South Florida has one of the most spectacular scenes in the world happening just below the surface. The diving off Palm Beach County’s sandy shores is some of the best in the world. The close proximity to the continental shelf and its dramatic drop offers varied terrain catering to a milieu of species. The Atlantic’s superhighway, the Gulf Stream, comes swooping in mere miles from the beaches, bringing with it a smattering of species not indigenous to the region. The subtropic climate keeps the waters temperate and hospitable to some of the most striking and prolific builders the world has ever seen in coral, creating colorful cities, attracting marine life like moths to light. It is one of the perks of calling this range of shore home, but many landlubbers rarely take to the sea to experience this otherworldly environment firsthand.
To help shine a light on the intrigue of the sea, we called on PADI dive instructor and dive master Bryan Clark of West Palm Beach’s Narcosis Dive Charters. “I think the diving in Palm Beach County is some of the best diving in the Caribbean,” says Clark, who has logged over 2,000 dives in the past three years alone.
Narcosis is an anomaly in the PBC diving community. Coming in at 48 feet with twin diesel engines, she can cruise at a blistering 28 knots, allowing Narcosis to travel from Juno to Lake Worth from her Riviera Beach Marina dock with up to 30 passengers, covering up to 30-40 dive spots and reefs on a regular basis. Clark is not only dive master of the vessel but also a PADI certified diving instructor, taking newbies on their first dives and introducing them to the sea. He documents many of his dives with photographs, more as a hobby then anything else, so he can remember and share the experience.
Below Clark shares a few of his favorite Palm Beach dive spots with specs, some imagery and a story or two on what one might see on a dive. To experience the underwater world for yourself, get PADI open water certification through Bryan Clark at www.adeeperblue.com. And if you are certified, head out with the folks at Narcosis Dive Charters, based out of the Riviera Beach Marina: www.narcosisdivecharters.com
Blue Heron Bridge/Phil Foster Park/Intracoastal Waterway
Many may think diving under the Blue Heron Bridge is batty, maybe a little gross. But at high tide, as the Intracoastal is flushed with fresh sea water, the Blue Heron Bridge becomes a diver's dream. Perfect for the snorkeler, beginning and avid diver alike, the Lake Worth Lagoon is rife with juvenile fish, octopus, sea horses, eels and many more. The man-made structure and artificial reefs around the bridge act as a sanctuary for juvenile fish to grow and congregate since mangroves have been decimated for sea walls, docks and waterfront property.
- High tide dive
- 6 to 15’, occasional 20’ bowls
- Artificial and man-made reefs, bridge and fishing pier pilings
- Temperate during the summer, 80-degree water temp; colder in winter, upper 60s and up
- Accessible by car, beach/shore dive
- Popular dive spot, frequented by SCUBA and skin divers, and a great place to photograph small critters
- Species of note: octopus, eels, lobster, shrimp, manatee, baby sharks, angelfish, sea robins (flying gurnards), rays (eagle, cownose and yellow)
The Breakers Reef (Trench: 26 42.35 N; 80 00.97 W)
Just over three miles south of the Palm Beach Inlet and a mile off the shores of The Breakers resort lies a stretch of reef perfect for the novice to experienced diver.
Running parallel to shore, the large reef is one of the most frequented dive spots in the county, known for its lush coral beds and heavy population of marine life. Depending on the time of year, marine life can vary from loggerhead turtles and whale sharks in the summer to migrating spinner sharks and humpback whales in the winter, with an innumerable amount of crustaceans, tropical and reef fish, and invertebrates.
The reef is broken into five distinct segments that range from 45' to 80’ deep. The Breakers Shallow is much shallower (30 feet and shallower) but has been largely smothered and killed by beach renourishment programs (dredging), though still used from time to time by snorkelers from shore.
“I recently [June] saw a whale shark swim through at Breakers, second time in four years,” says Clark. “They are pretty docile and not bothered by divers. They seem like they are just slowly swimming along but when you are trying to swim along with them you soon realize they are really moving.”
- Drift dive
- Access: boat
- 45'-60’, with deeper segments dropping to 80’ (experienced divers), and shallower spots in the Breakers Shallow as shallow at 10’.
- Runs nearly 2 miles long (north to south)
- Large reef of corals (hard and soft) and sponges, broken into segments: Breakers Shallow, King Neptune, Fourth Window, Outfall Trench (distinguished by a large gouge through the reef made for a transatlantic cable) and Breakers South
- Species of note: tropical and juvenile fish, lionfish, turtles (loggerhead, green, hawksbill and leatherback), reef fish (snapper, grouper, jack), eels, crustaceans (lobster, crabs, shrimp), invertebrates, migrating sharks, and the occasional Gulf Stream migrators (whale shark, humpback and right whales)
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Dive certification: Bryan Clark, PADI dive instructor/dive master (www.adeeperblue.com)
Dive charters: Narcosis Dive Charters, Riviera Beach Marina (www.narcosisdivecharters.com, 561-630-0606)