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Turtle Nesting in Palm Beach County

  Palm Beach County coasts are some of the most densely turtle nested areas in the country.  3 species are recorded here: The loggerheads (Caretta caretta) are the most common species in Florida. They can weigh up to 350 pounds (158 kg) and measure around 3 feet (0,90 m). They are omnivores but feed mainly on invertebrates, such as, gastropods, bivalves, crabs and lobsters. The leatherbacks (Dermochelys coriacea) are the largest of all living turtles. They can weigh up to 2,000 pounds (907 kg) and reach over 6 -7 feet (1,82 m – 2,2 m).  They can be easily distiguished because they do not have a bony shell but a carapace covered by dark grey to black skin with an oily flesh. They feed mostly on jellyfish helping keep this species population under control. Finally, the green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) can weigh up to 450 pounds (204 kg) and can reach 5 feet (1,5 m) in length. They are called this because of the green fat found beneath their caparace and are herbivores. The turtles start arriving to the beaches in March, but the number continues to increase from May until September. Only in the northern county beaches, the Loggerhead Marinelife Center records around 10,000 nests each year. During quiet walks in the night, it is not uncommon to see turtles crawling ashore, digging a nest to deposit around 110 ping pong ball sized eggs.  They then return to the water after this 1 to 3 hour process. The turtles are vulnerable while laying their eggs and can be easily frightened away if disturbed.  Therefore, it is forbidden to take pictures... read more

Esso Bonaire III

  It is a warm morning in mid May, and the “Paradise Below” Dive boat takes us to an exciting dive spot, the Esso Bonaire III.  It is a 147 foot long harbor tanker wreck placed 3 miles off the coast of Jupiter and is one of the three wrecks collectively known as Jupiter Wreck Trek.  (GPS coords: 26º 57.85200’N, 80º 0.47202’W)  This steel tanker was built in Honduras in 1926 and sunk in 1989 after the Palm Beach Council seized it when they found 55,000 lbs of marijuana on board. The captain gives the signal: “Dive! Dive! Dive!” and we all enter the water. Surprisingly there is no current, and we can descend calmly together. Before we reach the base of the ship, we cross a large school of Tomtate Grunts.  As soon as we touch bottom at 90 feet, a bull shark welcomes us passing quickly through the group. The wreck is completely covered by various corals and gorgonians and is home to a multitude of large and small marine life.  Even though it is not recommended to enter due to the fragile conditions of the structure, there is plenty to view for all the divers.   Due to the good visibility, we are also able to see some Pork Fish, Grey Triggerfish, turtles and other smaller tropicals surrounding the vessel.  We are quickly led to the deck after seeing some very large Goliath Grouper shadows a few feet away.  These colossal creatures spanned the entire deck in groups of 4 and 5 with some of them weighing in around 350 pounds. While we are observing these gentle giants,... read more

Lionfished: A Threat to Our Ecosystem

South Florida is well known for its gorgeous coral reef systems. It is unique to most other parts of the country in how accessible it is to people. This being said, the marvel that is our coastal waterways has become stressed to strong degree in recent years. This is all due to an invasive intruder, the lionfish. Floridians know all too well the consequences of an unchecked invasive predator. Pythons, in particular, have been an absolute terror on the everglades. Initially native to Indo-Pacific waters, the lionfish has now firmly established itself within the southeastern coast of the United States, in addition to parts of the Caribbean, and the Gulf of Mexico. While the specifics of how they found their way into our part of the globe are still not precise, it is generally accepted that like the python, they may have been carelessly dumped into the wild by exotic pet owners. While typically not able to survive in cold waters, they have found a liking to the southeastern marine waterways due to the Gulf Stream. The Gulf Streams naturally warm currents are similar to their native homelands. To make matters worse, it is speculated that lionfish larvae may travel further up the coast of the United States, proliferating themselves to an even further degree. You see, in their natural environment, they reproduce en-masse. Females are known to lay up to 2 million eggs per year. This is what allows them to escape predation. Unfortunately, the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico are not host to any known predators of this particular species, which is what is allowing them... read more

