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.
Reel Kind Fishing charters boats on which adventurers explore backwater wetlands, protected freshwater, and saltwater regions that are home to diverse marine life. Along with licensed and experienced captains, the company supplies rods, reels, tackle, and bait, ensuring that even novice fishers can participate. Tour-takers might nab snook, redfish, spotted seatrout, and tarpon, the four of which can be housed together in a jumbo aquarium for a fish reality show, as long as a sassy blowfish joins the mix. Each boat seats up to three people for half-days, three-quarter days, or full days, with the vessels heading either inshore or offshore near the Gulf of Mexico. Explorers might bring a hat, sunglasses, snacks, and jackets, according to the weather, and smocks depending on how neatly their co-tourists can eat.
Helmed by U.S. Coast Guard–certified captains—each with at least 10 years' experience navigating the waterways of 10,000 Islands—Double R's fleet of seafaring skiffs ushers visitors along fishing charters, eco tours, and manatee-watching jaunts. Exploring an ecosystem rich with diverse wildlife inside the United States' largest mangrove jungle, guides point out manatees, tropical birds, alligators, and Swamp Thing's collection of Swamp Thing memorabilia. Fishing charters explore the complex systems of swamps and estuaries home to tarpon, snook, redfish, and grouper, while fishing guides provide their years of experience in angling from exceptionally maintained vessels in rich waters.
It would take a massive pool to accommodate every diver who's been trained by Scuba Outfitters of Naples. To date, the company's instructors have educated and certified more than 1,000 scuba divers, and their aquatic alumni only continue to grow in numbers. PADI training begins in Scuba Outfitters' heated indoor training pool, where the experts introduce the most fundamental skills, such as how to avoid dissolving. Eventually, the instructors take students to premier diving locations, including the reefs of Key Largo.
Fish Galore Offshore’s catch experts outfit explorers with watercraft to explore backwaters and canals, as well provide fish-hunting provisions to lure in gilled prizes. Captains of the sleek watercraft can head to Midnight Pass Beach for afternoon picnics or glide to waterfront restaurants to load up on stomach-sating provisions. Paddle to Oscar Scherer State Park to explore the trails, or affix bait from a stuffed tackle box to a rental pole and cast its line into the Intracoastal Waterway to mine liquid reserves for redfish, trout, and amphibious sasquatches.
Siesta Key Paddleboards' staff uses paddleboards to unlock adventures across the Gulf of Mexico and Sarasota Bay. They drop off and pick up paddleboard rentals at the area's sandy beaches, where groups can spend days floating atop Florida's blue-green waters and Jell-O–filled tide pools. For novices, instructors lead private and group sessions that teach the finer points of balancing on boards. The crew members also draw on their knowledge of local areas to lead tours, which pass by celebrity homes, through canals, and into hidden mangroves populated by aquatic wildlife.