FRENCH REEF, Florida Keys

French coral reef is located within the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, and is partly within the 37 ha Sanctuary Preservation Area. It lies 11 km southeast of Key Largo, within the Key Largo Existing Management Area, which is immediately to the east of John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park.

The reef is actually at the northeast of the larger Molasses Reef and is marked by buoys inscribed with the letter “F”. French Reef is one of the more celebrated reef areas in the Florida Keys. It’s particularly known for its many caves and arches, easily accessible even to novice divers. At the south end is Hourglass Cave, named for its shape. Christmas Tree Cave is named for the large conical star coral mound that rises over the top located at the beginning of the coral formation.

The Hourglass Cave  at French is located 50 feet inshore from buoy F1 while the Christmas Tree Cave is located 50 feet inshore of buoy F3. Each cave offers a chance to uncover hidden sea life. Christmas Tree Cave is filled with the namesake Christmas tree worms and also with moray eels and grouper. While buoy F5 marks a sandbank with coral ridges around, F6 marks a swim-through and inshore of F7 is a ledge near and old anchor. Located in the center of French Reef is the “White Sand Bottom Cave” which is the largest cave in the area.

The unique limestone cliffs in the area are home to many corals and the gullies and crevices that line them are home to yellowtails, porkfish, moray eels, cooper sweepers and grunts. The many tunnels provide opportunities for swim-throughs, as such, photographers and divers alike should bring proper lighting equipment to not miss chances of a close-up, and to better enjoy the dimmer areas.

To find out which dive charter boats are going to visit French Reef, and others like it, visit Scuba Schedules and navigate to either the Upper Keys scuba diving region, or the Lower Keys scuba diving region.

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