12 Outstanding Artificial Reefs to Visit
However, not all reefs emerge from naturally occurring objects on the sea bottom. Human-made structures are frequently introduced into marine environments to serve as foundations for corals to attach to and form reefs, and for other underwater creatures to use for shelter.
Shipwrecks are commonly designated as artificial reefs, but decommissioned military vehicles, subway cars, oil rigs and even original sculptures also provide places that corals and other creatures can build into a home.
Here are some of the spectacular locations where human-made objects found new purpose underwater as artificial reefs, forming sanctuaries for a diverse range of sea life and providing unique experiences for divers and underwater photographers.
Tamar Reef, Israel
Diving enthusiasts have visited the Red Sea for decades to enjoy its marine diversity — 800 species of sea life and hundreds of types of corals, according to the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Installed in 2007, Tamar Reef — the Red Sea's first artificial reef — is a joint project maintained by scientists and administrators from Israel and Jordan. It was introduced to relieve overstressed natural reefs in the area, and to help re-establish depleted marine life and raise conservation awareness.
USCGC Duane shipwreck, Key Largo
Thunderbolt shipwreck, Florida, USA
So grab your scuba gear! Located beneath 120 feet (27 m) of water just 4 miles (6 kilometers) off Marathon, this reef could make for a fascinating dive.
The Silent Evolution, Mexico
Redbird Reef, Delaware, USA
High Island A389A, Gulf of Mexico, USA
Building an artificial reef
Tanks for all the fish
In 2009, retired army tanks and armored personnel carriers joined the tugboats, barges, subway cars, bridge debris and other concrete structures that make up more than 45 man-made reefs in waters off South Carolina. Once their surfaces are colonized by corals, barnacles, marine worms, sponges and algae, the reefs attract even more marine life — fish, sea urchins, mollusks and crustaceans — seeking food and shelter.
The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources maintains 42 sites in its offshore reef program, and recommends May through October as the months when water temperatures and weather conditions are most suitable for scuba diving.