Key West is known for its clean, clear waters and the abundance of fish found in this area. Of course during our short winter days we can’t fully enjoy this natural aqua light show but fortunately if you’re a snorkeler there’s no need to wait until summer to take advantage of the water and underwater wildlife around Key West. True, the water is still quite cold but snorkeling any time of year is always rewarding. I’m not talking about taking a dip in your neighborhood pool either; it’s nothing like looking up at the surface while you’re gliding along with the bubbles coming from your snorkel mask on an air tank strapped to your back just three feet below the surface of the water. I’m talking real snorkeling here; tanks, fins, mask and all.
Ha! You’re probably feeling a little chilly reading this article while you’re sitting there in your office cubicle wearing your winter coat and scarf watching others out the window enjoying the snow flurries falling outside. Well, I’m here to tell you that there’s no reason why you can’t get out and enjoy some winter snorkeling! True, the water is a little chilly right now, but if you plan your trip during a warmer period of weather it will be well worth the wait.
In fact, Key West snorkeling is not only rewarding during the winter months, but you can also enjoy it on a budget. It’s true that snorkeling is typically one of those more expensive vacations you might take once or twice in your life. Rather than go to some exotic island for an extended period of time, why not stay here in Key West and see what we have to offer? I know it’s not the same as being surrounded by crystal clear waters in Hawaii or Mexico, but Key West is now becoming known for its snorkeling sites.
The old Roosevelt Roads Naval Station has become an environmentally protected area now that the Navy no longer uses it for military operations. There are two reefs that are ideal for Key West snorkeling. One is called the North Wall and it’s directly off of the old pier that was once used by the Navy for submarines & destroyers to lie at anchor, refuel and load torpedoes. There are some interesting facts about this particular site but one can’t help but feel a sense of history when visiting this area. The North Wall has become a living reef and is home to many fish, sponges and other creatures that I’m unable to identify. SPOILER: The North Wall doesn’t have any sharks but it does have barracuda and eels!
The South Wall Reef is located just south of the old pier and is also a thriving living reef. Here you can find a lot of small fish and sponges, but there are also larger sea creatures such as nurse sharks, turtles and sting rays in the area. In addition to these two reefs that I mention above, snorkeling Key West has many other sites that offer great opportunities for viewing the natural beauty of the Florida Keys.
All in all, Key West snorkeling offers the chance to enjoy the beautiful colors of coral and fish without having to leave our island. Of course, there’s no arguing that it doesn’t beat the warm Caribbean waters found down south but if you’re patient and wait for a few months then winter snorkeling in Key West can be one of the most rewarding things you do all year. If you’re looking for an exciting activity to do in Key West this winter, then it’s a sure bet that snorkeling will not disappoint.
Snorkeling sites in Key West without harming corals
Snorkelers and scuba divers off Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas have a zero percent chance of harming coral. Coral is lucky, too, because it has to share its habitat with lots of people. The sea floor beneath the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary contains 1,350 square miles of coral reefs, accounting for 1.5 percent of all the coral in the United States.
More than 1 million people snorkel or dive on those reefs each year, but are careful not to break off corals as they have sharp edges, nor stir up sediment that can cut or injure them. They engage in reef etiquette that encourages everyone to stay at least 50 feet away from the reef.
That’s why kayakers and swimmers are asked not to get within 100 yards of reefs, noted Benjamin Muller , an enforcement officer with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration .
So far it has worked well. Coral cover is stable or increasing in most sites around the Keys that have been analyzed for changing conditions since 1984, Muller noted.
But there are exceptions. The reef off of Virginia Key , near Miami’s Bayside Marketplace, has excellent coral cover but it is also being attacked by fire coral, Muller noted. Fire coral is an invasive species that was first observed in the Keys in 1999, probably reached through bilge water on a ship or possibly on some corals brought from the Caribbean as live rock for saltwater aquariums.
It has white stinging tentacles that are painful to swimmers. It can’t penetrate wet suits, but it can give a very nasty sting to bare skin.
