One of the advantages of being a student at the University of Florida has been my involvement with the UF Academic Diving Program. Not only do I feel more confident in my diving education, but I also have a vast wealth of knowledge available at my fingertips through my experienced and talented instructors. Being a Florida girl, I decided to highlight some of the great places to dive right here in my home state. The following are three of my instructorsí favorite sites to dive off the coast of Florida.

  • Cheryl Thacker: Director of UFADP since May 2000, Cheryl became a certified diver in 1983. In 1988, Cheryl became part of the NOAA diving team, where she worked as a Corps Officer and later worked at the Smithsonian as the Diving Safety Officer for the Museum of Natural History for three years before coming to UF.

  • Favorite Site: The City of Washington, Key Largo, Florida. The depth is a maximum of about 25 feet, making it perfect for beginning divers. Originally serving as a passenger steamer in the late 1800ís, the ship ran aground Elbow Reef in 1917. The wreck is now home to fish, nurse sharks, barracudas, eels and sometimes even a Goliath Grouper, named Bruno. Listen to Cheryl talk a little bit about the site

  • profile on City of Washington

  • Kelley Visentin: Divemaster Lecture Coordinator/ Dive Coordinator for the UFADP, Kelley has been diving since 2001 and teaching since 2003. She has been on close to 1000 dives, including the Cayman Islands.

  • Favorite Site: Spiegel Grove, Key Largo, Florida. The wreck lies in about 130 feet of water, requiring advanced certification to dive the site. The ship, which is 510 feet long and 84 feet wide, was sunk in 2002 to create an artificial reef. Originally the ship rested on its side, but Hurricane Dennis turned her upright in 2005. Listen to Kelley describe Spiegel Grove

  • profile on Spiegel Grove

  • Mike Engle: Instructor/ Equipment Room Manager at UFADP, Mike earned his certification in 2000 and has been teaching for the past two years. He has been on between 700-800 dives.

  • Favorite Site: USS Oriskany, Pensacola, Florida. The ride to the site is long, about 23 miles off the coast. The shipís antenna, the shallowest part of the dive, is at 68 feet while the bottom sits in about 220 feet of water. The wreck runs a length of 900 feet. Advanced certification is required and it is recommended to do a two tank dive just to a taste of this mighty wreck. The World War II aircraft carrier was sunk in 2006, so sea life on the wreck is still minimal. Listen to Mike talk about USS Oriskany

  • profile on USS Oriskany