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Florida Fly Drive Dive Part 2 – Palm Beach County

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In the second of this three-part blog, The Scuba Genies share their trip report from Florida!

The second leg of our Fly-Drive-Dive trip was Palm Beach County Florida. Just short of 3 hours from our first stop in Key Largo, we arrived at The Marriott Palm Beach Gardens after driving north along Highway 1, around the outskirts of Miami.

Palm Beach, Florida is home to the PGA – the Professional Golf Association, and the area is uber chic with luxury shopping, world-class restaurants, and top-notch golf resorts at every highway junction. The Marriott we booked is more of a business hotel than the traditional beach resort, but has a great pool, terrace and hot tub to the rear, plentiful free parking, and lovely rooms complete with all the mod cons – laundry service, hairdryers, fridge and coffee maker in the very comfortable and spacious rooms. A full-service restaurant and bar are on the ground floor, and there are plentiful eateries and markets within a 5-minute drive.

A friend and dive shop owner in the Orlando area recommended Pura Vida Divers, so we took his advice and booked 4 days diving. This was a great decision, as these guys really know their stuff, and provided some of the best service we have encountered anywhere. Pura Vida offers two-tank morning and afternoon boat dives with most dive sites within 30 minutes of leaving the marina. And with the boats docked just 15 minutes south of the hotel it was so convenient.

It was surreal, leaving the inlet, bumbling past the multi-million-dollar super yachts in the deep-water marinas and heading along the coast to see the huge urban landscape, including Mar-A- Lago and The Breakers resort hotels, but we had been told the diving was good, so were full of anticipation. We were not disappointed – the diving was pretty darn spectacular! Great stepped reefs, swim throughs and the perfect amount of current – together with great visibility of 20m or more.

The dive briefings were detailed, and the guiding if you wanted it, was spot-on too. This is drift diving at its best. We learned quickly to take that giant stride off the back of the boat with cameras in hand as soon as the captain yells Dive! Dive! Dive! and follow the guide down to the site.

Dive sites such as Juno’s Ledge and Flower Gardens offered up both the small stuff with numerous types of shrimp, crab and nudis to the big stuff with Goliath grouper, barracuda and sharks, it was all there! Schooling jacks, spadefish, grunts and snapper were common backdrops to the reef structure, and of course, as it was nesting season, turtles galore! We encountered numerous hawksbill, loggerhead and green turtles on every dive, and even spotted two leatherbacks on the surface, although these beauties were a little more camera-shy and shot off when we tried to get close to them.

And for the metal-heads, there are a handful of nice wrecks too, surrounded of course by Goliath grouper and several species of shark, including Lemon, Sandbar, Silk and Bulls – and it is not uncommon to get the odd Tiger or Hammerhead either. The wrecks here have been, in the main, deliberately sunk and form trails – three wrecks on one dive to make the most of the currents! The Shasha (184’ former drug-smuggling freighter) and the 180’ St Jacques and the 170” Gilbert Sea make up the ‘Governor’s Riverwalk’ wreck trail, and then there is the ‘Mizpah Corridor’, one of the best dives there is here. This is a 1/3 of a mile drift over the wrecks of the Mizpah, the PC1170 and the Amarylis, and there are plenty of Goliath grouper and sharks to accompany you as you do it! Then there is the Princess Anne, a 350’ long former car ferry, the Rolls Royce, the Edsvag and many more!

As well as day-boat diving, Pura Vida also offers two other very different options. Firstly, blackwater diving – a must-do! Dropping into the blue at night (and real night!) to drift along with the current behind a line of lights is very special. With 500’ of water below you, the line of lights is bait for the minuscule macro life that comes to the surface to feed at night and seeing all of these larvae stage animals giving off their bio-luminescence is an experience not to be missed!

Their second offer turned out to be one of our ‘dives of a lifetime’ Blue Heron Bridge. The bridge supports an 8-lane highway and spans the Inter-coastal between the mainland and Singer Island and is one of the most unlikely spots for a dive that you could think of! We arranged to meet our guide Lawrence from Pura Vida at 8:30am in the parking lot of Phil Foster Park. With high tide expected at 10:30am we kitted up and walked into the water around 9:30am beneath the huge concrete pillars, and then the magic began!

The bottom is sand and silt, and there is a man-made snorkel trail of sculptures, cuboid structures and even a sunken speedboat that provide the normal housing for fish seeking safety from the predators, but there is more – and far more!

