I had been looking at Disney’s Dive Quest for quite some time. The experience lets certified divers scuba dive in Epcot's Living Seas now known as The Seas With Nemo & Friends – 6 million gallon aquarium. I finally was able to give this experience a test drive. Upon first arriving at Disney you are greeted by a few people from the dive team. The team makes sure you are certified and sizes you up for the gear you will be using. You must use their gear, but you are allowed to bring your own mask. I was disappointed to find out that you were not allowed to bring a camera backstage or into the aquarium. I of course went on a little rant and they let me take a few photos backstage, but that's it. You can see my full photo album here byclicking here.
It was quite spectacular as there were only seven divers in total with me during my visit. The experience first starts off with a tour of the water filtration system, which is I believe the best filter system in the world. This Aquarium is also the second largest in the world. The filtration system can clean the entire tank in three hours using sand filtration technology. Even the folks at Sea World have not perfected this method. Below you can see the video I got after doing the dive- which was ready for us by the end of the dive. They have a camera man following you around the aquarium!
Next we were taken into the backstage of the Aquarium, where we met a new Manatee to the aquarium, he was quite injured and had been transferred from Sea World to Disney. It was so sad to see his tail almost gone, propellers from boats hit these animals all the time in Crystal River due to un-educated people and young teens on their dads boats. This is why there are sanctuaries at Crystal River that are there to protect the Manatees. However, I had visited Crystal River the day before and noticed that most of the Manatees had some sort of injury because of humans. This of course was quite sad and I then started at 20-minute conversation with all the divers there about it. LOL The tour guide was just as passionate and said that most of the Manatees they have are from Crystal River. They pretty much save these animals lives by taking care of them. They have people watching the Manatee 24 hours to make sure he was OK.
Next we went and toured inside the aquarium before heading to our private locker rooms in the backstage area of the Aquarium. You feel quite special as when you get there you have your name on a locker, all your gear in there and a special gift from Dive Quest. Clearly sponsored by Scuba Pro we were wearing some top-notch gear. We were then paraded around the Aquarium for other guest to see and then led backstage to the top of the aquariums where our dive-masters and dive gear were waiting for us.. We circled around the enormous tank where we could already see all the animals swimming around. I had a nice moment with one of the dolphins who came up to me and said hi - literally waving his fin at me.
We then met our dive masters for the dive – we had three of them who took us around the tank. We got geared up and headed out to the middle of the tank. Once we were there we let out our air and dropped to the bottom of the 25ft aquarium. Once at the bottom we made sure that everyone was OK and are then was given a tour by the dive masters of the entire aquarium. Right away you are in an environment full of so many different species, more than 60! Once we circled the tank we were free to explore on our own. I immediately took off and was almost in shock of all the different animals around me. The sea turtles really captured my attention, as they were really large and friendly. The most surprising part for me were the sharks that were in there. They were of course used to human interaction, but it felt like they really wanted to say hello, almost swimming right up to my face I was dumbfounded my the experience. At one point I found myself lying on the bottom of the floor with a stingray that was swimming excitingly around me. Next looking up at the silhouette of one of the see turtles popping up for air. The amounts of fish were also stunning; swimming past them in their enormous groups was so beautiful. The dive lasted 40 minutes and went way to quickly. This was definitely a unique experience for scuba diving. Although I must say the best part of scuba diving in the ocean for me is the feeling of adventure and surprise. That is still there in this experience but it's all just there for you to see. You know what I mean? Overall I was glad to do the dive but don't think I would fork out the $180 US to do it again. You can also do something like this at the Georgia Aquarium... post coming soon. :0)