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Scuba Diving Tampa

 


 

Scuba diving Tampa bay is one of the most sought-after activity in Florida. Tampa is washed by the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Quaint system of islands and channels form Tampa Bay, where quiet rivers flow into the plains of Florida. Thanks to the care of the state about the ecology and perfect weather conditions did their job - the local waters densely populated with marine inhabitants. In addition to large flocks of fish, you can see dolphins, playing in the bay.

During the dive, you can often find manatees attracted here with warm water and plentiful of food. Even in the cold winter months the water temperature does not drop below 20°C.

 

Scuba Diving Tampa_manatees

 

Scuba Diving Tampa: General Information

During scuba diving Tampa you will learn that it is one of the largest artificial reef in the world, which is constantly build by people and sea. The reefs consist of bridge rubble, concrete culverts, specially constructed fish havens, shipwrecks and even army tanks. Several wrecks have been sunk within recreational diving limits.

Also the Tampa area is world famous for spear-fishing. An abundance of large game fish such as, cobia, snapper, kingfish, bonito, mackerel and grouper, can be found in the Gulf waters. For those who don't spear, there are oysters, scallops, stone crab and slipper lobster.


The natural formations offshore of Tampa are limestone ledges that are the ancient shoreline of Florida. Currents have created deep undercuts where fish hide in huge schools. The ledges vary in height from 2-12 feet and are found at depths of 35-60 feet. The depths of Tampa and Florida coastlines range from approximately 30 feet (10 meters) to thousands of feet. Most dive trips narrow this depth range from 30 feet to 100 feet. The most economical and popular trips range between 40 and 60 feet. The deeper dives are father distance to travel and therefore more expensive.

Tampa is a nice large town with white sandy shores and some of the best beaches of Florida can be found in this area. The water of the Gulf of Mexico is warm which provides for excellent coral growth and perfect conditions for huge schools of game fish. Its underwater landscape primarily consists out of white sand and undercut limestone ledges. It is a tourist paradise with a bustling skyline, lots of hotels, bars, restaurants, museums, gardens and enough entertainment to make it one of your top holiday destinations.

 

Scuba Diving Tampa: Diving Conditions

  • General Water Temperatures: Summer as high as 30C and in the winter ~ January to the end of February, as low as 12C;
  • General Visibility: Average is up to 10 m. In the winter visibility is an average of 10 m to 15 m, but visibility to 30 m is not uncommon, depending on weather;
  • Dive Site Accessibility: mostly by boat. The Gulf is very shallow, dive operators have to run 25 miles offshore to get 20 m, and 80 to 100 miles to get into depths of 40 m plus. Average dives are in the 10 to 20 meters depths

 

Scuba Diving Tampa: Marine Flora & Fauna

While scuba diving Tampa during summer you may stumble across spotted eagle rays and the occasional whale shark. But, even if you don’t, there are always plenty of goliath grouper, hogfish, amberjack, barracuda, tarpon, snapper, redfish, large mouth bass and garfish and lobster to keep you company. The Gulf Coast is also home to manatees and sea turtles.
The official manatee season runs from 15 October to 31 March but some of the creatures are year-round residents.

 

Scuba Diving Tampa: Scuba Diving Centres

2 Shea Private Charters Dive Clearwater Depth Perception Dive
Center
Tanks-A-Lot Dive Charters
tripadvisor tripadvisor tripadvisor tripadvisor

Just a few Dive Shops in Tampa, Florida (click on TripAdvisor icon to read divers' reviews)

 

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Scuba Diving Tampa: The Best Scuba Diving Locations

Several artificial reefs have been created in the previous decades, and one named Pinellas #2 Artificial Reef offers diving at two of the best wreck dives in the  area. These are the Sheridan and the cutter USCG Blackthorn which joined many salvaging tours and rescue missions of sinking ships. Another famous dive site is the Gunsmoke, which is a great wreck. There are many other natural and artificial dive sites in the area - enough for divers to explore and fully exploit your hobby as a sports diver.