Spawning Goliath: Grouper Spawning Season

Hello, divers of south Florida! It’s September, which means one thing, grouper spawning season. This time of year deep-sea explorers get the chance to take in and behold the spectacle that is the mating habits of one of the largest fish species of our coastal waters. Sure, there’s a good chance we’ve all come across grouper at some point in the duration of our time in Florida, whether it’s during an excursion into one of our many coral reef systems that grow all across the coastline, or perhaps even on our dinner plates. One thing is for certain, the spawning ritual of the Goliath Grouper is an event to behold in itself. Rite of Replication The Goliath’s spawning season occurs during the warmer summer months, stretching across July, August, and September. It is noteworthy to add that the goliath grouper’s cycle is largely influenced by the lunar cycle as well. During breeding cycles, a staggeringly large number of fish congregate, sometime forming schools climbing over 100 members. Typically, the select areas like shipwrecks, secluded patches of reef, and rock ledges to perform their spawning ritual. The males release sperm as the females release their eggs into the open waters. Once fertilized, the eggs become subject to the tides, going whichever way the waters flow. The begin life as kite-shaped larvae, eventually reaching a juvenile stage of maturation at about 25 days after hatching. Gargantuan Wonders of the Deep It is no accident that the title “Goliath” was added to this particular species. At full maturity, they can span body lengths of up to 8 feet long, and weighing in... read more

Viva Los Tiburones: Why Sharks Are Heroes of the Sea

As many have noticed, The Discovery Channel has started its juggernaut of summer programming. First premiering on July 17th, 1988, The Discovery channel has been giving a generous heap of shark-filled goodness. They’ve been chumming the waters for 26 years now and show no signs of stopping. Shark Week is here. With that said, we here at Paradise Below Diving would like to take the time to celebrate the myriad blessings we are given by sharing our waters with these benthic beasts. Feared, Respected Final Bosses of the Ocean In popular media, the appearance of a shark is overwhelmingly portrayed as cause for alarm. It’s true, the average shark is a force to be reckoned with, but the likelihood of a frenzied attack is not quite as conceivable as what movies and television may suggest it to be. According to Iceana.org, in the span of years between 2006 to 2010, there were 110 reported instances of a shark attack in the state of Florida. This is proportionally larger than the rest of the country with the total number of attacks capping out at 179. While the study does not include the severity of attack to any degree, it should be noted that of the total number of attacks in Florida, only a single one was fatal. Take into consideration the fact that the coastal waters of the United States attract over 200 million visitors annually. So in actuality, the percentage of an attack is incredibly low. That said, with over 500 species of sharks in the waters, only around a dozen are considered to be dangerous to humans. Knowing... read more

Sea Turtle Season in West Palm Beach

It’s sea turtle season in Palm Beach –in case the dozens of sea turtles we saw on yesterday’s dive didn’t give it away. Palm Beach County’s beaches are some of the best in the USfor turtle watching as loggerhead, green and leatherback sea turtles can be found nesting during the spring and summer months. From March to early September, hundreds of trained researchers and volunteers work around the clock to ensure the highest hatch percentage possible makes it to South Florida’s oceans. It’s not an easy task, as they must combat naturaland human forces that might otherwise interfere. Tides, raccoons, dogs and trash can destroy a nest before the hatchlings even get a chance to emerge from their shells. When they do, it’s a race to the water’s edge. Buildings along the Palm Beach coast are permitted to use only LPS or Turtle Safe red lights to encourage female nesting and that hatchlings head toward the ocean, not away. There are a number of ways you can see Palm Beach County’s sea turtles. These aresome of our favorites. Diving with Sea Turtles The number one way to see the turtles is on their turf: in the water. Here you can watch them up close and personalas they glide gracefully. For the past couple of weeks we’ve been graced by the presence of sea turtles in hordes. On one dive, we were surrounded by three large loggerheads at once!We tried to get a picture, but when you have turtles on allsides of you it’s a little hard to get them allin one shot. I guess you just had to be there. Book... read more

Steps to a Scuba Diving Certfication

PADI | Open Water Certifcation An open water certification is your first step to becoming a scuba diver. Over three full days of hands-on learning, you will be run through a series of skills and tests. Upon completion, you and another certified buddy are allowed to dive within recreational limits at your own leisure without the supervision of an instructor or Divemaster. This past weekend, we certified three new divers – Mike, Tim and Laura – over a three days of nothing but fun in the sun.   Day 1 | Air Management On Friday, we met our divers at Phil Foster Park on Singer Island just north of West Palm Beach. We started with a couple of icebreaker games before learning all about our gear and equipment. After a briefing, we geared up for the first time and got in the water to practice skills like mask clears, regulator recovery and air depletion situations. Our students completed each skill like rock stars. You would’ve thought they had done this before.   Day 2 | Friends and Bridge Jumps Saturday brought even more divers as Laura’s husband Alex and Tim’s girlfriend Ally – both certified divers – came along for support. All our divers assembled and disassembled their own gear, helping each other if any help was needed, before getting back in the water to once again practice and wow us with more skill mastery. They got their first real taste of diving as we kicked around the Blue Heron Bridge, where the diving is pretty outstanding. Octopus, barracuda, nudibranchs and a gold spotted eel were spotted among the... read more

When is National Oceans Month?

