Northwest Florida/Gulf of Mexico guidebook has dive, snorkeling, surf sites

Like other publications in the Reef Smart Guides travel series Dive, Snorkel, and Surf, the upcoming Northwest Florida / Gulf of Mexico travel guide provides insights into shipwrecks and other man-made reef sites, as well as other marine gems worthwhile, to locals and visitors to be explored.

Lots of other publications are great at telling you where to go and what to do on land, said Ian Popple, general manager of Reef Smart in Montreal.

“So much of what people love to do when visiting warm places is getting in the water and exploring the marine environment,” said Popple. “We felt the only way to do this was to create a system that would allow us to map and three-dimensionally model what the environment looks like, almost by peeling back the water, showing what the relief looks like , and humans imagine some of the species that exist there. “

Artist Rachel Herring

With the guidebook, adventurers are better prepared to safely enjoy and understand the marine environment, he said.

Popple and Peter McDougall, President and CEO of Reef Smart USA, helped write the guide to Northwest Florida / Gulf of Mexico. It is published by Coral Gables’ Mango Publishing Group and could be available for purchase in late May.

The book describes 137 locations for divers, snorkelers and surfers, including dozens of offshore and onshore locations. Fishermen will likely find the publication useful too.

Okaloosa County’s coastal resource manager Alex Fogg said he had worked with Reef Smart for the past several years “to get some pretty killer images (3D renderings) of our reefs. That endeavor has grown into a dive and snorkel guide who really is a must have. “

The guide provides information on access points, depths, currents, waves, suggested routes, notable features, and potential hazards. It includes four locations in Alabama that are detailed and widely accessed by operators outside of Pensacola.

The book also describes 27 locations (12 in detail) in Escambia County, five locations (three in detail) in Santa Rosa County, 39 locations (21 in detail) in Okaloosa County, 17 locations (five in detail) in Walton County and 43 Locations (12 in detail) in Bay County.

Locations in Okaloosa County include reefs near Beach Access # 2, 4, and 6 on Okaloosa Island, as well as Norriego Point, the Destin Jetties, White Hill Ledge, and Mac’s Reef.

The Grayt Pineapple sculpture will be lowered into the water near Grayton Beach in 2018.

Those in Walton County include the famous Underwater Museum of Art. Escambia County’s highlighted attractions include Perdido Key Reef and Park East Snorkel Reef. Entries for Santa Rosa County include the Navarre Sound-Side West Reef and the East Reef. Bay County entries include Black Bart, El Dorado, and the St. Andrews Jetty.

“I think there are so many people who visit northwest Florida and stand on the beach and look at this ocean and they don’t see what’s under the surface,” said Popple. “There are so many wrecks. There are so many snorkeling spots just yards from the beach and not enough people realize they are there. So this is a guide that basically gives you everything you need to know to be able to explore this area. “

More of our galleries:

Sea turtles and tropical fish have made the snorkel reef on the Gulf of Pensacola Beach a home.  This makes it popular with snorkelers and divers, who have easy access to the 18 models used to install the Escambia County's reef at about 400 feet offshore near Park East.  The Santa Rosa Island Authority is considering banning the use of harpoons on the reef as there are growing concerns that they pose a public hazard.

McDougall said northwest Florida has great potential to be one of the Sunshine State’s most famous diving destinations.

“When people talk about diving in Florida, everyone embraces the Keys and beyond the Keys is more focused on the Fort Lauderdale area,” said McDougall. “But there are some incredible dives off the coast of northwest Florida. This is one of the things we try with our tour guides in the sense that the diving that is on offer in a region is really introduced and showcased to help both divers and people understand what they are in theirs have their own garden, also for non-divers-divers. “

He found that the exploration areas highlighted in the new guide include 31 offshore areas, 26 land-accessible areas, and two freshwater springs, Vortex Spring in Holmes County and Morrison Springs in Walton County.

Overall, “People are really interested in getting this information (found in the guidebook) that will allow them to dive on their own terms and schedules,” said McDougall.

The guide is available for $ 34.99 at local dive stores, snorkelers, chain and independent bookstores, and on Amazon.

Copies of the book will be made available for prizes to winners of the Emerald Coast Open Lionfish Tournament from May 14th to 16th in Destin.

In addition to the guidebook, Reef Smart created custom maps that highlight each of the reefs it modeled, Fogg said.

The waterproof cards “are really great to have on the boat before, during, and after your dive, and they’re also great” badges “to display in one place after your dive,” Fogg said.

To learn more, visit reefsmartguides.com.

Did you know?:Okaloosa is working to remove huge amounts of underwater debris

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