We will give here only fast facts just for the few the most famous dive sites around Tampa bay:

 

Sheridan

  • Average Depth: 50 ft/15 m;
  • Max Depth: 80 ft/24 m;
  • Features: wreck site/artificial reef


The Sheridan lies within the Pinellas #2 Artificial Reef Site and is just 100 yards southeast of the USCG Blackthorn. The Sheridan is a fantastic wreck dive. The 180-foot tugboat lies upright and fully intact in about 75-80 feet of water. The tug lists about 50 degrees to starboard with its prop in place. The top of the wreck can be reached at 25-30 feet. The wreck is surrounded by concrete culverts and tires.

Many consider the Sheridan to be one of the best wreck dives in the Tampa/Clearwater area. The Sheridan is home to several Goliath Grouper and barracuda and always has lots of marine life to observe. Spanish mackerel, amberjack, crevelle jack, trigger fish, snapper, and even the occasional shark frequent the reef site. This is a great spot to take pictures of some large grouper. Advanced wreck divers will enjoy exploring the open compartments.

 

Blackthorn

  • Average Depth: 65 ft/20 m;
  • Max Depth: 80 ft/24 m;
  • Features: wreck site/artificial reef


The U.S.C.G. Blackthorn is one of the most popular wreck dives in scuba diving Tampa area. After the collision with large freighter Capricorn and impossibility to repaire all the damage, Blackthorn was towed 20 miles offshore to the Pinellas #2 Artificial Reef Site and sunk in 80 feet of water. The ship is broken into two large sections which rise 15-20 feet off the bottom. The major sections are upside down. Penetration is not recommended. The area has a large amount of silt making visibility poor. The ship has become heavily encrusted and has attracted a large amount of marine life. Goliath grouper, snapper, mackerel, schools of spadefish and even some whale sharks have been spotted in the area. The Sheridan is just 200 feet away from the Blackthorn.

 

Gunsmoke

  • Average Depth: 70 ft/21 m;
  • Max Depth: 80 ft/24 m;
  • Features: wreck site/artificial reef


This old shrimper was once used to smuggle marijuana. Gunsmoke sank in 1977 and lies in 80 feet of water about 20 miles offshore. She is listing to starboard and has collapsed at midship. Shrimp nets are draped across the rigging.

 

Indian Shores Reef

  • Average Depth: 40 ft/12 m;
  • Max Depth: 46 ft/14 m;
  • Features: wreck site/mooring buoys/artificial reef

 

Indian Shores Reef is just over 11 miles from the Clearwater Pass entrance marker #1 and about 13 miles from the John's Pass entrance marker. This artificial reef was started in 1962 with the placement of 125 pillboxes. The reef now includes three sunken ships, each over 200 feet in length.

In 1976, the U.S. Navy Explosives Ordnance Disposal Team from Cecil Field Naval Air Station in Jacksonville, Florida, filled two World War II Landing Ships (LSMs) with cable and used explosives to sink them in about 45 feet of water. One LSM lies 100 feet west of the center buoy. The other LSM is 100 feet east of the southern buoy. In 1984, a 240-foot salt hopper barge was sunk 200 feet southwest of the northern buoy. The barge is upside-down and is often called the "Upside-Down barge". See "Dive This Spot" for GPS coordinates for each ship.

 

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South County Artificial Reef

  • Average Depth: 30 ft/9 m;
  • Max Depth: 45 ft/14 m;
  • Features: wreck site/mooring buoys/artificial reef


This artificial reef site was developed in 2001-2003 and consists of tons of concrete rubble piles and a 100-year-old tug named Orange. The site is well-marked with buoys and home to large amounts of fish. The South County Artificial Reef Site lies 11 miles out from the Pass-A-Grille entrance marker and 10 miles from the St. John's Pass entrance marker. South County is a quarter-mile square artificial reef area in which two reefs have been developed. The center of the square is marked by a yellow buoy.

The first reef developed, known as "Site One", consists of 700 tons of concrete debris, light poles, and bridge pilings that were placed in 45 feet of water in October 2001. Site One has a round, white mooring buoy. The main concrete rubble pile is about 90 feet long, 25 feet wide and ranges from 15-17 feet high. About 25 feet to the south are five smaller piles of rubble and 75 feet to the north are five more satellite piles. These smaller piles are about 10 feet in profile.

