This Week’s Dive Report

We may be well into the fall, but conditions this past week remained incredible. Visibility was stunning, and we enjoyed calm seas and no current. 

On board, we had NFL Hall of Famer Warren Sapp. The Bucs’ superstar enjoyed a ride out and dives with Islamorada Dive Center instructor Nate Fosness. They went to visit the wreck of the Eagle, which sits about 3 miles northeast of Alligator Reef Light and six miles off the coast of Lower Matecumbe Key. Divers can visit the ship in 70 to 115 feet of water. 

The pro must’ve been good luck, because they had a super special encounter with a manta ray on the wreck. People do see manta rays in the Keys, but it’s not common. 

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, giant mantas are the world’s largest ray. These gentle giants can grow to have a wingspan of up to 29.5 feet, with an average size being around 22 feet. Individuals can weigh as much as 4,000 pounds! 

You’ll know you’re seeing a manta ray and not a stingray or eagle ray, which is more common, by its two large cephalic fins protruding from the front of the animal’s head. The body is usually dark brown to black above and white below, with possible splotches and chevron line patterns. There is a short tail without a spine.

If you do see a manta in the water, don’t worry! Stay still and enjoy the experience. They’re not dangerous to humans. On the contrary, we can harm them, and the FWC has reported mantas coming in stuck in fishing gear or with boat strikes. 

NFL Hall of Famer Warren Sapp with IDC instructor Nathan Fosness. ERIC BILLIPS/Contributed

Next Week’s Dive Report

The winds come in this week, so you can expect a bumpy week on the water. Still, over the weekend, they seem to come down, so don’t worry! It’s not officially winter diving yet.

Speaking of winter, have you broken out your wetsuit yet? It’s getting to be that time of year when people layer up to stay warm in the water. Nothing can dampen a great dive like being cold. Make sure to wear an exposure suit appropriate for your dive and depth!

Conservation Update

Dress up as your favorite ocean animal and head to Florida Keys Brewing Co. to support I.CARE. There will be music, brews, prizes and a costume contest! All proceeds help restore the reef.

Conservation Tip

As you dress up, avoid single-use plastics and things you have to throw away after one use. The less plastic we use, the less ends up in the ocean.

I.CARE Tip

I.CARE will be out with IDC this Saturday planting corals. Join us!

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Eric Billips is is the owner, captain and instructor at Islamorada Dive Center and Floridia Keys Dive Center. He specializes in scuba, rebreather, spearfishing and captaining in the Florida Keys