Scuba Diving in Sanibel Island, Florida

by Adele Burney
The beaches of Sanibel lure thousands of visitors each year.

The beaches of Sanibel lure thousands of visitors each year.

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Off the southwest coast of Florida lies Sanibel Island, considered by some to have some of the prettiest beaches in the world. The island is also a wildlife refuge and offers many different adventures to the scores of tourist flocking there annually. Visitors can choose from biking excursions, kayaking or seashell hunting. Those wanting to see what Sanibel has to offer below the surface may choose to go scuba diving in the many reefs found around the island.

Sanibel Island

Although it only boasts a population of about 5,600, Sanibel Island commands a big presence on the tourism market. Most of the attention is because of the sugar-white sand found on its beaches. The island also is a well-known seashell hunting location. Thanks to this barrier island's geographical orientation, it is a natural "scoop" for seashells. Many visitors come to the island just for the seashells. Visitors to the island may find that it is easier to navigate via bicycle or walking because the island is small. It is only 12 miles in length and four miles across. But, of course, if you come to the island for scuba diving, you will find a great expanse of area to explore.

Scuba Diving

Visitors call Sanibel Island a "perfect" scuba diving destination, according to the Discover Sanibel Island website. The basis for this praise is most likely the 12 artificial reefs encircling the island. Construction of these reefs has led to increased sea life in the area, which lures both fishermen and scuba divers. Built in 1999 from a tug boat wreckage, Charlie's Reef is the newest of all the reefs, but it has quickly become popular because of the wide assortment of sea life and the beauty of its location. Another popular reef is the Belton Johnson reef off of Bowman's Beach. Divers should look for the yellow and white markers that indicate the location of this five-mile reef. About 15 miles from the coast, near the island's lighthouse, lies Edison Reef, another popular reef for scuba diving. Formed from the remnants of a bridge, this reef lies in more than 40 feet of water and offers wonderful sights for divers.

Getting Equipped

The best place on the island to prepare for your scuba adventure is the Seahorse Scuba Company ( It has equipment for purchase or rentals for the day. This is a full-service dive center offering air and Nitrox fill stations. Do not worry if you don't have a certification, the Seahorse Scuba Company offers three-day beginner classes that can get you certified. It also provides training for children ages 8 and older. Expert divers will also enjoy their PADI and Universal referral certification dives.

Things to Know

With a year-round average temperature of 75 degrees Fahrenheit, anytime is a good time to visit Sanibel. If you are looking to avoid the crowds, you may want to visit during the spring or fall. Many tourists from the Northern states invade the island during the winter months because of the moderate climate. The locals call them "snowbirds." When it is busy on the island, parking becomes a premium, so prepare to pay between $6 and $20 for parking on the island. The island is about a 45-minute drive from the Fort Myers International Airport. There is one causeway leading into the island. This is a toll road, the rate at the time of publication is $6 per vehicle.

Photo Credits

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