20' - 35'
Rated as one of the best sites off the east coast and off your typical Florida holidays, Cayo Diablo is not one but several different sites. The choice of which site to dive around this cay is often not in the hands of the divemaster. Northerly swells sometimes make the south of the island the only sensible option, and some weather conditions make it impossible to dive at all.
Both sides of the island are surrounded by picturesque underwater scenery, though the marine life is rather different on each side.
Cayo Diablo south is a shallow dive around ancient coral reef, re-colonised by several species of gorgonians creating a mystical forest interlaced with trails and tunnels. When we dive it, the visibility is about 20 feet, which enhances this dreamy quality.
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The dive boat anchors in sand, close to the edge of the reef, in 25 feet. We swim across the sand until the first coral head appears. Hermatypic corals have built these calcium-based lumps and long after the living corals have died, the skeletons remain. So, although the lumps look solid, they are riddled with holes and channels, some large enough for us to swim through.
On the surface of these imposing skeletons, new growth has taken hold. The first things we see are bushes of sea whips, plumes and rods, swaying seductively in the current. They draw us deeper into the forest and we weave around the silent forms of the reef.
As we follow a turning in the path a waterfall confronts us. Star coral has overgrown a large mound in flattened overlapping plates, like a petrified waterfall. Another coral mound looks like a giant mushroom. Boulder star coral, in sparkling condition, forms green hillocks.
Our path is clearly marked by creamy sand where sand divers and small brain corals lie silently watching our progress. We continue to wind our way through this swaying ocean and as we look closely we find a trumpetfish hanging in the sea whips ready to pounce on any careless meal that may pass its way.
The quantity of fish is not great, but the reef does not lack movementthe gorgonians never stop their quivering pulsing dance, creating a truly magical ambiance.
Thanks to Chris and James of Palomino Divers.