By Presidential decree, the Obama Administration has officially declared the month of June as National Oceans Month to raise awareness of ocean conservation efforts. “The ocean, our coasts, and the Great Lakes provide jobs, food, energy resources, ecological services, recreation, and tourism opportunities, and play critical roles in our Nation’s transportation, economy, and trade, as well as the global mobility of our Armed Forces and the maintenance of international peace and security.” – President Barack Obama What do we do for National Oceans Month? At Paradise Below Diving, we work to ensure healthy oceans for current and future divers here in South Florida. Whether it means picking up a rusty soda can found diving or reminding our divers to follow PADI Project AWARE standards, we know that healthy oceans mean a healthy planet and a healthy life for everyone. Anyone who’s ever stood with their toes in the sand watching a beachside sunset – or sunrise – can vouch for the majesty of the sea. In light of National Oceans Month, We asked the staff at Paradise Below Diving what do they do to protect the oceans and beaches of South Florida? “Our Paradise Below dive charter is equipped with an environmentally friendly diesel engine which significantly reduces fuel emissions.” – Rene Bobadilla, Owner/Instructor “We partner with the PADI Project AWARE Foundation to teach our divers about the most common issues facing aquatic environments and what they can do to make a difference to conserve them.” – Ashley Bobadilla, Owner/Operation Manager “As I Divemaster I get to introduce people to the ocean every day and show them exactly how... read more

Scuba Diving at Blue Heron Bridge

What is The Blue Heron Bridge? There are plenty of blogs from this The Blue Heron Bridge dive site, but not any from Paradise Below Diving. This is one of the sites we love to use for dives 1 and 2 of the open water portion for scuba diving certifications in West Palm Beach. This is also a great location to observe underwater life behavior, such as feeding, hunting, and mating behaviors. Also, our students love to try to find all the hidden sea life because they adapt and camouflage very well with their surroundings. The Day of the Dive The forecast called for scattered thunderstorms in the area with winds at 19 MPH, but that was no going to stop me from getting into the water today. The visibility was around 20 feet, so we decided to get some close up photographs. The dive started out in 5 feet of water where we came upon a school of Great Barracudas on the hunt and soon completely surrounded by Big Eye Jacks passing by. This was just the beginning of some of the beautiful sea life the Blue Heron had to offer today. We saw many extravagant tropicals, hidden Banded Coral Shrimp, crab, and lobsters and multiple unique sea creatures such as Searobin, Gobies and Jawfish and much more. After 90 minutes of dive time, we were not disappointed. Where is The Blue Heron Bridge? The Blue Heron Bridge is part of the Phil Foster Park connecting Singer Island, FL to Palm Beach County mainland. PADI’s sports diver magazine named The Blue Heron Bridge one of the best dive... read more

Atlantic Goliath Grouper

The end of the Goliath Grouper spawning season was around the corner, and I was determined not to miss it this year.  I told Captain www.walkersdivecharters.com who I usually use for my dive students in west palm beach,  I was ready to take in this awesome experience just for me.   Friday night came, and I could hardly sleep planning for the following morning.  Once I had everything on my pre-dive checklist prepared and equipment together, I was ready to set out for an adventure of a lifetime. Soon after leaving on the boat, the plan quickly changed due to the poor visibility from the rough tides.  Our original plan was to go see all the Goliaths at The Mizpah Corridor wreck dive site, but the water was too murky to dive there.  Captain Walker advised us we would now be dropped off at Northwest Double Edge (aka Shark Canyon) first so we could have some time for the wreck to clear up. We began to drift from 60 feet and gradually progressed to 83 feet.   There were several sharks swimming close by and in the distance where the visibility was almost zero.  That was very exciting, but my heart truly began to pound when we came upon a canyon hiding two Goliath Groupers.  These gentle giants were probably somewhere around 400-500 pounds.  Never before have I witnessed such an amazing sight!  The dive lasted around 30 minutes, but the time flew by so fast because we were having such an awesome time taking photos and soaking in the moment. After going back to the boat to do some surface... read more

Turtle

Eventhough the water clarity wasn’t perfect on this Treasure Coast dive, we were still able to capture an up close and personal video of this turtle. He glided with us for most of the dive allowing for a memorable... read more

Reef Shark

We got very excited when we saw this reef shark while our divemaster was supervising an Advanced Open Water student practicing their underwater navigation... read more
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