OK. After snorkeling Sombrero Reef we felt like we had reached snorkeler's heaven. What a fantastic reef!
It was probably the best experience we had in the keys. In part because we snorkeled it on a perfect sunny day and had the most crystal clear blue water. In fact the captain on our boat said it was probably one of the clearest water visibility days he had ever seen.
Even without the water clarity this is a special place, and has it all for a snorkeler. Tons of fish, interesting topography, perfect depths and a great variety of corals, sponges and other sealife to see.
This reef is right on the edge of the barrier reef, and to reach it you catch a boat tour from the Marathon area on Vaca Key.
This is a popular spot, with lots of mooring pins and boats. It is marked by a good sized lighthouse. But unlike at Alligator Reef Lighthouse, the lighthouse here is almost on land and is much too shallow to snorkel underneath. Even in super calm conditions waves break on the reef around the lighthouse base.
When you're snorkeling Sombrero Reef you will find a spur and groove formation with many fingers. It offers a very nice range of depths. You can be over some fairly shallow spur and groove, where the sandy ground was only about 8 feet, or you could be in much deeper water, with 20 foot depths. There are mini canyons to explore, and even some sea cave arches you can swim through if you are bold.
The corals and sponges were very healthy here, with tons of different types, including some Pillar Coral, Elkhorn, Lobed Star, Massive Starlet Coral, Blade Fire Coral, Branching Fire Coral, and tons of sea fans, rods, plumes, Christmas Tree Worms, White Encrusting Zoanthid, and lots of different sponges: Green Finger Sponge, Red Boring Sponge, Black-Ball Sponge, Loggerhead Sponge.
Just some of the fish we encountered were the regular Hogfish and the Spanish variety, Bluehead, Scrawled Filefish and Yellowhead Wrasse. We saw tons of parrotfish, from Yellowtail Parrotfish, Princess Parrotfish, Rainbow Parrotfish, Midnight Parrotfish and Stoplight in all phases.
We did not see any, but some of the other snorkelers mentioned seeing sea turtles and Nurse Sharks.
We also found a Spotted Scorpionfish hiding, plus many Blue Chromis, some groupers, Yellowtail Damselfish (in all phases), Sergeant Majors in Purple Phase, Porkfish, Yellowtail Snapper, Gray Snapper, grunts, Chubs, lots of immature Bar Jacks, Barracuda, Spotfin Butterflyfish, Foureye Butterflyfish and Blue Tang. And there was a nice variety of Angelfish including Gray Angelfish, French Angelfish, and Queen Angelfish.
Enjoy a few more pictures below from our snorkeling Sombrero Reef adventure. And don't miss it if you get the chance.