Just like rainforests and the polar ice caps, coral reefs have also become dangerously diminished by the effects of modern civilization (particularly by pollution, rise in sea temperature and level, and fishing abuse). Reefs are home to a quarter of all marine species, and although natural coral reefs are dying at frightening rates, artificial reefs – created by anything from sunken ships to storm debris – can encourage marine development and become a stable hub for life to flourish and re-establish underwater habitats in needed areas.
Florida (Miami in particular) is home to the largest artificial reef program in the world. Not only is this great news for local marine life (especially endangered species), but it means that divers have some fun places to explore while observing some fabulous tropical wildlife.
Dozens of wrecks, many with removed doors for easy access, lie around the South Beach area. What’s more, Miami’s warm weather and relatively good underwater visibility make it one of the best dive spots in the country. Some of the artificial reefs, however, are harder to get to and thus require more advanced dive skills.
A few examples of the many reefs to see are Spiegel Grove (a landing ship dock resting 130 feet [40 meters] beneath the surface, six miles off Key Largo); a few scattered pieces of a Boeing 727 jetliner called the Spirit of Miami; a reef made of car frames; and a reef made from old tires. You can find a reef locator through the Artificial Reef Program, but the best idea is to join up with a company that specializes in taking people to these awe-inspiring underwater locales that merge the works of man with the wonders of nature.