Sport Diver Article: South Florida Scuba Diving Roadtrip
I am so excited for this post! My first article for Sport Diver magazine has gone up: https://www.sportdiver.com/south-florida-scuba-diving-roadt…
South Florida Scuba Diving Roadtrip
It’s early in the morning and there is a slight covering of fog on the road as I hit the Florida turnpike with my dive buddies headed south for West Palm Beach. The drive is just over two hours from Orlando; we’ve planned a night dive then a day out on the boat.
I’ve set a goal for tonight’s dive, find and photograph an octopus. We are diving with a guide from Force-E Scuba Center. All night diving in the area is monitored and under permit; therefore, a guide is a must.
After checking into our hotel and dropping off our bags, it was time to check in at Force-E. Following the guide, we made our way to Phil Foster Park to gear up and wait for sunset.
We mentioned that we were on the hunt to find an octopus and luckily our guide had some ideas. Sure enough the second spot we looked we found one, a small, common octopus. Although a storm had recently torn through the area, visibility was decent and the water was clear enough to see our new friend along with other fish and smaller invertebrates.
The dive was a success, we found our nocturnal critter and then some. It was time to rest up and recharge batteries for the next day’s dive.
The next day began with another early start. We headed down to the dive shop, Deep Obsession Charters to check in and rent our dive tanks for the day. We found the dock and met our captain and crew who promptly took our gear and set it on the boat while we waited for the rest of the divers to show up.
Once all the divers were present, the crew gave us a safety briefing and itinerary for the day’s dive. My goal for this dive? To see a tiger shark! I had been following their page all week and they had been seeing one consistently.
With anticipation building, I gear up and prep my camera. The first site is a drift dive which means that as the vessel cruises along, divers prepare to take a long stride off of the back of the boat. I enter the water, following our dive master and begin to descend. This is a shallow dive and allows our dive master to evaluate the skills of his divers. We drift along around 50-60 feet, skimming just above the reef. We were lucky enough to see many schools of fish, some curious reef sharks and even a sea turtle before returning to the boat.
Before the second site, everyone is crowding around the snacks and the suspense to find sharks is growing. We repeat the process for the second dive and descend to 90ft. In the area, we see many goliath groupers and a couple of nurse sharks begin to arrive. With our time limit approaching, I am still holding onto the hope of spotting a tiger shark. As we ascend to 60ft, a few lemon sharks appear and show interest in my strobes. Another ten feet up and the lemon sharks have disappeared, visibility is good and the water is comfortable. The conditions couldn’t be any better.
As I look down from about 40 feet there is a large dark shadow swimming up towards me and as it gets closer I can make out the shape of a tiger shark! The reason why the lemons left the area. She turns sharp and heads right for our group; at the same time I head in her direction. (I had to get close for a photograph!) Full of adrenaline, I almost forget to start photographing. Almost. I am close enough that she bumps my lens port out of curiosity. I gently pushed back and she gives me some space.
Eventually she drifts away from the group and I head towards the surface. What an indescribable experience! The female tiger we saw was around 12 feet long and the one the dive shop had been seeing in the area for a couple weeks. Moments like this are the reason I dive. Moments like this are why I keep going back for more.