The term ‘Burials at sea’ have taken on a brand new meaning in Miami, Florida. The Neptune Memorial Reef is not your average cemetery, but the first of it’s kind underwater cemetery. Situated about 45 feet beneath the ocean’s surface the cemetery with gates, pathways, plaques and even benches is not only a great final resting spot for those who loved the sea but also the world’s largest man-made reef (covering over 600,000 sq feet) and unique and unusual site for scuba diving.
An incredible amount of planning and execution went into what was initially supposed to be a “replica” of Lost City of Atlantis, but the project shifted towards a more profitable goal by becoming the world’s first underwater cemetery and memorial park that still resembles an underwater city covering 16 acres of ocean floor. Instead of spreading ashes over ocean waters, at the Neptune Memorial Reef the ashes of loved ones are mixed with cement designed for underwater use and fitted into a mold, which a diver then places and secures into the reef. A copper and bronze plaque is then installed with the person’s name, date of birth and death with some space for an epithet.
Located 3-1/2 miles east of Key Biscayne in Miami, Florida (GPS coordinates N25º 42.036′, W80º 05.409′), the memorial site is free for any certified scuba divers to visit. What some may find strange and bizarre, scuba divers actually see in a another light and are flocking to the unusual dive site to see for themselves. The reef sits in 50 feet of water and with the interesting structures that are slowly growing coral life to soon become a thriving artificial reef, there’s no shortage of things to keep the interest of divers. In less than a year, large numbers of schooling fish such as grunts and snappers have begun to congregate around the site. Spotted eagle rays cruise through regularly while smaller tropical fish like damsels, tangs, triggers and puffers seek refuge and forage around the statues. Sponges and a few soft coral species have already begun their colonization so hard corals certainly won’t be far behind. While most of the structures adorning the site are 90 percent cement, some are in bronze and steel. What’s more are the interesting plaques that bear sweet sayings such as ‘we committed grandma to the dolphins and the angels.’
To visit friends and family below, it costs about $80 a dive with local dive shops. However, to swim with the fishes eternally (a memorial spot at the reef) it’s a little more expensive as it starts at $2,000.