Imagine for a moment diving into the ocean, resurfacing with not only memories of the sub-aquatic environment, but a full reel of photographs, too. Underwater photography is just one of the many courses offered at Scuba Quest, a family-owned company that has shown students how to safely explore the seas for more than 25 years.
Scuba Quest began as a single shop, but has since spread to six locations across the state of Florida. At each, the company’s NAUI-certified instructors lead refresher courses, beginner classes, and comprehensive certification programs. Rather than climbing into fish tanks while pet-store clerks are on break, Scuba Quest's students can put their new skills to the test in unfamiliar waters during the company’s exotic diving excursions around the globe.
Under the tutelage of certified scuba instructors, pupils at the family-owned Scuba Monkey Dive Center explore underwater worlds during PADI, open-water, nitrox, and advanced courses. The center's regular dive trips gather together trained divers on jaunts to Venice Beach and Troy Springs, where they get up close with aquatic inhabitants and discarded pet rocks. At the shop, divers can stock up on brand-name equipment for sale and rent, refill tanks with nitrox and air, or hand over broken equipment to ace technicians, who swiftly identify and correct any problems.
American Pro Diving Center helps visitors and locals explore the clear, teeming waters of Florida with year-round manatee tours and diving adventures. All-equipment-included manatee snorkel tours in Crystal River or winter expeditions to Homosassa River let snorkelers rub flippers with the rivers' large population of resident sea cows. In-water guides keep the experience safe and fun for both manatees and people, and snorkelers swim in between the gentle creatures, giving them a gentle pat or a canister of whisker wax.
For deeper subterranean adventures, the center offers classes that range from Discover Scuba Diving to full PADI open-water certification, in addition to specialty courses on rescue and wreck diving. Divers can plunge into one of seven diving excursions, including night dives in Rainbow River or mermaid line dancing in the lost city of Atlantis.
Snorkel with Manatees' expert divers lead tours on underwater sojourns to discover peaceful manatees and environs beneath the waves. Offering both group and mini manatee tours year-round, the guides monitor each diver to ensure safe practice with the animals. Their Crystal River scallops tour scours the ocean floor for tasty scallops while avoiding crabs auditioning for The Little Mermaid revival, and the Snorkel with Manatees excursions explore the Crystal, Homosassa, and Chassahowitzka Rivers on airboat. They also teach the fundamentals of their craft during discover scuba-diving lessons.
The Scuba Gym’s Try Scuba lesson shepherds schools of aspiring divers through two hours of underwater breathing practice spritzed with scuba-savvy tips and a family-friendly ambiance. After the certified instructor and assisting dive master divulge 30 minutes of diving dos and don’ts above the water, scuba students can affix fins to their land-dwelling feet, strap metal lungs to their backs, and submerge themselves in the siren-free waters of the National Training Center’s 70-meter dunk tank. Buoyant learners harpoon their newfound underwater existence by absorbing essential survival facts, such as clearing masks of fog or placating spooked seahorses. From there, an hour of diligently supervised aqueous amusement commences, with underwater scooter races, rounds of toy-torpedo launches, and whole-body corkscrews through hula-hoop rings.
The tour guides at Florida Manatee Tours & Crystal River Watersports ferry sightseers down the scenic Indian River waterways toward Kings Bay. On a two-and-a-half-hour boat tour, seafarers gaze along the shore at elegant waterfront homes, keeping peepers peeled for white-tailed deer, otters, and indigenous motorboats. Travelers soon arrive at the coast of the Crystal River Indian Archeological State Park, land that Native Americans first settled more than 10,000 years ago. Scenic wildlife-management-refuge areas brim with photo-worthy wildlife, keeping camera-wielders on their guard to snap shots of wild pigs, manatees, and aquatic yetis. Tours depart twice daily from the docks behind the Days Inn Resort.