Whilst this is the Atlantic Ocean, the warm currents coming up from the Caribbean wash these shores, bringing with them baby stuff of everything more tropical, and these seem to have found a home in the more sheltered waters under the bridge. We found numerous types of juvenile Angel fish for one, crabs, eels, drums, jack-knife fish, garden eels, filefish, nudis a-plenty and then the special stuff appeared as we further honed our spotting skills. A piece of what looked like tree-bark turned out to be a Red-Lipped Batfish, a lettuce leaf slug, a tiny octopus hidden in a rock pile and then not one, but two Striated Frogfish! And to top this all, as we started to surface after two-and-a-bit hours (max depth was 4m!) a manatee joined us, so up close and personal that I was bumped out of the way!

After the rustic peace and quiet of the first leg of the trip in Key Largo, Palm Beach County offered a very different experience, and again, we promised to come back soon – it really is that good!

For the next leg of our trip, we decided to stay in the same hotel and commute daily to Jupiter, just 15 minutes further North. Check back for more details!

KEY FACTS

  • Getting there : This was part of our Fly Drive Dive itinerary, but Palm Beach is a destination we would suggest on its own. Nonstop flights to Miami or Orlando are available daily with several car rental companies to choose from based on your needs.
  • Air temperature : In the spring and summer expect highs of 26 to 32 with milder temperatures in the winter. Rain is more likely June through September.
  • Water temperature : An average of 25 in the cooler months and 29 in the summer
  • Visa requirements : An ESTA is required to visit the USA. Currently an ESTA costs $14.00 and is valid for multiple trips for a two-year period. Application can be completed online at https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/
  • Currency : US Dollar with ATM easily found and all major credit cards accepted.
  • Electricity : 120V with 2 and 3 prong plugs.

Accommodation: We stayed at the Marriott Palm Beach Gardens, about 15 minutes away from Lake Park Marina and the Pura Vida boats. There are a number of hotel and resort options in the area to suit all needs.

Diving: Pura Vida Divers offers daily morning and afternoon charters. Their Blackwater charters are renowned and the Blue Heron Bridge dive is one we would do over and over again!

Price Guide: from £2195pp for 7 nights in Palm Beach with a 10 dive package, car rental and return flights and from £3695pp for our complete Fly Drive Dive 14 night package with diving in Key Largo, Palm Beach and Jupiter, accommodation, car rental and return flights.

Favourite Dive Sites: Juno’s Ledge, Flower Gardens, Bath and Tennis (named as the dive site lines up with the Bath & Tennis Club of Palm Beach).

Favourite Spots: Publix, Target, Blaze Pizza, Carrabba’s Italian Grill, PFChang’s.

Other Essentials:

  • Crate for dive gear : This was invaluable! We picked up an inexpensive plastic tub at Target and with our gear inside, we carried it right on to the boat and slid it under the bench. The were a few hoses at the Marina with fresh water available to rinse gear at the end of the day and the tub was perfect to carry our wet gear back to the hotel without soaking the rental car.
  • Cool bag with handles : These come in handy for lunches in between charters if you’re like us and can’t pass us a Publix sub. We had them made to order the night before and kept them in the room mini-fridge for the next day. We also used one to carry our assembled underwater camera onto the boat. Filled with fresh water it was an ingenious way to rinse off our precious gear after the dive.
  • Suction hooks : There are never enough hooks in a bathroom so a few of these in your bag are bound to be put to use. They are a permanently in our dive bags now.

Check our website for more information on diving in Florida

Where to Dive : North America : Florida : Palm Beach County

Come Dive with Us!


Find out more about the worldwide dive itineraries that The Scuba Place offers at www.thescubaplace.co.uk.

The Scuba Genies are John and Mona Spencer-Ades, owners and Directors of ATOL and ABTA bonded Tour Operator and Travel Agency, The Scuba Place Ltd. The Scuba Place design and custom-build exceptional diving holidays around the globe, and have been doing so since 2011. They provide travel services to groups, clubs, buddy-pairs and individuals, and have a wealth of hands on experience when it comes to destinations as they are fanatical divers themselves. John has been diving over 30 years and is a PADI Dive Master, having logged over 2600 dives. Mona started her diving career in 2004, and has logged over 600 dives – she is currently a PADI Rescue Diver. The Scuba Place also provide hosted trips to both new and their favourite destinations each year, providing expert support, under their banner ‘Come Dive with Us!’ Previous trips have been to the Philippines, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Bonaire, Florida, the Maldives, Malta, Bahamas, Thailand, Truk Lagoon, Grenada, St Lucia, Cozumel, Cuba and Egypt. For 2022 and beyond, Palau, Bali, Raja Ampat, Ambon and Coron are in the planning stage.

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The Rescue – available on Disney+ tomorrow (Watch Trailer)

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If you missed the recent cinema debut of The Rescue film, you can watch it on streaming channel Disney+ from tomorrow December 3rd.

