Lately I have been hearing a lot about Blue Heron Bridge, seeing a lot of posts of random fish and all the creatures there. It created some curiosity, Bert and I had miles to use so we decided to go for a low budget trip to West Palm Beach. Thanks to free 2 check-in baggage in Southwest Airlines we could pack everything we needed except the tanks, and yes that includes the lead.
Here is some general information about the Blue heron Bridge diving
- Check out the map: map
- You can only dive at high tide here because of the high currents otherwise. Well, low tide is a possibility but I would recommend not, if you want to see some things other than your hands, since the visibility tends to reduce significantly.
- When you enter the park best, place to park is close to the beach near the playground, there are showers there!!!
- There is free parking until 10 PM, however the beach is open only between sunrise and sunset. You need to be out of the water before the sunset. Every 2 weeks (at full and new moon) the dive shops provide beach use permit for night diving. If you are lucky you may be able to find permit for one of the other days, better ask your dive shop if they know anyone pooling a permit. (Update: dive center in the park may give you parking permit even if they are not leading a dive. just go ask for one if you want one)
- We were using Force-E dive center for our tank rentals and all kind of information, they are awesome, very friendly and they don’t keep the information to themselves. Really recommend them.
- The slack tide is between half hour before and after the high tide. It is best to use this time under the bridge, near the pillars, on either west or east side. However, you can enter the water even an hour before the high tide and hang out at the “snorkel trail”. So you can start near the snorkel trail, hang around at the sand as you make your way closer to the pillars and then spend an hour near the pillars.
- The East side is much smaller but it is much farther, I would prefer to walk closer to the bridge so that I won’t spend too much time on the sand and miss the slack tide for the bridge.
- Even though I emphasize the diving under the bridge the sandy area or the little reefs of snorkel train provide awesome dives. That’s why we could not get to the bridges at all for the first 4 dives.
Since you can only dive at high tide you need to consider the tide tables when planning your vacation, if you want to get most out of your trip. I wanted to do 2 dives a day, so planned the trip so that there would be high tide in the morning and in the evening, which would be at full or new moon. However, since you can only dive when the sun is out it is best to plan the dive close to the summer solstice time, so that the “day” covers both high tides.
Also for the budget trip this time was the best because non-diving expenses were very low because we were out of peak season. Ramada hotel near the airport was decent, clean with ~60$ a night! It is also quite central, has many restaurants and whole foods close by.
That’s enough for the info section. Now all the fun stuff.
Blue Heron Bridge became my favorite site. There is so much life, especially the weird fish and the critter stuff that I like. It is a very shallow dive so you can spend almost 3 hours under water, just hanging around. You can probably just sit and wait for things to come to you and still you would have the best time ever. The “snorkel trail” they build is amazing, it is so colorful and full of life, giving you the reef diving experience. In addition to the reefs they threw in random stuff which provides little treasures to investigate, a lot of things hid under those things. You swim around these reefs and little treasure points, and the water column surrounding you is full of school of fish in every direction. We could only get to the east pillar in day time diving. With the light diffusing behind the pillars provides a unique mysterious atmosphere.
One of the attractions of this site is the octopus. I think the only place I have seen octopus was a plate in a restaurant, that is a quite remarkable encounter itself. Even though we have octopus in Aegean sea I don’t remember seeing them where I used to swim. People say there are octopus here, so one of our missions was to find an octopus. Bert was all geared up to take a nice video with his GoPro. We were going to search for it until we find it. With this ambition, at the first dive we descended and the first thing we saw was an octopus, right at the beach. I am not exaggerating, Bert spent at least half an hour by the octopus, taking video. Well, you never know when you see your next octopus. How could we know it would be in 5 minutes! I must say the beach was covered with octopus, especially at the sandy area or under the holes of the little treasure spots. I think after 6 dives we are saturated with octopus encounters.
Fish, fish, fish! Fish everywhere! All kinds. Small big, weird looking, gorgeous looking. I am not going to even try to ID them, most gobies and blennies look very similar to me. My favorites ones were of course the seahorse, dragonette, batfish, frog fish,nurse shark(!!!), which definitely needs to be observed in the night when he is hunting, cute curious but just as scared blennies, searobin, puffers, lizardfish, eagle ray, which only showed its shadow to me, (I think I named everything I saw). Scorpion fish were everywhere, making us feel like we are at home, due to similarity with searavens we have up here in New England.
And all the critters, making photographers happy! I saw my first mantis shrimp, not as colorful as the pacific versions but just as cool with their superpower eyes. If you see a perfectly carved cylindrical hole on the sand, look inside, there will be funny set of eyes looking back at you. Guaranteed. There were crabs everywhere, except the arrowcrabs, they were such scaredy crabs, I could not get a proper picture of any. I found three different kinds of nudibranchs. Actually one is a pleurobranch, technically. They were pretty cool. Unfortunately I don’t have a photo of the pleurobranch , either :(. The Florida regal sea-goddess is a cartoon looking creature, drawn to perfection. So photogenic! The other nudi was lemon drop nudi, a cute one.
One of the purpose of this trip was to observe fluorescence. I could not get much chance to observe in NE, I did not have the proper equipment, but now I do. And when I tried it it was amazing. The little corals, anemone and cerianthids were beautiful. The fireworms were glowing too much that actually saturating my camera sensor. There were a lot of little red fluorescence around, which I am not sure what to make of. Shrimps and hermit crabs were also fluorescing, with little less intensity. To my surprise the octupus, non of the fish nor the nudibranchs fluoresced. It might be just around this area. I know sometime two corals of the same species, one fluoresce and the other one does not. The function of fluorescence is not totally understood. Some say it is for communication between/among species. Another theory says it is for protection from UV radiation of sun. That makes sense to me. The harsh hazardous UV ray are absorbed by the (green” fluorescent proteins and the energy is dissipated and irradiated at a lower frequency.
Overall it was amazing dive trip. Before hitting the flight back I was already looking for possible dates I might be able to come back. One unfortunate event was that I flooded my camera at the beginning of the last dive, which ended up being the best dive. I saw so many new things in that dive. Well, I cannot complain, if I was to obsess to take pictures probably I wouldn’t be able to find so many new things. The memories will keep entertaining me.