NOAA is also asking the public not to take corals from the water or even pick up pieces of coral washed up on the beach.
People sometimes think of corals as plants, but they are more closely related to jellyfish and anemones. Coral polyps secrete calcium carbonate exoskeletons around themselves that eventually cover them in lime stone. As the reef grows, new layers get built on top of old ones until you have a structure more than 1,000 years old.
Reefs serve as nurseries and feeding grounds for fish and other marine creatures while also absorbing some of the wave energy prevalent in this active hurricane zone.
The United States Coral Reef Task Force has created a campaign to help educate people about what they can do to protect corals. The first step should be learning how to “reef safe” when scuba diving or snorkeling. The second is reef etiquette, Muller noted.
When you see people breaking the rules, call the Coast Guard’s VHF Channel 16 on your marine band radio to report violations. You can also call NOAA law enforcement at 305-744-7006 or email NOAA enforcement .
They can’t be everywhere. So if you see someone breaking the rules, speak up and help protect one of our nation’s most valuable resources – our coral reefs.
Snorkeling Key West – best sites
There are a lot of great things to do in miami, but one of the most popular is snorkeling key west. Though it may not be as warm as the south beach area, there’s still a lot to see on the trails and in the wilds.
One site that you can visit is an area called the turtle crèche. The main reason why it’s such a popular snorkeling spot is because of its abundance of diverse lifeforms like dolphins, sting rays and sea turtles.
Not only will you be able to observe the marine life through your goggles, but you can also swim with them while visiting miami.
Another great site to visit is the hawk’s nest. Dolphins are usually found here, but there are other creatures as well. Lots of big tarpons roam around these parts so if you have a pole, bring it along with you. Snorkeling key west can be fun and productive if you know where to go.
The third and final spot is the reef. This place too has a good amount of marine life but it might be harder to find because of its surrounding rocks. Nevertheless, it’s quite fun to go around exploring this underwater worldl!
Now that you know where to go, here are some helpful tips to keep in mind before hitting the trails for snorkeling key west.
The first thing you need to do is load up on sunscreen. Because it’s so much further south than other areas, chances of getting sunburnt are high even when there’s cloud cover.
The second thing is to bring saltwater-friendly snacks. You might get hungry during the whole adventure so be sure to include some food in your backpack.
Also, don’t go alone unless you’re an experienced diver! There are strong currents in these parts and if something goes wrong, there’s nobody around to help. Make sure that someone knows where you’re going and when you should be back.
All in all, snorkeling key west is a great adventure to go on if you love the ocean and marine life. It’s fun and relaxing for both adults and kids alike. So don’t miss out on it!
Key west snorkeling – where to go
The islands and keys of the lower florida bay coastline present an amazing variety of natural habitats. Along with many species of sea life, birds and feral animals such as raccoons, you can find all kinds of coral reefs, mangroves and seagrass beds. All of these provide homes for many species of fish and shellfish.
The florida keys are an amazing place to explore on scuba diving, snorkeling or free diving . For those who want to explore someplace different than the usual spots like south beach miami , this is certainly a great alternative.
Reefs serve as a place of food and shelter for the wildlife in this area. Even though coral reefs are mostly composed of calcium carbonate, they still serve as a good home to many species of plant and animal life.
The animals that live on these corals include small fish such as damselfish and parrotfish, lobsters, turtles and even larger predators like sharks. This is why scuba divers are especially warned to stay away from the reefs as much as possible, in order to let them live on undisturbed.
Most of the corals that grow here are either soft or stony corals . These types of coral primarily feed on plankton through photosynthesis. Many different species can be found and each type has a distinct appearance.
There are also areas in the florida keys that serve as habitats for manatees and dolphins . You can snorkel with these creatures or even swim above them through the underwater trails created by their movements.
Snorkeling key west is truly a magical experience, so make sure that you try it out for yourself! Make sure to bring a camera with you so that you can snap some pictures of the beautiful sites down below.