The sunshine state is one of the biggest tourist hotspots in the US with plenty to offer, including some fantastic diving. Scuba diving in Florida, whether for beginners or advanced technical diving, is a truly amazing experience.
With a subtropical climate, the waters off the coast of Florida, especially the keys, are home to plentiful corals, including the continental US’s only coral reef, the Florida Reef, Florida, which is one of the world’s largest reefs. The reefs are in good condition providing divers with lots of coral and reef fishes and more to enjoy.
For divers who have more of a “lust for rust,” there is a ton of shipwrecks to discover in the water around Florida. The wrecks around Florida Include some of the biggest wrecks ever sunk. Experiencing the Spiegel Grove or the Vandenberg should definitely be on every diver’s bucket list of must-do dives.
The jewel in the crown of Key Largo and arguably scuba diving in Florida Molasses Reef is stunning and teeming with life. The reef is a protected area that has resulted in a very healthy coral population and an enormous abundance of fish. So far, over 600 species of life have been documented at Molasses reef, making it one of the world’s richest and most diverse reefs.
The reef is suitable for every level of divers and snorkeller alike. The ref’s shallower part is picturesque and provides beginners and snorkellers with an excellent experience.
Advanced divers can venture a little deeper to the area of the reef known as “Deep Molasses” at 90ft/27m. here divers can find a huge amount of sponges, corals, turtles, and more. This area is particularly renowned for its beauty, and underwater photographers flock to it to snap up some stunning images.
The equally outer edges of Molasses Reef make for excellent drift dives, where you can explore the reef and encounter turtles, reef fish, and occasionally sharks as well.
USNS General Hoyt S. Vandenberg Wreck
One of the biggest wrecks ever sunk and one of the outstanding experiences of scuba diving in Florida. The Vandenberg is a genuinely vast wreck. The massive former missile tracking ship measures a mind-boggling 522ft/160m. due to the sheer size of the Vandenburg, it takes more than one dive to explore this truly spectacular wreck.
The USNS General Hoyt S. Vandenberg lies upright on the seabed with her keel at a depth of 165ft/50 m. The tallest part of the ship can be found at a depth of around 60ft/18m, while most of the ship’s main deck lies at a depth of 100ft/30m.
During its life as a missile tracking ship, the Vandenberg was used for, amongst other things, to track space capsules from the Apollo, Gemini, and Mercury programs. It did so via huge radar dishes mounted on her superstructures. These are the most interesting parts of the wreck, and fortunately, they are in the shallower section of the wreck. These dishes and the marine life they attract are very photogenic and appear in lots of photos you will see of the Vandenberg.
Conditions at the wreck are relatively straightforward, although currents can pick up occasionally. It is a good idea only to attempt the Vandenberg if you have some diving experience. As fascinating as the wreck is, there is lots of marine life to be seen on the Vandenberg.
Exploring the Vandenberg, you can encounter barracuda, goliath grouper, lobsters, octopus, Nassau groupers, and sharks. That is in addition to all the usual parrotfish, wrasses, and surgeonfish which are dotted all over the wreck.
A deep wreck and one of the best-kept secrets of scuba diving in Florida, the USCG Duane is only open to experienced divers or technical divers. The former coast card cutter lies upright on the seabed, with the top of its deck at a depth of 120ft/36m. the USCG Duane is a 327ft/99m long Treasury-class cutter. After a long and distinguished career, she was sunk as an artificial reef along with her sister ship, the Bibb, in the waters off Key Largo in 1987.
Due to the wreck’s location out to sea away from the reef line, conditions at the USCG Duane can be harsher than at other sites. Currents can be strong, making the dive only open to advanced divers who are physically fit. Although sometimes, as if by magic, when the scuba gods are smiling, she can be the perfect dive with no current, visibility in excess of 100ft/30m, and abundant marine life. If you are lucky enough to dive her on one of those days, it is a remarkable experience.
After being in the water for over 30 years, the Duane has been colonized by plenty of marine life. Coral and sponges are present, and lots of marine life, including turtles, barracuda, and grey nurse sharks. The wreck has many cut-outs and openings in the hull, making it easy to swim around with lots of nooks and swim-throughs to explore and discover.
Scuba Diving In Florida Must See: The Spiegel Grove
Arguably the most famous and one of the best places to scuba dive in Florida, only one word can be used to describe the Spiegel Grove as “Immense.” The ship is enormous, measuring an impressive 152m/500ft long. She is an utterly vast wreck that needs to be dived more than once to do her justice.
The Spiegel Grove was sunk in 2002, approximately 6mi/9.6km off the coast of Key Largo. She lies on the seabed at a depth of 100ft/30m, while the top deck starts at a much shallower depth of 60ft/18m. due to the depth of the dive, it is ideally suited for advanced/experienced divers, and since most of the dive is conducted below 60ft/18m diving, the Spiegel Grove is the perfect Nitrox dive.
Over the years, the wreck has become home to a wide range of fish, and slowly and surely, she is becoming covered in sponges and corals. Diving the wreck, you can regularly encounter parrotfish, silversides, jacks, and barracudas.
One thing to remember about the Spiegel Grove is that not all areas of the wreck are safe to explore. Due to the danger, deeper penetration into the wreck is not recommended even for divers with advanced diving certification.
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