The second site developed in South County is the Tug Orange. This one-hundred-year old tug was sunk in 2003. The Orange is marked with a buoy attached to its bow.

Near the bottom of the rubble live grouper and black sea bass. Enormous schools of baitfish attract kingfish, jacks, Spanish mackerel and bonita to the tops of the piles. Underwater photographers love this spot for its fantastic visibility, water quality and rather tame fish that seem to want to pose for the camera. A friendly six-foot nurse shark makes its home in South County and even the barracuda seem to enjoy checking out divers.

 

St. Pete Beach Reef

  • Average Depth: 30 ft/9 m;
  • Max Depth: 35 ft/11 m;
  • Features: wreck site/artificial reef


St. Pete Beach Reef is the most southern artificial reef location in Pinellas County. The reef was begun with bridge sections in 1976, a barge in 1984, and ten tanks were added in 1995. This artificial reef is just over five miles out from the Pass-A-Grille Channel Entrance Marker #2 and is a favorite spot for fishermen. The reef was is about 300 feet in length and was started in 1976 when large concrete sections of the Old Corey Causeway and Skyway Bridge were sunk in about 30 feet of water. In 1984 a 200-foot steel barge was scuttled 50 feet east of the reef's center. The U.S. Army deployed 10 obsolete combat vehicles in 1995. A yellow buoy marks the general location of the U.S. Army tanks. GPS coordinates for all 10 tanks are listed in "Dive This Spot".

 

Tug Orange

  • Average Depth: 40 ft/12 m;
  • Max Depth: 45 ft/14 m;
  • Features: wreck site/mooring buoys/artificial reef


The Tug Orange is the highlight of the South County Artificial Reef. This 100-year-old tug was sunk in 2003 and is home to a variety of game fish. The tug was built in 1903 as an 80-foot long, steel-hulled harbor tug. Orange was a workhorse used to push railroad barges in the New York Harbor area before moving south and pushing ships around Tampa Bay. The Tampa Bay Towing company donated Orange to the Pinellas County Artificial Reef Program.

The bridge was razed before Orange was sunk in 45 feet of water in April 2003. The tug lies with a 50 degree list to port with her bow oriented south. A mooring buoy is attached ot the bow making this wreck easy to locate. The tug is 200 feet east of the yellow buoy that marks the center of the South County Reef.

The Orange and the surrounding reef are home to a variety of fish including Spanish and king mackerel, jacks, bonita, black sea bass and Goliath grouper. Friendly nurse sharks and barracuda are often spotted near the tug.

 

Crystal River

Located on Florida’s west coast about 113 kilometres/70 miles north of Tampa, Crystal River has both salt and fresh water springs that attract scuba divers and snorkelers. Crystal River is a known Mecca for manatees and there are many dive shops that offer the unique experience of swimming with these gentle giants. Crystal River is the only place in the United States where you can snorkel with these remarkable creatures.

  • Types of Diving and Best Dive Spots: Kings Bay is the primary dive spot in Crystal River. This tranquil, spacious bay features a group of fresh water springs that make for fun and exciting diving amongst caverns, rock formations and a multitude of fish. Depths can reach 18 metres/60 feet and visibility can exceed 24 metres/80 feet;
  • Marine Creatures: Manatees take advantage of the warm water in Kings Bay and you shouldn’t miss the chance to be in the water with one of these animals. You’re also likely to see tarpon, snapper, redfish, large mouth bass and garfish;
  • Dive Season: The official manatee season runs from 15 October –to 31 March but some of the creatures are year-round residents;
  • Average Water Tempuratures: 25°C/77° F in summer, 13°C/55° F in winter


Dive sites descriptions are based on materials from DiveSpots and PADI.

 

Scuba diving Tampa offers some of the coolest reefs that are actually wrecks, which have been transformed by marine life into amazing underwater habitats for all kids of marine life. Certified divers may find many penetration possibilities. And even if they don’t have wreck training, advanced divers will still be fascinated by the life environment created by the big wrecks — so definitely bring your camera!

 

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