No International Travel Needed
Many people think it is necessary to travel to Australia, the Bahamas, Mexico, or all the way to the South Pacific to see some beautiful reefs. The good news is that there are some beautiful reefs here in the USA.
Third Largest Reef System
The largest coral reef system in the United States is known as the Great Florida Reef. In fact, the Great Florida Reef is the third largest coral barrier reef system in the world after the Great Barrier Reef and the Belize Barrier Reef. So, how big is big? How about 4 miles wide and 170 miles long. Maybe the best part of all is that the most spectacular parts of this reef system can easily be found conveniently located next to the island chain of the Florida Keys.
There is so much to see when visiting the Great Florida Reef as it is home to over 1000 species of marine plants and animals. This includes many types of stony coral and hundreds of fish species. On our recent trip we saw several sea turtles, angelfish, grunts, snappers, parrotfish, brain coral, elkhorn coral, sea fans and so much more.
There is also the added bonus of some world-class wrecks on or near the reef. Some of the most popular are the USCG Bibb, Benwood, USS Spiegel Grove, USCG Duane, Adolphus Busch, and USNS Vandenberg. My personal favorite is the USS Spiegel Grove as it is extremely diver friendly and often the goliath grouper are found swimming around the ship. Just recently we got lucky and got to see three of the giants near the stern. At an estimated weight of between 300-700 pounds they are huge fish.
As mentioned above we recently visited the Great Florida Reef and decided to do some diving off the coast of Key Largo. I will be the first to admit that we did not exactly have ideal conditions due to several windy days before our arrival. As you will see in the below video we were dealing with a lot of surge and a fair amount of sand being pushed around making visibility a bit below par. As all experienced divers know, conditions can change day-to-day. So, as the week progressed the conditions got better. By the end of the video you will see the surge had calmed down and visibility improved a fair bit with just a 14 hour overnight surface interval between dives. So, don’t let this video fool you. On your next Florida Keys trip you might just end up with ideal conditions including no surge and 100+ feet of visibility.
The below video was captured on August 11th & 12th using a GoPro Hero2 camera with an attached Backscatter Flip2 filter. During our four dives we visited Molasses Reef, the USS Spiegel Grove, and French Reef.