Are you in love with the sea breeze? How about the murmuring sound of waves over you? Mix these with crystal clear water and sugary-sand beaches and you’ll enjoy the perfect day for Pensacola scuba diving trips! Pensacola is one of the most breathtaking ports in the Gulf Coast and is even nicknamed the “World’s Whitest Beaches”. In this guide you’ll find everything you need about scuba diving in Pensacola. Check out our article if you are interested in snorkeling as well. Are you ready to dive in? Take a big breath and let’s go!
Table of Contents
- What is Scuba Diving?
- Who is it for?
- Why Should I go Scuba Diving?
- How can I go Scuba Diving?
- Why Choose Pensacola?
- When is the Best Time to go Scuba Diving in Pensacola??
- What Equipment Will I Need for Scuba Diving?
- Best Pensacola Scuba Diving Destinations
- Scuba Diving Pensacola FAQ
- Pensacola Scuba Diving Trips Directory
How many times have you already seen the beach? The white sand, the beachgoers, the palm trees, the bars… Probably more than you could count. You know all of those well. But how many times have you seen the world underwater? The reef, the wrecks, the fish, the corals and the hundreds of other fascinating sea-dwelling creatures living down there. Think about it. We know so little of them. We are willing to pay thousands of dollars for a trip. But guess what. It is still in the world we know. What if I tell you that you can enter a whole new world? You’d be excited and you’d want to know how. And what if I tell you that you can do it for FREE? Woohoo, mind blown!
Our waters are full of miracles and when you enter them, you suddenly find yourself in a whole new world. If you dove before, you know what I’m talking about. Then why don’t we spend more time underwater? That’s exactly what I was wondering about last Sunday while walking on the beach. I felt the need to write a guide on scuba diving in hopes you would take action and visit the beautiful reefs we’re surrounded with.
What is Scuba Diving?
Scuba diving is a form of diving where the diver uses SCUBA, which is an abbreviation for Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus, to breath underwater. These divers typically use their own supply of compressed air to breath. A diver advances through the water using fins. Scuba divers are trained and should be certified. Recreational divers typically dive between 100-130 feet.
Who is Scuba Diving for?
Two types of scuba diving exist: recreational and professional. In this article we will talk about recreational scuba diving. A minimum level of fitness but no prior knowledge is required by most training organizations as a beginner. There are training programs for kids under 14, seniors and people with disabilities as well.
Why Should I go Scuba Diving?
We have an overwhelming knowledge of our surface world but we know so little about the life below it. There is so much to see down there! Not to mention it is in constant motion. You can visit the same site and discover something new every single day. Scuba diving is also really peaceful, provides a good exercise and turns your mind off.
How Can I go Scuba Diving?
Scuba diving is more complicated than snorkeling. If you are a professional dedicated to scuba diving, you can buy your own equipment and organize charters yourself. But if you are a beginner or would like to scuba dive every now and then, we strongly suggest you to contact a local dive charter organizer. They have the experience and equipment required for a safe and enjoyable trip. You can find out more on Pensacola Scuba Diving Directory below. Note: while it is possible to rent gear, some dive charter organizers will need you to bring your own equipment.
You will discuss the details of your dive with the dive charter organizer on the dock. You dress up, put on necessary equipment, hop in the boat and start your ride to the site you chose. Once you arrive, you enter the water and start the adventure.
Why Choose Pensacola?
Certain Pensacola scuba diving trips are among the top 10 dives in the whole world! Read that again! Pensacola has more diving sites than you could imagine. Besides natural reefs, you can find a tremendous amount of artificial reefs such as shipwrecks, airplanes, army tanks, oil rigs and many more in Pensacola.
When is the Best Time to go Scuba Diving?
The best season to go scuba diving is summer because the water is clear, warm and calm. You can go scuba diving at any time of day. Visibility is a little bit better in the morning.
What Equipment Will I Need for Scuba Diving?
You will need fins attached to your feet to make moving underwater easier, a mask to improve vision, exposure protection, a gas tank filled with compressed air, a diving regulator to control the pressure of gas, and equipment to control buoyancy. Note: Pensacola scuba diving trip equipment may depend on the service provider.
Scuba Gear Package
The gear package below is is manufactured by Cressi, who is a pioneer in the field of SCUBA, and has been around since 1946. this package includes a comfortable harness with adjustable straps, the Leonardo dive computer, and regulator packs, and regulator bag.
This 3mm wetsuit is highly flexible and is made of eco-friendly material. The heavy-duty zipper is ideal for diving, but is also a great multi-purpose wet suit. With a 30-day unconditional refund, your satsifaction is guaranteed!
These high-performance fins will have you practically dancing in the water, allowing for maximum propulsion and agility. With a 4-year warranty, this is a quality product built to last.
This rubber mask is highly durable, comfortable and allows for easy cleaning. With a triple adjustable strap, comfort is expected. With large tempered glass, this mask allows for panoramic views.
Scuba diving watches can be a big investment, but there are some reasonably priced models available. The reasonably priced model below allows for single-button input, which is ideal for beginners. The built-in dive computer is Italian, made by brand pioneer Cressi.
Now that we covered the basics, let’s move on to the sites you can take on your Pensacola scuba diving trips.
Best Pensacola Scuba Diving Destinations
The Pensacola area offers more than a thousand individual dive sites. No matter what level you are at, you are guaranteed to find a site of your interest during your Pensacola scuba diving trips. Let’s take a look at some of the best dive sites.
