Pensacola / Gulf Shores Spots?

Discussion in 'Florida Diving' started by reichardr, Jul 20, 2008.

  1. reichardr

    reichardr Garibaldi

    # of Dives: 0 - 24
    Location: Memphis
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    Hi,

    I've searched the forum but couldn't really find the answer to this so I apologize if I missed it.

    I've been certified for a while, but I only have about 10 dives logged. My wife just received her OW certification through SSI and we'd like to plan a trip to the panhandle in Florida.

    We live in Memphis and would like to make a long weekend out of a trip to the Pensacola area.

    What do you guys recommend for the best places to dive for non-advanced divers?

    Also any recommended outfitters would be nice as well.

    I appreciate any help you guys can provide.

    Thanks.
     
  2. Mudbug_CSD

    Mudbug_CSD Scuba Instructor

    # of Dives: I'm a Fish!
    Location: Fort Collins, CO
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    call the friendly folks at MBT Divers in Pensacola - they should be able to hook you up with a local dive spot that fits your skill levels. If you're going further into FL, the nice folks at Scuba Tech in Destin have hooked me up in the past (although the vis isn't really as clear in Destin). A little further down the road in Panama City Beach is Panama City Dive Center - they'll treat you right too. If you're after fresh water, Vortex Springs is not far and is an interesting dive.
     
  3. Dave C

    Dave C Manta Ray

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    Mudbug,
    I don't understand your statement about the vis. being less in Destin. I think the general consensus is the vis. in Destin is at least as good, if not better, than in Pensacola. Certainly the inshore vis. is usually better in Destin.
     
  4. scubasaint

    scubasaint Nassau Grouper

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Nawlins
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    I dive in Pensacola several times a year and have dived in Destin a few times as well. As mentioned, I've found the vis in Destin to be as good or better than in Pensacola. There are a lot of factors involved, but generally the farther offshore you go, the better the vis.

    Scubatech out of Destin in my opinion is better suited for beginners than Pensacola. Also, in Pensacola, the boat ride out is usually longer and the dive sites a little deeper.
     
  5. ReefHound

    ReefHound Divemaster

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Houston, TX
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    Unless you dive both sites frequently I don't think you can make general comparisons on the viz. And if you don't take into account all the factors such comparisons have little meaning.

    Maybe the sites in one place weren't as far offshore as those in the other. Distance form shore is a key factor. Maybe you dived one site at a different time of year than the other. Season is another a key factor.

    Maybe the viz in general just wasn't as good the day you dived one place or was unusually clear the day you dived in the other. I've been to Seattle three times and all three times it was warm and sunny. They tell me it rains there a lot and has gray skies most of the time. So my experience hasn't been representative of typical weather there. Same principle applies to dive sites.

    My personal experience has been the viz is about the same offshore with better viz by the shore the further east you go.
     
  6. S&V

    S&V Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Pensacola, FL
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    Here are links to some dive shops in the Pensacola/Gulf Shores/Orange Beach area that I know of:

    MBT Divers Dive shop Pensacola, FL
    Scuba Shack
    Dive Pros
    Welcome to Bay Breeze Dive Center
    Gary's Gulf Divers, Full Service Dive Shops, Orange Beach, Alabama

    These shops work with charter boat ops or have their own boats. Most use dive masters - and I would recommend you go with one. Look for an inshore trip. Make sure they are aware of your experience level and comfort zone.

    Shore dives here are - IMHO - a gamble. Jellyfish, low viz, tidal currents, long hot lug with gear, not much to look at - all are possible. You would need to hook up with a knowledgeable local to have a chance at a good dive.
     
  7. Mudbug_CSD

    Mudbug_CSD Scuba Instructor

    # of Dives: I'm a Fish!
    Location: Fort Collins, CO
    48
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    My mistake - my brain was thinking of vis in panama city beach, which is better than Destin (in my own personal experience), but you're all correct - the vis gets worse as you move closer to the Alabama border.

    so for vis... Panama City Beach > Destin > Pensacola

    at least in my experience.

    Regardless, none of these spots offer the clear blue 100'+ vis of the caribbean or yucatan, so just expect 20-40' vis and you'll be happy with what you get.
     
  8. SuPrBuGmAn

    SuPrBuGmAn Giant Squid

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Tallahassee, FL
    12,435
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    I've had consistantly better visibility in Destin than in P'Cola or Panama City Beach. Deep water is closer to Destin than any of the surrounding areas, the shelf makes a bit of a nipple towards the Destin coast usually bringing in better visibility.

    All the northern Gulf Coast can have EXCELLENT visibility at times though.
     
