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The thought of death is almost synchronous with the idea of “resting in peace,” and there is no better depiction of this than an underwater cemetery surrounded by the dark stillness of the ocean. While the thought of visiting the world’s only underwater graveyard might not be everyone’s impression of having fun as a tourist, the Neptune Memorial Reef is definitely an experience worth having at least once in a lifetime.
What Is The Neptune Memorial Reef?
Image Source: Pixabay
Created by Gary Levine and designed by Kim Brandell in 2007, the Neptune Memorial Reef is located around 5.2 km off the South Floridian coast near Key Biscayne. This wonderfully planned manmade reef covers around 16 acres on the ocean bed and is also home to a huge spectrum of marine creatures native to the region. Lending a huge helping hand in supporting the native marine ecosystem, the reef also provides for a green burial space due to the natural processes that occur within the reef ecology.
Joining a dive boat expedition is a wonderful way to explore the reef, pay a visit to your departed loved ones and also be surrounded by the mesmerizing underwater world of marine life including corals, sea turtles, parrotfish, angelfish, etc.
The process of memorializing a loved one at the Neptune Memorial Reef includes cremation of the body, mixing the final remains with concrete and molding the same into sea creature shapes, like corals, shells etc (marked with the individual’s name) and placed at a specific spot on the seabed..
A Glimpse Into the Neptune Memorial Reef
Image Source: Pixabay
With various visiting options like diving boats accompanied with instructors or scuba diving yourself if you are certified for the same, taking a short and meditative dive to glimpse the world of the Neptune Memorial Reef is definitely an experience that will stay with you.
The Design Inspiration
The reef design is inspired by the “Lost City of Atlantis” and is a piece of art, complete with its central structures, gates and entrances with carved lions on either side, large columns, plaques, roads, benches and statuaries: all teaming with the ever-growing marine life.
The Neptune Memorial Reef is perhaps the only cemetery in the world that can boast of being a graveyard that supports new life, and in its own unique way enriching the marine ecology.
Throughout the 16 acres of the seabed, the reef has memorial stones marked for individuals who wished to make the ocean as their final resting place.
The Marine Life at the Neptune Memorial Reef
For those with a deep love for nature and its abundant beauty, there is a lot more to see and experience besides the memorial manmade structures. The structure is designed carefully to attract and support marine life and is serving well as an evolving spot for a huge coral reef system.
The overall design has gone through scrutiny from ecologists and marine biologists, and the place is now home to over 195 coral colonies with multiple corals, fish, and other marine species. When you get underwater, the Neptune Memorial Reef opens a whole new world of rich and colorful marine life all around you. Some amazing sea life you will encounter when you get there includes:
- Sponges and soft corals
- Eagle Rays
- Various species of crab
- Sea Urchins
- many exotic species of fish
With so much to see, it does not really come as a surprise that the Neptune Memorial Reef is fast becoming a favorite diving spot for marine explorers.
How to Visit the Neptune Memorial Reef
If you want to plan a visit to the Neptune Memorial Reef, you could do so with your own boat or contact Neptune’s diving partners who can arrange a boat visit for you.
For those who would rather scuba dive and get close encounters with the art forms and the marine life under the blue surface, instructors are available for it.
There are few restrictions for the visitors, except some minimal basic rules like:
- No fishing
- No disturbing the reef and the marine life
- Be respectful towards the memorial structures
- Allow space to the workers for their activities
Process of Cremation
For others who plan to make the Neptune Memorial Reef their own or their loved one’s final resting place, various options in different price ranges are available. You can choose the statue or structure of your choice, of course, also depending on your pocket and also choose a space on the seabed where you would like the same to be placed.
You can also choose a plaque and mark it with your loved one’s credentials, just the way you want it. Family members may choose to be present under the water, getting a snorkeling experience while the last remains of their loved ones are deployed.
You can also plan and purchase an entire space for a family to be used when their time comes. What better way could there be to ensure that your family stays together at the most serenely beautiful place long after they leave their earthly abode!
Cost of Cremation
The costs of this underwater cemetery vary from about $600 (which includes using the ashes at the seabed mixed with the reef-building material) to about $2,000 (for creating molds of sea animals using an individual’s last remains) and can go as high as $5,000 (for those choosing more elaborate structures).
What Is There To See at the Neptune Memorial Reef?
Image Source: Pixabay
Everything about the Neptune Memorial Reef is unique and spectacular. It is the first ever underwater cemetery in the world planned under the depths of the ocean, which makes it an extraordinary concept.
While the reef holds the last remains of around 1,500 people, additional space for around 4,000 individuals has already been expanded.
The overall design is planned to hold the last mortal remains of over 250,000 souls under the water, placed artistically on the seabed which is definitely something that has never been imagined before.
While the project is not the only artificial reef project in the world, it has some exclusive features that make it a must-visit place for biologists, marine ecologists, scuba divers, students, tourists, and the families of individuals who choose it to be their final destination.
The reef goes to a depth of 40 feet under the water and is spread over 16 acres of ocean floor. The sand chosen to create the patch on the seabed is the one deposited by eroded beaches up north of the Biscayne Key.
The Neptune Memorial Reef is also perhaps the only coral reef that showcases not just marine life in all its glory, but also beautiful underwater artworks. In a way, it also serves as an underwater museum with beautiful statues, columns, and other art pieces.
The Neptune Memorial Reef also presents the design features of the lost sunken city of Atlantis which is of great historic importance. While some construction works are still on the way, the entire plan is proposed to cover around 16 acres of ocean bed which would make it a world record holder as the largest artificial reef. Further, there is also a provision of another 16 acres adjacent to the planned area if the need arises.
The Neptune Memorial Reef is sufficiently deep at around 40 feet under the sea level, which allows it to enable the unhindered growth of corals. The place is fast turning it into a barrier reef offering protection to the coast. And not just that, the reef is designed to last for eternity. It is an engineering marvel that can withstand even the strongest of hurricanes.
With so much going for this eco-friendly location, it is only to be expected that the Neptune Memorial Reef is also certified by the Green Burial Council, the Environmental Protection Agency and various other organizations.
Over the years, the Neptune Memorial Reef has proved to be a blessing to the marine ecology. Marine biologists have carefully noted the species visitation as well as coral expansions over the last few years. Studies show that the rate of coral growth and the proliferation of the native marine life here has been a bigger success than any other artificial reef project in the world. It is safe to say that this manmade reef has turned out to be a huge architectural as well as ecological accomplishment for mankind.
For those in love with the stories of the sea, the Neptune Memorial Reef is definitely an experience that cannot be missed. If you embrace the idea of life and death with equanimity, this is perhaps a unique option for a cemetery to choose when the time comes. For those who choose this destination, their last remains will be there forever, lending a helping hand to the marine ecology. After all, what better than that your last remains give birth to new life forms!