Key West is buzzing with pristine reefs and most of its largest reefs can be found several miles off shore. However, in order to make the trip more enjoyable and safe, it is always advisable to take the help of professional snorkeling and diving charter services in the area. Because of its immense scope in scuba diving and other water sports, there are many quality services which can be found in Key West. Scuba diving in Key West is something you will be talking about with friends for a long time. There are a number of diving sites – some for the experienced divers and others for beginners and they are as follows –
- Alexander’s Wreck – The wreck was originally “USS Amesbury”, the US Navy Destroyer escort. The remains of USS Amesbury now form this artificial reef that is currently broken in half. There is a gap of 150 yards between the stern and the bow, and like other divers, you might find some interesting military artifact on your expedition to the Alexander’s Wreck.
- All Alone – This lies on the Ten Fathom Ledge and the water is 90 feet deep around the 75 feet tugboat’s hull. There is also excellent sea life around the split hull that you could experience in all its glory. Mostly, you would see the snook and grouper fish apart from others. People for whom pelagic life is essential in a diving trip must visit All-Alone.
- Aquanaut – This wood hulled tug is 55 feet long and sank back in 1967. At a decent diving depth of 75 feet, the boat manages to stand upright and, in fact, the condition is perfect. It rests near the edge of the Gulfstream, at the bottom. The marine life you will witness here will include arrow crabs, spiny oysters and mahogany snappers. However, caution must be exercised at Aquanaut because of hanging debris.
- Cayman Salvager – This buoy tender with a steel hull is 187 feet long and lies a mile southwest of Nine Foot Stake. This happens to be a pretty popular but dangerous site and it is advised that it should only be visited on a return trip. Experienced divers only. If you are lucky, you might witness the famous 200 pound jewfish or 6 feet long moray eel in the vessel.
- Joe’s Tug – This is not a tug boat but a steel hulled shrimper that sits in 65 feet of water. The Hurricane Georges of 1998 tore the wreck in half but the hull is still pretty accessible. You might find a lot of schooling fish in there. Both beginners and experienced divers can have a lot of fun at Joe’s Tug and it is also home to “Elvis”, the famous Jewfish.
- Eastern Dry Rocks – This is an SPA and on the southwestern end, you will find a stone ballast that has brass fittings and always gives divers some souvenirs to take back home. In marine life, lobsters and large corals are commonly seen.
- Rock Key – The main features of this diving site include the caves (or caverns) and the mooring buoys. The Barcelona ship requires divers to be patient and also rewards them with interesting artifacts like brass fittings. This is also an SPA and because of the shallow depth, snorkeling is another option to explore at Rock Key.
- Sand Key – If calm waters are something that you like to enjoy, Sand Key is the right place for you. If you are a beginner, the northwest area of Sand Key would be better for you. There is also a light tower that you would be able to see. For marine life, keep an eye out for loggerhead turtles, groupers, Elkhorn, fire coral and barracudas. Fire corals could be harmful, so care should be taken.
- The Sambo Reefs – The Sambos are divided into Middle, Western and Eastern reefs by beautiful white sands. This SPA prohibits fishing and lobstering, and you can see orange floats here. The coral extends in all directions and the sea life is abundant. It offers something for every diver visiting Key West because of the wide variety of depths offered by the site. You might catch sight of tropical fish, Elkhorn and Staghorn.
- Ten-Fathom Ledge – The “All Alone” wreck lies on the edge of Ten Fathom ledge and for exploration, this is the perfect place. It is basically a series of caverns and coral ledges which offers a great variety of view to divers. The marine life is amazing and includes sharks, eagle rays, lobsters and groupers. The water clarity is another underrated feature of this site.
- Smith Shoal – Lying 12 miles towards the northwest area of Key West, Smith Shoal would offer you plenty of sightings of Staghorn corals, plate and brain at the bottom of the steel tower in the area that was built in 1933. Also, jewfish and grouper fish can be seen.
- Marquesas Reef Line – The shallow waters of this place are basically ten mangrove islands that continue from the Atlantic reef line. There are caves of varying depths (30 – 70ft). The major concerns for divers visiting the site are the distance from the shore that is pretty far and also, the rip currents. In marine life, you can see groupers and large snappers here. People consider it to be an excellent location for spearing.
- USS Wilkes Barre – A diving trip to Key West is incomplete without a visit to this very famous diving site which is a favorite among wreck divers. USS Wilkes Barre has an eventful history, including World War II and explosive tests underwater. It is an artificial reef and also happens to be the largest ship to be reefed in the area. There are two separate halves and each piece is an individual diving site. Experienced divers only.
Some sites mentioned above are pretty dangerous, and you should always find out about the drop off and the depth before you set out on your exploration. If you are unsure about your diving capabilities, you can hire one of the Key West diving services. Also, most of these areas are excellent for snorkeling so, while you are at it, you can enjoy that as well.