Aside from diving at the world famous Phil Foster Park (aka. Blue Heron Bridge) and our ever so popular Black Water Dives, most know West Palm Beach for its larger marine life. Sea turtles, sharks, and goliath groupers are just a few of the many larger species of marine life we have. But take a closer look at the reef and wrecks of Palm Beach and you will be surprised by how much more we have.
Today’s dives on Shark Canyon and the Corridor Wrecks provided an abundance of the little things. Juvenile tropical fish in all colors and shapes are just the tip of the iceberg. Each inch of space is covered in all sorts of invertebrate life — sponges, tunicates, mollusks, corals, etc. Even the algae have a resplendent palette of colors that is worth looking at a little closer. Best of all, searching for the rare critters such as frogfish, brotulas, pipefish, and seahorses (to name a few) make these macro dives just as thrilling as searching for your first leatherback sea turtle.
A few important tips we recommend if you decide to take up these macro dives:
- Most importantly, please please please watch your buoyancy. One close look at the reef or wreck and you will quickly realize that every little inch of the substrate is alive. Settling down on top of the reef or wreck is destroying or harming a lot of this special miniature life. We are granted the opportunity to be weightless and can hover in midwater while scuba diving. Take advantage of it and save the reef inhabitants in the process.
- When you think you’re going slow… go slower! Palm Beach is known for drift diving, but it’s not difficult to find areas of the reef or wreck where the current doesn’t affect you. Tuck in behind these areas and enjoy a nice relaxing dive. You’ll not only see a lot more creatures, but you’ll do much better on your air consumption in the process.
- Bring an underwater flashlight. There are tons of dark nooks and crannies on the reef and this is a great place to find many of the rarely seen marine life creatures such as black brotulas and viper morays. Look for orange gobies clinging upside-down in these ledges, too.
- Watch your bottom time. As the saying goes, “Time flies when you’re having fun!” Nowhere is this most apparent than when I’m doing a macro dive. My dives feel like they last 10 minutes, but my dive computer and the number of photographs of my camera (many times more than when looking for larger sea creatures) says otherwise.
- Do your homework. Before you set out on a dive, I recommend catching up on your sea creature identification. Read up about a particular creature(s) you’re hoping to find. Find out what it likes to eat and you’re more likely to find it.
- Look up every once in a while. This is usually the time that leatherbacks and whale sharks like to cruise right by you. Be sure to bring plenty of tissues to wipe the tears if you’re a passionate digital SLR photographer who is stuck with a macro lens when these leviathans show up, as the best you will do is get a macro photo of their eye (as I did today of Shadow — the goliath grouper).
- Don’t forget your dive buddy. Not only is he/she there for safety purposes, but four eyes are better than two. You’ll see a lot more critters if there are two of you diving together. Plus, it’s a lot more fun to share the excitement of the dive while on your surface interval.
- Don’t worry about missing the big stuff. You’ll see that, too! It never fails. Every time I do a macro dive I have a sea turtle come really close. If anywhere around Shadow, the goliath grouper, expect him to sneak up at the least expected moment giving you a good “instant” aerobic workout (aka. a good scare!).
These are just a few of the tips I can offer. Do you have any more you’d like to add? Please leave them in the comments section below.
We hope you will try out a little macro diving in Palm Beach. We promise you will love it. Let us know what you think and what you saw.