Vero Beach and Indian River County have some of the most unique places to dive.
Diving & Snorkeling
Great diving sites extend from the Sebastian Inlet to Round Island, including coral and artificial reefs and the site of the 1715 wreck of the Spanish galleon in the south end of Vero Beach.
There are four artificial reefs along the beaches of Indian River County, about 200-300 feet off shore. The first, deployed in 1987 by FP&L, is located along the south beach of Vero Beach at a depth of 38 feet. The remaining three were placed in 1999 by the Indian River County Government and are located at depths of 66, 71 and 73 feet along the beach front of Vero Beach.
This unique habitat is a nursery for all types of marine life – turtles, lobsters, manatees, rays, sharks, and over 200 species of fish and the Oculina Varacosa, Oculina Diffusia, fire, and a few other types of coral. The reef begins at about the Sebastian Inlet and runs unbroken to Riomar. It then picks up again off Sandypoint and extends a little south of the Ft Pierce Inlet. This reef, which parallels the coastline, is located very close to shore and extends out about a half mile.
The reefs foundations are exposed limestone formations which rise up from the bottom in various shapes and sizes. Some areas can be seen at low tide like the Riomar reef. The limestone ledges in some areas jet up from the bottom like huge monolithic outcroppings with vast caverns that disappear into the abyss. The ledges are very pronounced in the Vero Beach area with some of the highest 'Relief' --as referred to by engineers -- found anywhere. This habitat is most unique and is not found this close to the coastline anywhere else.
This reef stretches for about 120 miles from south of Indian River County to Daytona Beach, north. Nearly 200 feet below the ocean's surface, the Oculina Reef, also known as Ivory Tree Coral, is brittle and grows less than half an inch a year. The coral and surrounding waters support a diverse sea life including fish, turtles, moray eels, and stingrays. The reef, discovered only 20 years ago, is a protected area where fish breed and live. When the reefs were first discovered in the 70s, the oculina corals, almost tree-like with 15-foot pinnacles over 100 years old, were documented by the specialists at Harbor Branch.
Coral Reef and Diving Etiquette
Please remember.... that coral reefs are living entities and can be damaged or destroyed by touching. Below are some basic rules to following when out near coral reefs:
If you are scuba diving, be properly weighted and maintain neutral buoyancy for proper body control. Do not hold onto corals for support or drifting to the bottom. It's possible to accidentally kick the corals while regaining position.
If you are snorkeling, consider placing a flotation device under your chest if you are not the best of swimmers. Never stand on coral to adjust your mask, but swim well and clear of the reef. Kick to keep your head out without the possibility of kicking the reef or search for a sandy or coral free shallow place to stand.
If you are anchoring a boat near a coral reef, use a sand type anchor placed well away from any reef formation in sea grass or sand bottom. Up wind (or tie) from where you want to dive, then allow the boat to drift into position near the reef. Always check that the anchor is well secured in the sand before diving on the reef.
Information on Vero Beach reefs and coral and fish photos provided by Mike Blatus. Aerial photograph courtesy Indian River Co, 1999
For information on water safety and shark attacks visit SharkSurvivor.com.
The local website was developed to promote shark safety awareness and provide support for not-for-profit organizations that are engaged in education and/or research in the areas of shark awareness and behaviors.
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