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Snorkeling Key West

Crystal clear water and coral reefs teeming with life are just a few miles off the shores of Key West. See parrotfish, tangs, bright coral, and a loggerhead turtle in just 10 feet of water.

With 80 feet or more of visibility and coral reef as far as the eye can snorkeling is a must during any visit to Key West.

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Western Sambo Coral

Coral on Western Sambo Reef, Key West


Surrounded by water Key West is all about diving, fishing, beaches, and boating. The Inside Florida team has been diving all over Florida and we rate Key West as our favorite spot to go snorkeling.

Snorkeling The Western Sambo Reef

We recently trailered our boat (a 22 foot PathFinder) down to Key West and hit the reef. We put the boat in at the Key West City Marina and headed out to Western Sambo - a dive spot directly east of Stock Island.

It took us about 15 minutes to get out to the reef, which is about 4.5 nautical miles off shore. Western Sambo is an Ecological Reserve inside the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

The GPS Coordinates for Western Sambo are N 24° 29.300’  W 081° 42.41’ . No fishing is allowed in Western Sambo but diving is allowed. When diving inside the Marine Sanctuary you must follow the rules.

Follow the Rules in Marine Sanctuaries
The most important rules are that you cannot touch or stand on the coral, you cannot take anything out of the water, and you should tie up to a mooring buoy if possible.



We tied up to one of the mooring buoys provided and immediately saw a wide variety of fish. The visibility was incredible, the water was crystal clear and we could see coral that was about 5 to 7 feet deep and the sandy bottom between the coral that was about 17 feet deep.

Tropical Fish, a Nurse Shark and Three Squid
Once in the water we saw an abundance of marine life. Tropical fish like damsels, tangs, and sergeant majors are common on most reefs and we saw plenty but we also saw a four eyed butterfly, huge parrotfish, a nurse shark, and 3 squid.

The squid were a new experience for us. We followed them and they were shy slowly moving away from us. We snorkeled for about 40 minutes and then took a break. Sitting in the boat we saw a loggerhead turtle pop his head out of the water.




Key West Snorkeling Tours

As we were leaving Western Sambo a snorkeling tour boat arrived with about 10 people. If you don’t have a boat then taking a snorkeling tour boat in Key West is easy. There are many snorkeling tours that cost as little as $45 for an adult and $25 for children for a 4 hour tour. These snorkeling tours provide you with the gear you need so all you have to bring is sunscreen.


Sun Protection
Snorkeling for just 30 minutes will subject you to the strong rays of the Florida Sun. Consider getting a long sleeve swim shirt. Most dive shops carry rash guards, which typically have built in sun protection. The material is light, breathable and very comfortable in the water.

By wearing one of these sun shirts you will get no sun on your arms and back.

Snorkeling Key West is a must activity when you visit. You might even want to get a waterproof camera to snap a few photos. The pictures in this article were taken with a $399 Olympus Stylus 1030SW.




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