From Academy Award®-winning filmmakers E. Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin (Free Solo), The Rescue is the edge-of-your-seat account of the rescue of 12 Thai school boys and their soccer coach from a flooded cave system in 2018.

The Rescue chronicles the dramatic rescue of the boys and their coach, trapped deep inside a flooded cave. Academy Award®-winning directors and producers E. Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin reveal the perilous world of cave diving, the bravery of the rescuers, and the dedication of an entire community that made great sacrifices to save these young boys. An outing to explore a nearby system of caves after soccer practice transformed into a two-week saga of survival and a story that would capture the world’s attention. With exclusive access and never-before-seen footage from the rescue, the film tells the story of the imagination, determination and unprecedented teamwork displayed during this heroic edge-of-your-seat mission with life-or-death stakes.

Check back for our review of The Rescue soon!

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Marine Life & Conservation

Shark Guardian investigation finds endangered sharks for sale in Taiwan

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A field investigation into Taiwan’s shark fin industry was conducted by Shark Guardian between December 2020 and March 2021. The investigation obtained documentary evidence of fins from endangered shark species being openly offered for sale by over half of all shark fin traders surveyed in Taiwan’s southern fishing port of Kaohsiung.

Of the 13 shark fin processing and trading companies visited, more than half were found to be trading CITES- listed fins, and seven had shark fins from CITES Appendix II-listed species as part of their product range. One company saidthere was no difference in selling protected or unprotected species. Protected sharks’ products usually create a problem for international shipping only.”

The new report details how seven out of thirteen traders surveyed in Taiwan were found to be selling shark fins from silky sharks, oceanic whitetip sharks, mako sharks, thresher sharks and great white sharks in broad daylight – in contravention of Taiwanese and international law.

Over a three-month period, Shark Guardian investigators witnessed multiple shipments of shark fins from endangered species being unloaded at Donggang fish market which is in Taiwan’s southern city of Kaohsiung.

Alex Hofford, Marine Wildlife Campaigner with Shark Guardian, said “To save sharks and the marine environment, Taiwanese authorities should implement an immediate crackdown on its cruel and unsustainable shark fin trade, and should tighten up local laws to ban the domestic sale of shark fin as well as better enforce its international obligations under CITES. It is also high time that the Taiwanese government should rein in its out-of-control distant water tuna fishing fleet, who are a major supplier shark fin to Chinese markets. Whilst Taiwan is a beacon of democratic and progressive values in Asia, it is allowing its unsustainable and often crime-ridden fisheries sector to rape and pillage our ocean with impunity. This must stop. Taiwan needs to show leadership in environmental protection and must quickly clean up its act as regards its sleazy shark fisheries and trade sectors.”

During our investigation, Shark Guardian also found evidence of Taiwan-based online retailers selling fins of endangered species of shark in contravention of local and international law.

According to WWF, a third of all sharks and rays are threatened with extinction, yet fishing and trading in unsustainable shark fin remains a highly profitable, but environmentally destructive, enterprise for Taiwanese companies operating out of Kaohsiung.

Brendon Sing, Co-Director of Shark Guardian said “Clearly more must be done to protect sharks globally. There are over 500 known shark species with only a handful of them listed under CITES. Even then, CITES listed sharks are still traded illegally where monitoring and enforcement lack any power and expose loopholes in the system. As long as this continues, there is no real protection for any shark species regardless of CITES listing or not. Taiwan must be responsible and take positive action in response to this report.”

Shark Guardian believes that excessively large profit margins are the main reason why Taiwan has never acted to rein in its shark fisheries and trade.

Shark Guardian hopes that Taiwan can apply its progressive values towards preserving the marine environment by imposing a comprehensive ban on the physical and online selling all species of shark fin in Taiwan. Such a ban would go above and beyond what is required under international law, and Taiwan’s domestic laws can be changed with public support.

For more information about Shark Guardian visit their website by clicking here.

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Egypt | Safaga, Brothers & Elphinstone | 27 January – 04 February 2022 | Emperor Elite

Jump on board this famous Red Sea liveaboard and enjoy diving the famous wrecks of the Red Sea with this fantastic special offer.  Emperor Elite offers a contemporary living space combined with the best itineraries available in the Red Sea.

Price NOW from just £975 per person based on sharing a twin cabin including:

  • Flights from London Gatwick to Hurghada with 23kgs baggage
  • 7 nights in shared cabin
  • 3 meals a day, soft drinks, red wine with dinner
  • 6 days’ diving, guide, 12ltr tank & weights, Marine Park fees and port departure fees
  • Free Nitrox

Booking deadline: Subject to availability.

Call Diverse Travel on 01473 852002 or email info@diversetravel.co.uk.

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