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Diving and Snorkeling in Florida

Artificial Reefs in Florida Coral Reef

Florida is home to more divers, more dive stores and more dive boats than any other dive destination!

More divers visit Florida every year than any other dive destination!

With over 1,300 miles of coastline and thousands of rivers, lakes and springs, Florida has more dive sites — and a greater diversity of dive sites — than any other dive destination.


Florida Dive Regulations

Diver Down Flag - State law requires that scuba divers or snorkelers display a flag whenever they are in the water.

The "diver down" flag is a square or rectangular red flag (if on boats, at least 20 inches by 24 inches; at least 12 inches by 12 inches on towed buoys) with a white diagonal stripe and with wire or other stiffener to hold it unfurled and extended.

Boaters must make reasonable efforts to stay 300 feet away from dive flags in open water; 100 feet in rivers, inlets and navigation channels.

Boaters approaching diver down flags closer than 300 feet in open water and 100 feet in rivers, inlets and navigation channels must slow their vessels to the minimum speed required to maintain forward motion and steering.


Florida Dive Charters
Daytona Beach Fort Lauderdale Fort Myers
Fort Pierce Jacksonville Melbourne
Miami Naples Okeechobee
Orlando Panama City Pensacola
Sarasota St Augustine St Petersburg
Stuart Tallahassee Tampa
Florida Keys Vero Beach West Palm Beach

Great Dive and Snorkeling Destinations
Panhandle
- the best places in Florida to explore historic wrecks. There are several vessels in the area, including a World War I battleship and a retired aircraft carrier. In Panama City the marine institute has sunk ships, including a 465-foot British tanker 20 miles off Cape San Blas. Pensacola is home to the "World's Largest Artificial Reef" The retired aircraft carrier Oriskany arrived safely to Naval Air Station Pensacola from Beaumont, Texas in 2006 and it was reefed on May 17, 2006 with controlled charges in 212 feet of water 24 miles southeast of Pensacola Pass.

For snorkeling, try Fort Pickens State Park, at slack tide. Look for horse conchs, manta rays and turtles at the rock jetties.

Florida Keys - Key Largo is probably Florida's best place to explore big wrecks. The 510-foot Spiegel Grove is probably the highlight, followed by two other great wrecks not to be missed - the former Coast Guard cutters Bibb and Duane. Toothy fish like barracuda and oceanic jacks have made these sites their home base.

Cental Florida - Divers who visit the Sebastian won't want to miss Mel Fisher's Treasure Museum on US 1 in downtown Sebastian. The shop displays treasures from different wrecks including the famous Atocha. There are jewels and gold bars on display as well as for sale.
 
Florida Snorkeling Trips
Daytona Beach Fort Lauderdale Fort Myers
Fort Pierce Jacksonville Melbourne
Miami Naples Okeechobee
Orlando Panama City Pensacola
Sarasota St Augustine St Petersburg
Stuart Tallahassee Tampa
Florida Keys Vero Beach West Palm Beach

Scuba Diving & Snorkeling Safety
Diving is a popular sport and divers can be found in areas shared with recreational boaters. As its popularity increases, it becomes more important for both boaters and divers to take special precautions.

As A Dive Boat Operator, You Should:
Be able to recognize a "diver down" flag, a red flag with a white diagonal stripe floating in the area of the divers. Follow the diver down flag regulations.

Stay the legal distance away from a diver down flag. Scuba divers or snorkelers should not place the flag where it will obstruct traffic or create a hazard to navigation on a river, inlet or navigation channel. In open waters, divers must make reasonable efforts to stay within 300 feet of their diver down flag; in rivers, inlets and navigation channels, 100 feet. the diver down flag must be removed when scuba divers or snorkelers are not in the water.

Keep a lookout for bubbles breaking the surface of the water. The bubbles indicate that there are divers below who may have strayed from their marked diving area.
 
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Scuba Diving and snorkeling in Florida
Photo by Elaine Blum

Who to Call for Help
The U.S. Coast Guard is the primary contact for notification of all offshore medical emergencies. Contact them via channel 16 on VHF radio. they may dispatch a vessel to provide initial emergency medical assistance at sea or to provide an escort to a dock where medics and an ambulance can be waiting. Be prepared to provide the following information:

Your vessel's name and its description
The exact nature of the problem
Your location (GPS coordinates)
Any landmarks
Sea conditions/currents
Description of diver; age, color of gear

About the Bends
The bends, or decompression sickness, is a dangerous, sometimes deadly, condition in which nitrogen gas bubbles form in the tissues and blood vessels of divers who have ascended too quickly from the deep. Stricken divers often stoop over in pain - a stance that led to it being called "the bends." Victims are treated by being placed in a pressurized chamber that delivers 100 percent oxygen. The nitrogen bubbles are removed as the increased level of oxygen enters the blood and body tissues.

Florida Lobster Season
Regular lobster season in Florida is August 6 thru March 31. The bag limit is six lobster per day.

In order to secure their own safety, divers should:
Always display the diver down flag.
Select a boat that is suited for diving. A small boat is best, though it should be large enough to comfortably hold diving gear, while allowing room for easy exit and entry. It should also be stable. Flat bottom boats should be considered for this reason.

Avoid overloading the boat with people or equipment and supplies.
Always anchor the boat securely.

Some text on this page provided by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

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