Diving & Snorkeling: Florida Keys

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Location: 4.5 nautical miles (8.6km) southeast of Garden Cove
Depth Range: 5-25 ft (2-8m)
Access: Boat
Expertise Rating: Novice

North North Dry Rocks is a fish watcher’s delight. It’s a great location to see all five of the Keys’ angelfish family, including the ubiquitous gray angelfish, the black and yellow French angelfish, the elegant blue angelfish and the brilliantly colored queen angelfish. The fifth member of the clan is the rock beauty, a smaller and sometimes shy angelfish that is easily recognized by its bright yellow head and black body.

Even though you see a lot of them here, angelfish make up only a small portion of the fish population of North North Dry Rocks. Any of the Florida Keys’ fish species could turn up, but some of the other common species here include the trumpetfish, surgeonfish, scrawled filefish, smooth trunkfish, yellow stingrays and spotted morays. Look under the ledges and you may also see small schools of copper sweepers circling in the shadows.

The shallow depths found here give divers plenty of bottom time, and even lets snorkelers view the reef and fish life while floating on the surface. In fact, use caution when entering the water, in case your boat happens to swing over one of the shallower sections of the reef. An enthusiastic giant stride could bring your heels close to the coral.

The reef consists of a series of coral fingers separated by sandy channels. During the last couple of thousand years, generations of coral polyps have built the fingers up to an impressive height, high enough that divers may prefer to go around the ends rather than cross over the top, in order to avoid a lot of up and down profiling.

Location: 4.5 nautical miles (8.6km) southeast of Garden Cove
Depth Range: 5-25ft (2-8m)
Access: Boat
Expertise Rating: Novice

Also known as Minnow Cave by some dive operators North Dry Rocks is another of the inner bank reefs that is well suited to both diving and snorkeling.

The tops of the coral ridges are barely 5ft below the surface, so snorkelers can float along without diving down andstill enjoy the fish life.

For divers, North Dry Rocks is like an underwater maze. Even though it’s a small reef, getting turned around is easy. At least the boat isn’t far away when you get lost here.

Like North North Dry Rocks, the coral ridges here have a very high profile, effectively dividing one passage from another unless you swim over thetop or around the end. Near the middle of the reef, a large archway is often filled to overflowing with silversides (also called glass minnows) during the summer months, giving the reef its second name of Minnow Cave. The seaward ends of the ridges are capped with a magnificent buttress of huge star coral formations.

Reefs like North Dry Rocks are good alternates when high winds increase the wave action, making the outer reefs uncomfortable. Expect lower visibility at such times, though, as the waves stir up the bottom. It’s still a good dive, even if the visibility isn’t sparkling.

Published: 15 Jan 2007 | Last Updated: 13 Dec 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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