The Park East Reef (NOT called Portofino Reef!) was built in 2011 and is comprised of 19 pairs (38 modules) of Ecosystem by Reefmaker artificial reef modules made in Gulf Shores, AL. The are constructed by attaching concrete disc covered with limestone to fiberglass pilings which are driven into the sand. The rows are 20-25′ apart and extend about 500′ into the gulf out to the 2nd sand bar. The depth is roughly 12-15′ with the reef modules sitting approximately 6-10′ below the surface. Visibility at the site varies drastically with sea conditions but can be upwards of 30′ when conditions are good and seas are calm. Average visibility is 10-20′
Locating the Reef
Diving this site shore involves a little bit of a swim but is very manageable on days with calm surf conditions. It is located off of Parking Lot H which is 5.2 miles east of Casino Beach or 1.5 miles east of the Portofino Condominiums. There are two range markers that are placed in the dunes on shore to help divers and snorkelers line up with the reef. The front marker is a yellow triangle and the back marker is a blue square, simply line them up with one another and you are in line with the reef. The modules start about 300′ from shore at a depth starting out around 14′.
Escambia County Park East Reef Info (Range markers are triangle and square signs placed in dunes as described above, not as pictured here)
Important Reef Info
- Florida law requires use of Divers-Down Flag for diving or snorkeling and divers must make a reasonable effort to stay within 100′ of dive flag.
- No lifeguards on duty. Be aware of boat traffic, hazardous marine life, and potentially dangerous wave action and currents.
- Alway dive with a buddy, NEVER ALONE!
- Personal floatation device or buoyancy aid strongly recommended for snorkelers.
- Snorkelers and Divers should adhere to beach warning flags.
- GREEN FLAG – Low hazard/Generally calm conditions.
- YELLOW FLAG – Medium hazard/Moderate surf and/or currents
- RED FLAG – High hazard/High Surf and/or strong currents
- PURPLE FLAG – Hazardous Marine Life (generally jellyfish in late summer months)
The best conditions for diving are when it is calmwith little current (green flag). Plan your diving/snorkeling activities around when conditions warrant not just when you have the opportunity to go. Visibility is typically poor and currents are generally strong when there is medium to high wave action and makes the swim out and back much more challenging.