The extensive reef network off Key Largo – the third largest barrier reef in the world – has many dive sites with mooring balls as the “official” sites shown on maps where the charter boats go. Private boats can go as well. There are lots of “unmarked” sites as well; those people discover and don’t publicize the location. The primary reason for charter boats to use mooring ball sites is to protect the reef system. Otherwise you have to anchor and depending on where you are, there could be coral heads or sea grass that can be damaged with careless anchoring. Anyway, having missed Feb and Mar for diving, I had to cancel one possible event to get out yesterday and it was almost perfect.
The weather was great, little wind, no current, good visibility, and this was a day Hubby went for fun and was able to bring the camera. (As an instructor, he’s not allowed to carry a camera unless teaching the underwater imaging course. He can attach his GoPro on regular dives because that runs hands-free). Yesterday we went first to the wreck of the Benwood. Wrecks – whether artificial as in deliberately deployed – or genuine as is the Benwood from WW II – start to immediately become a reef system. With more than seventy years of being down, there’s a lot of marine growth and pieces of the large ship are scattered around the hull that is recognizable as once being a ship. This provides plenty of space for fish and other creatures to tuck into. The anchor sets off to one side and makes for nice viewing. The maturity of it as an artificial reef means it’s reliable as a site even on those occasions where there is “nothing big”. I did almost give up on seeing the turtle that is often present and didn’t find it until the end of my dive. There had been extra schools of fish though and lots of regulars; parrots in all colors, all three kinds of angels, trumpet, trunk fish, and others.
We went onto French Reef for the second dive and there are nineteen mooring balls on that section of reef. This particular spot is “Sand Bottom Cave”. (It’s a small cave and there are several “swim-thrus” in the area. Sure enough, a baby Goliath Grouper was tucked into the cave, taking up most of the space. Even as a “baby”, it was about three-plus feet long and thick. There were lots of other fish to enjoy as well and we saw a honeycomb cowfish which we hadn’t seen in ages. Even though this picture was taken in Belize, we see Queen Angels all the time on our reefs.