Fort Pickens Jetties
Fort Pickens Jetties offer a relatively easy dive and are preferred among beginners. They can be found at the west end of Santa Rosa Island at Gulf Islands National Seashore and are easily accessible from the sea wall. This site is 5-50 feet deep and is rich in marine life. Conditions are usually best one hour before the high tide. WARNING: the site is subject to strong currents during tide swings so be careful!
Vortex Springs is located in Ponce De Leon, FL about 1.5 hours from Pensacola. It has a depth of 10-45 feet, which makes it an excellent and preferred choice for beginners. The Vortex is special as it is fed by crystal clear spring water, making the visibility outstanding.
USS Massachusetts (BB-2)
USS Massachusetts (BB-2) was one of the first ships to feature heavy armor and heavy artillery. After her decommission, the ship was towed to Pensacola and was used as a target for experimental artillery. She lies in depths ranging from 10 to 30 feet and is one of Florida’s Underwater Archaeological Preserves.
San Pablo, (also known as the Russian Freighter), once hauled fruit until she was sunk by a U-Boat near Central America. The wreckage sits in 75-85 feet of water less than ten miles from Pensacola Pass. The wreck has attracted a large group of marine species. Grouper, flounder, snapper, cobia and schools of baitfish are regular visitors at the wreck. The spot is great for photography as visibility of 100 feet has been reported at times.
Pete Tide II
The Pete Tide II served as an oil field supply boat until it was sunk as an artificial reef in 1993. The wreck is fully intact and is one of the most popular sites in Pensacola. The 180’ wreck is full of marine life. Pete Tide II is a favorite and one of 12 sites on the Panhandle Shipwreck Trail.
The Antares was sunk as an artificial reef in 1995. The 347′ freighter can be found 24 miles Southeast of Pensacola Pass and lies in 130′ of water. Hurricane Opal damaged the wreck and spread some of its parts over a wide area.
The Tenneco Rig Site is located roughly 26 miles South-Southeast of Pensacola Pass. It consists of two 500 ton structures which were owned by the Tenneco Oil Company. This site was deployed in 1982 as a part of the “Rigs to Reefs” program. The Tenneco Rig was the first to use a complete platform to form an artificial reef. This site is popular for advanced and technical divers. It is known for large game fish, making it a very frequented site for spearfishing as well.
USS Oriskany (CV-34)
USS Oriskany (also known as the Mighty O and The Great Carrier Reef), the 911-foot aircraft carrier is the world’s biggest artificial reef. She earned two battle stars during the Korean War. During the Vietnam War (in which she earned another ten battle stars), the Oriskany launched more sorties and flew more missions than any other US Navy Carrier. The USS Oriskany was sunk approximately 24 miles Southeast of Pensacola, Florida in May of 2006, in 37 minutes. She now rests upright in 215 feet of water and serves as home for thousands of creatures as the world’s biggest artificial reef. The Mighty O truly offers the dive of a lifetime. This is what we are going to tell stories to our grandchildren about.
Pensacola is also called “The World’s Premier Underwater Aviation Museum”. You can find the greatest collection of sunken aircraft here as well.
Scuba Diving in Pensacola FAQs
How much does scuba diving in Pensacola cost?
It depends on the service provider, the kind of charter you book, the difficulty of the dive and the number of people. A beginner dive inshore usually starts from $100 per diver.
Are reservations required for scuba diving tours?
Yes, you must reserve the time you would like to go scuba diving. You can do this by contacting the dive charter organizers by phone, e-mail or their website. You can find their contacts below.
Is scuba diving safe?
Absolutely. If you got the necessary training and follow the safe diving practices, there’s nothing to worry about.
Do I need training?
Yes, you do. When you step out of your comfort zone and dive into the water it’s better to be prepared. Life is full of surprises. Even one mistake can cause big trouble. It is possible to take scuba diving lessons in Pensacola, for further information contact the training centers. You can find some of their websites below.
How much does the training cost?
It depends on the training center. You can get a taste of scuba diving for as low as $50. Obtaining a certificate usually starts from $200-$250. PADI dive centers offers courses and is great way to get started.
What will I have to bring with me?
It is necessary to bring your own scuba equipment appropriate to the dive you chose. You will also need sunscreen, bathing suits, towels, wide-brimmed hat, seasickness medications, and any prescription medications you may require. You also have to bring your certification cards.
Can I protect the ecosystem while scuba diving?
Maybe this comes unexpected, but yes, you can! Pensacola doesn’t support invasive species (sorry, lionfish). You can go and hunt for these intruders while not only enjoying yourself but doing good for the environment. Visit LionFish University to find out more on the damage lionfish cause and how to prevent it.
What will I see?
When you go on Pensacola scuba diving trips, you will see how rich in marine life the area really is! The limestone outcroppings and ledges are covered in corals and sponges. These are inhabited by hundreds of fish species waiting for you to discover, including: Grouper, Snapper, Porcupine Puffer Fish, Flounder, Guitarfish, Red Drum, Spadefish, Sheepshead, Stargazer, Stingray, tropical fish such as Angelfish, Gobies, Blennies, Jawfish, Damselfish. Even sea turtles, whale sharks and manta rays can be spotted every now and then.
Pensacola Scuba Diving Trips Directory
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