MARATHON, Florida Keys — As seen from the air, Marathon and the Middle Florida Keys appear as emerald isles set in a turquoise sea. Marathon's reefs offer great variety in coral formations and fish life, offering divers and snorkelers many options for undersea exploration.
The crystalline waters of the Atlantic Ocean reveal a marine wilderness featuring an extensive spur-and-groove coral complex and numerous well-developed patch reefs. Each reef is populated by a vast array of tropical fish and invertebrates, with the fascinating addition of shipwrecks to complete the tremendous sport-diving appeal of the region.
For advanced divers who want to go down with the ships, Thunderbolt is considered the queen of the Marathon wreck fleet. The 188-foot ship last served as a cable layer used by Florida Power and Light Co. for researching electrical energy and lighting strikes.
An easily navigable wreck that divers can see in its entirety during a single dive, “T-Bolt” sits upright in 120 feet of water with an observation deck at 75 feet. The ship is accessed by following a line from the surface to a submerged mooring ball attached to the vessel’s bow where a giant cable spool is positioned — a memorable spot for photo ops.
For snorkelers and novice divers, Marathon boasts one of the most beautiful shallow reefs in the Keys — Sombrero Reef — at depths of 6 to 25 feet. Sombrero’s views include brilliantly colorful marine life among magnificent coral spurs — long fingers separated by white sand.
Marathon's middle reefs range from about 10 to 25 feet in depth and are known collectively as Coffins Patch. This area, about 4 nautical miles off Key Colony Beach, offers some of the best snorkeling in the Middle Keys. An abundance of colorful fish including tangs, stingrays, grouper, butterflyfish and lobster call the area home.
For more information about unforgettable Middle Keys experiences for divers and snorkelers, visit fla-keys.com/marathon/diving/.
Sombrero Reef is one of the most beautiful shallow reefs in the Keys, offering crystalline waters in depths of 6 to 25 feet. Photo: Rob O'Neal
Thunderbolt is considered the queen of the Marathon wreck fleet. The giant cable spool is encrusted with colorful soft corals and sponges.
Snorkelers and divers at Coffins Patch typically encounter an abundance of colorful fish. Photo: Capt. Hook's Dive Center