Miami is a popular vacation spot, but it’s not somewhere you would immediately think of when considering a scuba diving holiday. Diving in Miami isn’t without merit though.
Back in 1981 Ben Mostkoff and the Department of Environmental Resource Management (DERM) initiated an artificial reef project. The scheme aimed to create new habitats for marine life and more dive sites off the Miami coast. It was hoped that new sites would reduce pressure on existing reefs as well bolster erosion protection.
For divers, more places to visit means more reasons to dive which has been great for the scuba diving industry in Miami. The prolific plan soon earned Miami the unofficial title of ‘Wreckreational Dive Capital of the World’ which will give you a distinct idea of the type of diving available in the area.
The Sinking of Ophelia Brian
Watching a planned sinking can be very exciting, if you have never seen it, then take a look at the video below.
This contains footage of when the Ophelia Brian was sunk. Formerly called the Sea Taxi, this vessel was renamed for the daughter of the divers who funded the project. She is a 210’ freighter which now lies in 110’ of water off Key Biscayne.
When a vessel is sunk to create a new reef, it is stripped and cleaned to make it safe for divers as well as the ocean environment. The next video below shows a little of what was involved in the Ophelia Brian Project as well as some great underwater footage.
Marine life quickly inhabits new structures who use it as shelter and very slowly coral begins to form. Fast forward more than twenty years, and these new sites teem with life. Divers should expect to see eels lurking, spiny lobster hiding in crevices, and barracuda stalking swirling baitfish.
Jewfish, Grouper, and Cobia patrol the wrecks and reefs, and Coral Fish provide a splash of colour. Gorgonians have grown on many structures, and both hard and soft coral have encrusted many wrecks giving these new reefs a familiar outline.
The Wreck Trek
There are now more than 75 wrecks within easy reach of the Miami coast, many lie mere minutes from your launch site, and there’s more than just ships to explore. There are two Vietnam era army tanks located at a depth of 48ft. These 40-ton habitats were sunk in 1994 and today provide homes for fish, lobster, and eels.
These tanks make up part of a site known as The Wreck Trek which includes the wreck of the Mathew Lawrence, the mishmash of the Patricia and the Miss Karline and nineteen radio towers. It’s an easy dive, fun, loaded with fish life, and interesting to see. It’s also a great place to test your navigation skills. Check out the video below which shows footage this area.
The Belcher Barge
The Belcher Barge is a diver favorite. It was sunk in 1985 loaded with concrete pipes, but she flipped while going down and spilled the pipes to the ocean floor. The wreck lies upside down but is excellent for penetration as twelve large holes were cut into her for this purpose. Both the barge and the concrete pipe reef attract a lot of life.
The Belzona II
The Belzona II lies 100ft from the Belcher Barge with the Belzona I close by. 150ft east of Belcher’s Barge are Schurgar and Harry’s Barge lying together in a t-formation. This wreck arrangement allows divers to spread out and means that divers with different experience levels will be happy on the same trip.
The Neptune Memorial Reef
The Neptune Memorial Reef is an unusual project as it unites the aesthetics of the Lost City of Atlantis to create an artificial reef which is also a memorial site where your ashes can be laid. Divers, memorials, and marine life are all welcome! You can see more of this 16-acre project on this video below.
Advanced Dive Sites in Miami
More advanced sites include the Deep Freeze which was sunk in 1976. She is a 210’ freighter in 135’ of water; it’s also a site notorious for strong current. The Doc de Mille typifies everything that great wreck diving should be. Her far-flung location and depth limit trips which make a visit all the more special.
Reef Diving in Miami
If wrecks are not your thing or you’re just tired of metal, then there are plenty of reefs to explore loaded with colorful fish and spiny lobster. Emerald Reef is a favorite spot, and Deep Trench is an interesting choice for either day or night-time. Deep Trench was borne out of destruction; this site was created by the path cut into the reef for a now disused discharge pipe.
Miami probably isn’t top of most divers wish list, but if you are a diver who holidays with a non-diving family, it is an excellent choice to keep everyone happy.
It’s worth noting that many of the dive shops offer special longer trips to sites in the Florida Keys. As an example, a visit to Key Largo’s Spiegel Grove shipwreck would have a 10.00 check-in and a 19.00 estimated return. Check out each shop’s schedule online.
Miami Dive Centers
Grove Scuba is a 5* PADI IDC center which means it offers courses from beginner up to instructor level. The center has daily dive trips and have gear for rent and to buy. They provide air or nitrox and have a digital underwater photography department. Grove Scuba is family operated and was founded in 2006.
Tarpoon Dive Center
Tarpoon Dive Center has been in operation since 1952 and offers recreational, technical and professional courses. The center stocks a range of dive gear and dive daily Tuesday to Sunday with a night dive on Wednesday.
Ocean Safari Diving Adventures
Ocean Safari Diving Adventures is a family owned business and offers diving every day. PADI, IANTD, TDI and SSI training are offered, and there’s a great range of gear for sale too.
South Beach Divers
South Beach Divers is a PADI 5* facility. It’s conveniently located which makes it quite busy, but it does have a daily program of diving. The schedule includes local sites and visits more distant sites in the Florida Keys.