The Palm Beaches: A Diver’s Paradise

The Palm Beaches: A Diver’s Paradise Slideshow

The Ana Cecilia Artificial Reef

sea turtle and goliath grouper

Sea Turtle and Goliath Grouper by Lazaro Ruda

There’s something about the mysteries of ocean depths that make them so captivating, and there’s no better place than The Palm Beaches to have a world-class diving experience. Snorkeling or scuba diving around this tropical paradise will leave you in awe of the fascinating biodiversity. For underwater adventures, add The Palm Beaches to your diving bucket list!

“Palm Beach County reefs have the widest diversity and abundance of marine life with the clearest water, because this is the closest place in North America to the Gulf Stream current in the Atlantic Ocean,” explained Jim Abernethy, a local scuba expert and marine life conservationist whose photos can be found in National Geographic. “Having traveled extensively throughout the Caribbean, I can conclusively say that no place in the Caribbean has the diversity and abundance of marine life like The Palm Beaches.”

“Five of the seven species of marine turtles can be found here,” he said. “This area is the largest nesting ground in North America for loggerhead and leatherback sea turtles, and here you will also find the largest aggregation of goliath grouper in the world.”
 

Sea turtle and goliath grouper photo courtesy Lazaro Ruda: TheLivingSea.com
Sea turtle and goliath grouper photo courtesy Lazaro Ruda: TheLivingSea

“Our unique geographic location and closeness to the Gulf Stream allow divers to see both warm water and cold water species up close,” Abernethy continued. “There are so many incredible underwater spots in The Palm Beaches, there is never a dull moment when diving here!”

For beginner snorkelers who are seeking an excursion that won’t disappoint, Abernethy recommends the Underwater Snorkel Trail at Phil Foster Park. Parking is free, and this shore dive does not require a boat—simply walk under the Blue Heron Bridge to enter a wonderland of marine life. The 800-foot-long tract of artificial reef, incorporating more than 600 tons of Anastasia rock boulders, offers depths from six to ten feet, depending on the tide. The marine park was chosen as the best dive site in the world by PADI's Sport Diver magazine in 2013. Its easy accessibility is part of its charm, as is the presence of three hammerhead shark statues donated by artist Thomas McDonald.

Shark Statue
Statues of hammerhead sharks photo courtesy Michael Scott/sharksandbabies.com

Because of its location in the protected Lake Worth Lagoon, the Underwater Snorkel Trail is still accessible for snorkeling and diving no matter what the weather may be on the open ocean. This rare trait makes it an even more desirable location to visit, and the lifeguards on watch plus the shallow entry points’ sand depths make this spot safe enough even for supervised children to enjoy. Time your dive an hour before or after high tide for the best visibility.

For more advanced divers, Abernethy says the goliath grouper aggregation is a spectacular sight to see: 40 to 90 huge groupers massed together for spawning season near the end of July. In most popular dive destinations, these gentle giants are rare or non-existent. However, in the waters of The Palm Beaches, it’s common to see at least one or two of these big fish lurking on a wreck or within an undercut on a ledge. Many say the best place to view the goliath grouper migration is the wreck of the cargo barge M/V Castor, which sits off Boynton Beach.

Diving enthusiasts come to The Palm Beaches simply to watch the “goliath event,” which cannot be seen anywhere else in the world.

Goliath Grouper
Goliath grouper photo courtesy Walt Stearns

Artificial reefs in The Palm Beaches are as abundant as the marine life they attract, including a Boca Raton shipwreck that is captured on 360-degree underwater video. Divers in The Palm Beaches will soon have a new reef to explore, when the M/V Ana Cecilia cargo ship becomes the newest addition to the artificial reef system managed by the Palm Beach County Department of Environmental Resources Management (ERM). The 170-foot cargo ship was confiscated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Miami, after it was found to have carried 506.84 kilograms of cocaine with a street value of more than $10 million.

On July 13, 2016, Ana Cecilia will become one of The Palm Beaches’ 150artificial reefs as it finds its final resting place 1.25 miles off the Lake Worth Inlet in 85 feet of water. Plaques have been affixed to the ship, with sentiments honoring local community members Perry J. Cohen, Austin Stephanos, Deputy Fernandez Jones, Jaden Jones and Willis Bell, who are missing or lost at sea.


M/V Ana Cecilia photo courtesy Palm Beach County Environmental Resources Management

Scuba Works will host the second annual PADI Womens Dive Day on July 16, 2016, in Jupiter. Men and women from all over the world enjoy this day of diving together to celebrate the contributions of women to the sport. To participate, contact Scuba Works.

For a full list of artificial reefs in The Palm Beaches, please visit the artificial reef map for the Palm Beach County Environmental Resources Management.

 
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