THE SAMBO REEFS

Average Depth: 25 ft. 
Max Depth: 40 ft. 

The Sambos are a collection of reefs divided into Eastern, Middle, and Western by white sands. These are located four miles south of Boca Chica Channel and extend to the black and white buoy #2. There is also a pole, which marks the eastern end of Western Sambo.

There is a Sanctuary Preservation Area marked by orange floats where research is done and fishing and lobstering are prohibited. However, the rest of the area is great for lobstering and shelling, especially in the inland grass bed located in shallower water. There is also an Ecological Reserve that stretches for 9 square nautical miles from the Boca Chica shoreline to Western Sambo. This area has received complaints from fisherman, but is currently a no-take zone. The purpose behind this is to ensure a habitat for spawning and reproduction that can go undisturbed.

The Eastern Sambo Reef is the deepest reef and lies on the Eastern Drop Off where the water’s depth falls sharply to 87 feet. A portion of this area is restricted access for research only. This area is clearly marked by the yellow buoys. A permit required is required to go into this section. Scientists have been studying this reef in comparison to the surrounding reefs to understand the impact made by human activities. The variety of wildlife in the Eastern Sambo Reef includes sea turtles and nurse sharks.

The Western Sambo Reef has a nine nautical square mile ecological preserve that allows diving and snorkeling but restricts fishing and collecting. It extends from the southern shore of Boca Chica Key to Hawk Channel. The reef’s depths vary from 3 foot shallows to 30 foot channels. A wide variety of coral species can be found here. It is best known for its large amounts of branch coral, but there is also boulder and sheet coral. Some sections even feature brain coral and elk horn coral. On the eastern side of the reef is Cannonball Cut where the wreck of a tugboat, The Aquanaut, rests. The Haystack is another popular dive spot on the Western Sambo Reef named for the tall stacks of star coral.

The Middle Sambo Reef lies between the Eastern and Western Reef. The reefs are visibly separated by sandy swaths of ocean floor. The Middle reef averages between 30 to 40 feet deep. It has a clearly defined coral reef and is home to lobster, tarpon, and snook.

The Sambo Reefs offer wonderful diving opportunities for divers from all skill levels. The reefs are in close proximity to Key West and are worth exploring.

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