  9. MRXRAY

    MRXRAY Photographer

    # of Dives:
    Location: Pensacola, FL
    1,918
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    If you'd like to get into salt water. Then the question is Shore or Boat. If you want to dive the Shore then St. Andrews State park is by far the best site in the area and only about 1 1/2 hours form P'Cola, I'd rank Destin up there as well but the walk to the Jetties are a KILLER (About 1/4 Mile through sand. If you are interested in some Near shore boat diving I would agree with some other posters that you can't beat Destin and Scuba Tech. My father came down recently and had not dove in several years and even though I have my own boat and live in Pensacola I chose to take him to Destin and Dive off of Scuba Tech's boat (Sea Cobra). The depths are a bit less so you'll get more bottom time and you don't have to travel near as far. I love Pensacolas diving and the selection much more than Destin (IMO), but I think for beginners you'd have a much better time in Destin.
     
  10. Hetland

    Hetland Loggerhead Turtle

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Gulf of Mexico
    2,659
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    Viz is currently terrible from Destin to Dauphin Island and probably further on each side. This is personal experience over the last month in 0-75 feet of water I'm talking about.

    I'm sure there are some clear sopts out there, but luck, and distance from shore/distance from the Mississippi river are the best bets. Personally, I would hook up with Gary's Gulf Divers (Orange Beach), MBT (Pensacola) or Scubatech (Destin). They are all good operations, reasonably priced, and generally will get you the best dives possible in their areas.
     
  11. SuPrBuGmAn

    SuPrBuGmAn Giant Squid

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Tallahassee, FL
    12,435
    282
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    I'd take Gulf Shores/Orange Beach shore diving over PCB any day when the sandbars aren't ontop of everything. Several wrecks, a pier, jetties, and a seawall(and more) beat the crap out of St. Andrews Jetties(PCB) as far as shore diving goes.

    The road to Fort Pickens opening up will put P'Cola above PCB as far as shore diving destinations go IMO as well. More wrecks, more jetties, ect.
     
  12. MRXRAY

    MRXRAY Photographer

    # of Dives:
    Location: Pensacola, FL
    1,918
    49
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    Supr,
    I haven't dove any shore dives further west than Ft. Pickens, what do you recommend?
     
  13. PatMyGreen

    PatMyGreen ScubaBoard Business Sponsor ScubaBoard Business Sponsor

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    Go on an offshore trip if you want good vis. That is the only way to consistently get better vis.... go further from the sources of the bad vis, and the only ones we can really keep track of are the passes discharging the river runoff. The watershed that feeds into St Andrew's Bay is is mostly contained inside of Bay County, a rare thing. Vis inshore Panama City is therefore largely a function of local rainfall, tidal flow and currents. It gets more complicated for other areas as they have much larger watersheds often originating in other states. Dredging and the unknown x-factor of bottom currents across the continental shelf alos figure in but they are hard to allow for.

    At least that is my humble opinion.
     
  14. SuPrBuGmAn

    SuPrBuGmAn Giant Squid

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Tallahassee, FL
    12,435
    282
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    Alabama Point Jetties and the seawall are still great dives. The Whiskey Wreck isn't as exposed as it was two years ago, but its still worth a tank and holds lots of fish.

    Once the sandbar shifts away again, there's a shrimp boat and a paddlewheeler to dive as well.
     
  15. MRXRAY

    MRXRAY Photographer

    # of Dives:
    Location: Pensacola, FL
    1,918
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    Would you compare Alabama Point Jetties and the Seawall to St. Andrews?
     
  16. surfdwn

    surfdwn Guest

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    When is the Ft. Pickens road supposed to open?
     
  17. MRXRAY

    MRXRAY Photographer

    # of Dives:
    Location: Pensacola, FL
    1,918
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    They are supposed to start work on it in the summer of 2009 is what the rangers told me.
     
  18. SuPrBuGmAn

    SuPrBuGmAn Giant Squid

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Tallahassee, FL
    12,435
    282
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    In what way?

    Visibility in PCB(St. Andrews jetties) is usually better and PCB usually has more soft corals and sponges. Diversity of life IMO is about the same otherwise as far as fish/turtles/mammals/ect. AL Point only gets to about 30' of depth while PCB averages in the 50-60' range with a couple deeper holes. Spearfishing is allowed from the beach at AL Point. There is also no admission at AL Point, but parking in close proximity to the jetties is limitted(not so much at the seawall).

    They are both similar in the fact that the "points" jet out into the Gulf and you can go around them from the channel side, swim the other side of the jetty back to the beach. Both are long sets of jetties, PCBs is longer. Combine the seawall as a dive with the AL Point Jetties and its longer, by quite a bit.
     
  19. MRXRAY

    MRXRAY Photographer

    # of Dives:
    Location: Pensacola, FL
    1,918
    49
    48
    Good info.... Thanks! Let me know if you're going to the AL Jetties or the seawall, I'd love to tag along!
     

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