of other sea creatures to be viewed on a regular basis. Coffins Patch is made up of a half dozen separate reefs running northeast and southwest that make up over a half mile of reef.

The Stake:  The reef tops out at 8 feet near the Stake and drops off to the south at 20 feet, allowing a vast variety of corals and fish to be viewed. This is a great spot for snorkeling and diving alike.

Pillar Patch:  A must-see site since pillar coral is very uncommon in our area. The somewhat oval-shaped coral patch displays a variety of cactus look-alike pillar coral patches. This coral is the only one that feeds during the day, displaying its polyps as a fuzzy type of covering.

Lobster Ledge:  With its ledges and patch configuration, it offers lots of variety for both divers and snorkelers to explore with depths of 12 to 22 feet. There is an abundance of both Spanish lobsters and spiny lobsters.

The Gap:  Starts at 50 feet and drops to 80 feet. The Gap is a beautiful wall dive with what appear to be larger and greater numbers of sponges and coral life than normal for the area. This area is a great site for seeing some of the deeper water fish like sunshine fish and hamlets.

Horseshoe:  This is a favorite dive for easy navigation and great marine life. The resident nurse sharks are always a delight to see. Named for its shape with some large coral heads on the northeast corner, the Horseshoe is an ideal spot for new divers. Many take advantage of the large, sandy middle section of this site for both skill training and night diving. It’s not uncommon on night dives to find reef octopus as well as numerous types of shrimp and crabs.

Samantha’s:  One of the most famous sites in the Keys is Samantha’s—not only for its dramatic relief with a long ledge running east to west, but also for the nurse shark giving this site its name. The 15- to 25-foot depth has plenty of ledges and remote coral patches offering great opportunities for photographers and casual divers alike. You can usually count on seeing a nurse shark or two here.

Captain Morgan’s:  This patch reef is covered with juvenile fish. If you like to explore and look for the smaller marine creatures, this is the reef for you. Great for photo opportunities or just fish watching.

Herman’s Hole:  Named after a green moray eel, this reef offers two dives. The inside circle has small ledges and nice sand holes to explore, while the north ledge has an entirely different look.

Edge of Night:  A deep reef sometimes called 40-60, because the top of the reef is 40-feet deep and the sand is at 60 feet. This reef offers about 45 minutes of exploration where conchs are often spotted walking across the sand.

Boom Ledge:  An east-west ledge at 15- to 26-feet deep, this reef offers a wide variety of corals and fish. An easy navigational reef offering all levels of divers plenty of area to roam.

492:  Here’s a zigzag-shaped reef at depths of 14 to 26 feet with some adjacent small patches. A large variety of reef fish and corals makes this an enjoyable site for all levels of divers.

The Barge:  Flagler’s Barge was used in building the old 7 Mile Bridge. It now sits in 23 feet of water. This wreck most likely has more coral and fish per square inch than any other site. You never know what to expect as marine creature travel past on their way from the Gulf to the Atlantic.

Delta Shoal:  Snorkelers will enjoy the spur and groove formation and the sheer number of fish. Divers enjoy the remains of numerous ships that met their match on the outside edge of this reef. One of the more interesting wrecks is the Ivory Wreck, an old slaver that ran aground. She gets her name from the ivory tusks that were later salvaged from her.

Sombrero Reef:  Erected before the Civil War, this 160-foot-tall lighthouse now marks a haven for both divers and snorkelers and can be seen while crossing 7 Mile Bridge. It is an NOAA SPA protected area and is populated with diverse marine life. Sombrero showcases some of the best spur and groove reef formations and marine life in all of the Keys.

Key West (Lower Keys) Dive Sites:

Reef Dives

The Florida Keys are the most popular dive destination in the world! The coral reefs of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary are home to the world’s third largest barrier reef.

Inner Reefs3 ft. to 30 ft. depth. The inner coral reefs are a thrill to snorkelers and scuba divers alike! These extensive reefs are abundant in coral and marine life, with lost of available light and maximum dive time. All coral reef dives are two locations. Be sure to bring your camera!

Outer Reefs35 ft. to 45 ft. depth. The outer bar provides a slightly deeper dive on beautiful coral formations. These reefs offer some of the nicest corals, gorgonians and larger fish found in the Florida Keys.

Night Dives25 to 30 ft. depth. We offer one tank night dives on the Coral reefs surrounding Key West. Let us introduce you to the joys of night diving, witness the coral polyps feeding, parrot fish sleeping and crabs and lobsters moving freely on the ocean floor. Our staff will be available in the water to guide and assist you.

Wreck Dives

Joe’s Tug60 to 75 ft. depth. We affectionately call this vessel our “wreck of a wreck” ! The hurricanes have had their way with her! Large sections of the wreck are nestled in and around soft and hard corals. It is home to some friendly eels and inquisitive fish. Your 2nd dive is on a shallow reef.

Cayman Salvager90 to 95 ft. depth. This wreck is a 180 foot long, steel hulled buoy tender that was sunk in 1985. The CAYMAN is your best opportunity to interact with goliath groupers (large jewfish) and moray eels. The staff supervised dive is generally on the deck, where all the marine life action takes place. Your second dive is to one of our less traveled shallow reef sites.

Vandenberg140 ft. depth. This world class wreck is an over 520 ft. long steel hulled troop transport and missile tracking ship. It is the second largest artificial reef in the world and sits a mere 40 ft. below the surface making her accessible to divers of all levels. Explore the unique superstructure, bridge, com-rooms, and crow’s nest with your guide. Your second dive will take place on a coral reef.

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