Snorkeling Sea Gardens – Healthy Patch Reef Off Key Largo

Florida Keys

Snorkeling Sea Gardens was a joy, and we did it by private charter boat. It was just the two of us on the boat besides the captain and first mate which was a great experience.

2023 Coral Bleaching Event – Please note that very high water temperatures in the summer of 2023 have caused widespread coral bleaching and death in the Florida Keys. So the descriptions on this page are not accurate. If you wish to see healthy coral reefs we now recommend you visit the Coral Triangle.

Snorkeling Sea Gardens, from Key Largo

Private charters are a nice way to go because you can visit snorkel spots that are not commonly visited by the big boat tour companies out of Pennekamp and Key Largo. You will often see healthier reefs this way and most certainly have privacy. These trips are well worth the added expense. If you are not up for a private charter, there are some boats in Key Largo that only take six passengers at a time and they will likely go to smaller reefs like this too.

Our charter took us to a wonderful shallow patch reef between Key Largo and Molasses Reef. We don’t know if “Sea Gardens” is a made up name, because we could not find it on any charts. We believe it was actually the Mosquito Bank area, but are not sure. The captain wanted to keep some of his destinations secret to keep folks from overcrowding and damaging the areas.

But we know one thing for sure, snorkeling Sea Gardens was incredible. This shallow patch reef was a very healthy reef of hard and soft corals. The sea rods and other soft corals were huge, towering from the sea floor almost all the way to the surface. They were bigger than we have ever seen.

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What We Saw While Snorkeling Sea Gardens

There was also a huge variety of healthy, colorful sponges including Branching Vase Sponge and Black-Ball Sponge. We saw Finger Coral, Lobed Star Coral, Fire Coral, fans, and massive sea rods.

Big Trumpetfish seen while snorkeling Sea Gardens.
Huge Sea Rods at Sea Gardens.

Snorkeling Sea Gardens was perfect for depth and was a fairly big area. But the soft corals and sea fans were so tall that you had to be very careful not to touch them when snorkeling over them. If the bigger snorkel boat companies ever start taking groups here it would quickly be ruined because it is so shallow. It had been windy and rainy for days, so the visibility was not great (hence the lack of great pictures), but it was still very worth seeing.

Gray Anglefish over a sandy bottom with some corals at Sea Gardens
Barracuda at Sea Gardens.

There were not as many fish at this location as some other places, but a decent amount. Mostly they were medium sized to smaller fish. We saw small parrotfish, Hogfish, French Angelfish, Gray Angelfish, Atlantic Spadefish, Blue Tangs, small jacks, big barracuda, chubs, grunts galore, snapper, Yellow Tail Snapper, Bicolor Damselfish, Sergeant Majors, Bluehead Wrasse, big Trumpetfish, and pufferfish. There were also some huge sea cucumbers.

Large coral with a purple sea fan at Sea Gardens.
Fire Coral at Sea Gardens.

Blurry Fish, Rotten Colors, Garbage Pictures

That does not look like what I saw! See our snorkeling camera pages for tips on selecting a good snorkeling camera, and how to use it for great pictures.

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Find a Charter Company

We suggest you search TripAdvisor for private charter boat companies to take you snorkeling Sea Gardens. You can also read reviews of them there.

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