In the shallow reefs of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary lurk an armada of sunken ships that could rival a small country’s navy. Strewn over several miles, the wrecks offer days of adventures—as well as lessons in maritime history. The nine sites represent three broad periods of Keys maritime history: European Colonial, American and Modern. For each of the wrecks, divers can access an underwater guide indicating the mooring positions; a history of the ship; a site map; and potential marine life.
The Underwater Museum of Art
In Mexico, vacationers no longer need to decide whether to spend the day diving or taking in some culture; they can do both at the Museo Subacuático de Arte. The museum, located on the west coast of Isla Mujeres, Punta Cancun, and Punta Nizucin, includes four installations by artist Jason deCaires Taylor. The Silent Evolution, his most ambitious, is composed of 400 submerged sculpted figures based on real people. The sculptures are gathered about ten meters below the sea’s surface to form the shape of a human eye when seen from above. Visitors can dive and snorkel around the exhibit, which is designed to attract marine life and encourage the growth of coral.
History buffs can check out what was once one of the most sophisticated ports of the Roman Empire off of Israel’s coastal city of Caesarea. First opened for business in 10 BC, the harbor is now settled in 20 feet of water. The museum covers 18,580 square feet. Instructors lead divers and snorkelers through 36 exhibits, including sunken ships, marble columns and giant anchors from 2,000 years of Phoenician, Roman, Jewish, Crusader, Byzantine, Mameluke and British history. Caesarea, built by Herod between 22BC and 10BC, was named after Caesar Augustus, who donated the money and engineering expertise.