So what kind of marine life are you likely to see while scuba diving in Palm Beach, Florida? The short answer is… Everything! A more expanded version of this answer requires some elaboration. Like any typical, healthy coral reef system in the Atlantic Ocean, there are your countless hosts of tropical fish — angelfish, butterfly fish, trumpet fish, grunts, snappers, groupers, etc. The list is quite extensive! The difference is in Palm Beach these fish are extremely abundant and super-sized! Angelfish, such as the queen, french and gray, are commonly seen up to 24 inches in length. Eight species of angelfish can be seen on a single dive in Palm Beach. Schools of grunts and snappers form walls, thousands strong, along many of our reefs. We’ve got lots of lobsters, too! But this is just the tip of the iceberg!
Palm Beach is home to five of the seven species of sea turtles found throughout the world. Not many places throughout the world can say that! Leatherbacks, loggerheads, greens, hawksbills, and Kemp’s ridley sea turtles call Palm Beach home. We are so certain you will see a sea turtle while scuba diving in Palm Beach that we can almost guarantee it. Not only can you see these sea turtles during your dive, but the leatherback, loggerhead, and green sea turtles also nest on our beaches between the months of March and October. You can join one of the many sea turtle walks organized by the different sea turtle conservation organizations in Palm Beach to see them during these special times.
If you’re looking for large fish, we have you covered! While scuba diving in Palm Beach you will come face to face with leviathans such as the big puppy dogs of the sea — the goliath grouper. These groupers, the largest of their kind in the world, can reach up to 8.2ft. and 800lbs.! Many of the reefs have their share of local resident goliath groupers year round, but you will definitely want to mark your scuba calendar for late August through September (sometimes pushing into October) when these goliath groupers congregate in massive numbers for the annual goliath grouper spawning aggregation. Our wrecks get covered in over a hundred of these leviathans along with millions of baitfish swirling around the wrecks and groupers in a mass. This spectacular underwater event has reached worldwide recognition including the pages of National Geographic!
Are you a shark and ray fanatic? Our abundance and diversity of shark and ray species is quite impressive. We’ve got nurse sharks, sometimes hundreds strong during their yearly mating aggregation, Caribbean reef sharks, lemon sharks, bull sharks, hammerhead sharks (both the great and scalloped variety), sandbar sharks, spinner sharks, tiger sharks, silky sharks, dusky sharks, and whale sharks. The list of sharks is quite extensive! Few places in the world have such a healthy and abundant population of sharks. And in even fewer places can you see an acrobatic show like that put on by the spinner sharks even before you go scuba diving. These sharks leap out of the water just like spinner dolphins!
Our abundance of rays include very large southern and rough-tail stingrays, manta rays, electric rays, eagle rays, small-tooth sawfish, and huge schools of cownose and devil rays. These majestic sea creatures are usually seen cruising along our reefs followed by numerous fish such as cobias and jacks. Our manta rays reach sizes larger than an adult human!
Marine mammals call Palm Beach home, too! Dolphins are commonly seen swimming in pods along the reefs and shore line. Whales such as humpbacks and the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale are a very special treat from time to time. Pilot whales and sperm whales, too!
A closer look at the reef and our fabulous Phil Foster Park (Blue Heron bridge) dive will showcase countless marine life listed in many divers bucket list. Numerous species of seahorses and pipefish are commonly observed. Frogfish are a favorite among the photographers. Over twenty species of eels! Batfish, sea robin, flying gunard, stargazer, black brotula, and many more make our list of odd and unique sea creatures. Close to two hundred different species of nudibranchs (very colorful sea slugs) have been identified by scuba divers in Palm Beach. The list is endless!
To help make all this incredible abundance of marine life in Palm Beach complete, we can not forget to mention the gorgeous coral reef system. Miles and miles of soft corals cover the top of the reefs with a scattering of hard corals such as massive brain corals — some over 5ft. wide! The colors of the reefs in Palm Beach are due to an incredible diversity of sponges that cover every inch of unoccupied space. Large barrel sponges — decades old — tower above the reef. Bright orange elephant-ear sponges make a gorgeous backdrop for many underwater photographs and are a favorite hiding spot for our orange frogfish. The intricacy and beauty of the reefs in Palm Beach are a sight to see.
Our wrecks are great, too! We’ve got a number of dive sites with coral-covered wrecks. Sea turtles and goliath groupers are common year-round residents. Sharks live here, too! Best of all, we have set up a series of wrecks in line so you don’t have to fight the current — you can simply drift from one wreck to the next during your dive.
Even with everything mentioned, this list only scratches the surface of the marine life you can see while scuba diving in Palm Beach, Florida. Even after decades of scuba diving in Palm Beach we are still mesmerized and surprised by what we encounter. The best part of diving in Palm Beach is you can expect the unexpected. Who knows what spectacular marine life you will encounter on your next dive?!?!