Snorkeling Hen and Chickens patch reef is well worth doing, and is one of the better spots in the Keys. Like Cheeca Rocks, this reef is closer to shore, and is a short boat ride compared to going all the way out to the barrier reef edge.
You will find this called Hens and Chickens also, but it is really Hen and Chickens, because that is what the reef looks like, a single large patch reef, the hen, surrounded by many little reefs (the chickens).
This nice patch reef is marked by a small tower, and is a pretty big area to snorkel. Plan on spending some time here if you have the choice.
The visibility was mixed when we were there, but conditions change all the time. The water was a little green from algae, which is typical of these inner patch reef areas in the Keys.
The area has a nice range of topography, with high and low areas, with channels to explore, and little shelves for fish to hide under. This provides a very nice range of depths that are perfect for snorkeling.
The reef is diverse, and we found many different hard corals in very healthy condition.
We found beautiful areas of Mountainous Star Coral, Lobed Star Coral, Finger Coral, Brain Corals, and Fire Corals.
And like many of these inner patch reefs, we found many healthy sea rods and fans.
There were lots of Christmas Tree Worms and a ton of sponges, including Red Boring Sponge, Branching Vase Sponge and Green Finger Sponge, seen in the pictures below.
The fish in this area were of medium to small size, and a decent amount, but nowhere near as many as at Cheeca Rocks.
Once again we got to see a Hawksbill Turtle. This one was older and had a few barnacles growing on it. We also had fun watching a Spotted Eagle Ray fly around.
For fish we noticed Blue Angelfish, Foureye Butterflyfish, Spotfin Butterflyfish, French and Gray Angelfish, Blue Tangs, a big school of immature Bar Jack, Barracuda, Chub, Grunts, Porkfish, Gray Snapper, Yellowtail Snapper, Bicolor Damselfish, and Yellowtail Damselfish. We found lots of Sergeant Major, and some in the purple phase also. There was a variety of parrotfish, Bluehead, Spanish Hogfish, Trumpetfish, and Spotted Trunkfish.
Not bad for a lazy hour of snorkeling Hen and Chickens. It was a treat.
A Great Caribbean Snorkeling Fish Guide