Diving at Glorious Islamorada in the Florida Keys
Islamorada is a SCUBA-dive paradise located not far from Miami, Florida. It is known for being America’s hidden dive treasure—a perfect getaway for a week or a weekend. Islamorada encompasses six of the Florida Keys, known for their crystal-clear water, coral reefs, great diving, beautiful white sand beaches, and southern hospitality.
From all that I’ve heard, diving in Islamorada is pure pleasure. With upwards of 80 dive sites, the toughest decisions to make are which sites to choose for your dive. I’ll be sure to have my logbook handy in anticipation of some great aquatic animal sightings.
All That There Is to See Underwater
Islamorada takes its name from the Spanish word for dwelling (morada). The tropical paradise is home to an abundant array of marine life such as parrot fish, damselfish, and the sergeant major damselfish in particular. This charming fish sports distinct yellow and black stripes. In addition to these colorful beauties, the waters around the island host yellowtail snappers, nurse sharks, and manta rays.
Islamorada is also known for groupers, including the Goliath grouper, which is an enormous fish. There have been reports of sightings of Goliath groupers in the range of 200-300 kilos. The Alligator Deep, Danny’s Drop, and Lionshead dive sites are reported to have great grouper viewing.
Loggerhead sea turtles make their home around the island as well. It would be really exciting to be drifting along with the current and to see a gentle turtle emerging out of the blue, gracefully making its way past.
I also can’t wait to run into the puppy dog of the sea, the barracuda. The barracuda is a curious and friendly fish in spite of its sharp teeth and intimidating look. Many divers report having a barracuda or two join them for the duration of a dive, making you wonder who is actually being watched after all.
The Eagle Wreck is another well-known spot found at a depth of 22-35 meters. The Eagle freighter was intentionally sunk after being deemed no longer usable for cargo transport and it then became an artificial reef. A unique feature of this wreck is that the freighter broke apart as a result of Hurricane Georges, which allows divers bottom time to explore without entering an overhead environment that does not allow direct ascent to the surface. This is particularly important for novice and young divers, who are still learning the ropes.
Through the deep blue, the wreck is covered in an assortment of coral and sponge growth, offering a hospitable environment to schools of horse-eye jacks, and blue and rainbow runners. I expect there to be several opportunities to meet and greet green morays as they watch the scene around them.
The only downside that I can expect there to be on a magical dive like this is that it will fly by too quickly. On dives like that, it is critical to watch your time at depth and make sure that you ascend at the correct rate, fully executing your safety stops.
In addition to top-quality dives, Islamorada offers fun activities for the whole family topside. Whenever I make it there, I fully intend to check out Indian Key Historic State Park, a tiny island with old ruins, and the History of Diving Museum.