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Flower Gardens Banks Marine Sanctuary:

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Location: Flower Gardens Banks Marine Sanctuary (United States (south))
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On this page you can see an overview of the location, including interactive maps, climate data, and photos.
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Picture yourself over 100 miles from land, in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico. At times, the seas can be very unforgiving, and the weather can turn foul in an instant. But here, in the midst of this unpredictable Gulf, lie three of the most beautiful and wild places in all the world. Manta rays, whale sharks, coral heads that are bigger than cars, hundreds of species of fish and invertebrates... This place teems with life!

The Flower Gardens are actually the northernmost coral reefs in the United States. Located about 105 miles directly south of the Texas/Louisiana border, they are perched atop two salt domes rising above the sea floor. The Flower Gardens coral reef community probably began developing on top of the domes 10,000 to 15,000 years ago. The community has thrived sufficiently to obscure all trace of the deformed bedrock on which it developed, forming coral reefs.

No trip to the Flower Gardens would be complete without a visit to Stetson Bank on your way back to port. Stetson Bank is also a salt dome, located about 70 miles south of Galveston, Texas. Because of its location, average temperatures during the winter are several degrees cooler than at the Flower Gardens. Consequently, the corals do not thrive and build into reefs. Instead, this bank supports a coral/sponge habitat and rich assemblages of associated animals and plants where the siltstone bedrock can still be seen in many places.

The diving 'season' on the Flower Gardens and Stetson Bank generally begins in mid-February and runs through the end of October. From February to late April you are likely to encounter hammerhead sharks as they migrate through the area. Tiger sharks are also frequently sited. As the water warms, mantas and whale sharks move in to feed in the nutrient rich waters. Always resident are eagle rays, spotted eels, loggerhead turtles, grouper, nurse sharks, reef sharks, and assorted tropicals. The highlight of the dive season is the annual coral spawn which occurs in late August.

The Flower Gardens are served by two live-aboard operators, Gulf Diving ( operating 2 boats, the Fling and the Spree, and Sea Searcher II ( All three boats are converted crew boats based in Freeport, Texas. These are not luxury live-aboards, but are safe, comfortable, well-equipped and the food is plentiful. Eat, sleep, dive, repeat is the order of the day!

Most travellers fly into Houston and then drive down to Freeport (50 miles). The boats load up around 8:00 pm and then motor overnight to the Flower Gardens. The first dive begins a 7:00 am and there is a mandatory 2 hour surface interval between dives. A typical weekend trip would find you heading out to the Gulf of Mexico on Friday evening, diving up to 5 times (1 night dive) on Saturday, motoring overnight to Stetson Bank for two more dives and then heading back to Freeport. You are generally back to port between 5:00 and 6:00 pm on Sunday. During the summer and for the coral spawn, longer trips are available.

All trips are booked through local dive shops listed on the websites. Be sure to keep in close touch with the trip sponsor in the days leading up to your dive. Gulf weather is very fickle and a trip can be cancelled as late as noon on Friday. If you are flying in for your trip, it might be best to buy refundable tickets. A good fall-back plan if the trip doesn't make is to head for Galveston, just up the shore, and spend the weekend visiting the Moody Gardens and Aquarium, shopping on the Strand and putting in some beach time.
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Climate Data:
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General Info:

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Most visitors thought
Flower Gardens Banks Marine Sanctuary was:
Ranked as Good by independant reviews Ranked as Good by independant reviews Ranked as Good by independant reviews Ranked as Good by independant reviews
Non diving activities: Not many!
Language: English
Money: USD
Stability: No travelling problems expected
More Information: Country Bio from Lonely Planet

Rating: Ranked as Excellant by independant reviewsRanked as Excellant by independant reviewsRanked as Excellant by independant reviewsRanked as Excellant by independant reviewsRanked as Excellant by independant reviews95%
Highest ranked My Blue Planet photo shared by Sushi.
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Marine Sightings section)

Atlantic Blue Fin Tuna
No Some Always
Banded Butterflyfish
No Some Always
Basking Shark
No Some Always
Bluntnose Stingray
No Some Always
Bottlenose Dolphin
No Some Always
Caribbean Reef Shark
No Some Always
Caribbean Spiny Lobster
No Some Always
French Angelfish
No Some Always
Great Barracuda
No Some Always
Great Hammerhead
No Some Always
Green Moray
No Some Always
Green Sea Turtle
No Some Always
Hawksbill Sea Turtle
No Some Always
Humpback Whale
No Some Always
Leatherback Sea Turtle
No Some Always
Loggerhead Sea Turtle
No Some Always
Longlure Frogfish
No Some Always
Longspine Porcupine Fish
No Some Always
Manta Ray
No Some Always
Nurse Shark
No Some Always
Orca (Killer Whale)
No Some Always
Pilot Whale
No Some Always
Queen Angel Fish
No Some Always
Reef Squid
No Some Always
Scorpion Fish
No Some Always
Sixgill Shark
No Some Always
Southern Stingray
No Some Always
Spotted Eagle Ray
No Some Always
No Some Always
No Some Always
West Indian Manatee
No Some Always
Whale Shark
No Some Always
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