Or how to meet a shark in the middle of Orlando
The following article was submitted by Keith Hamlin of Webdive Consultants
A shark in front of the visitors window
I was thoroughly convinced that all divers have the same type of fantasy......
To be able to shrink down, gear and all, and climb into their aquarium, swim around, and explore the world there as one of the occupants.
Amongst the remains of an old wreck
So I got on this kick, and thought that this new opportunity would be a nice dive. But then I had to wonder if the dive buddies would laugh at me. I mean we have been to big reefs, big wrecks, and all over, even to amazing depths, my one dive partner and I.
Playing with a cannonball in the wreck site
But they were really excited by the prospect.
So with the help of the people at Disney, I and some dive pals are experiencing the fantasy, with one difference. Instead of shrinking the diver, we enlarge the aquarium..... a lot.
It is called the Epcot Divequest Program, a recent innovation of the Disney people to open up the 6 million gallon aquarium to the certified diver guests, allowing them to be in a purely ideal dive, and guaranteed life.
One of many rays gliding by
Sharks, rays, and a multitude of tropicals. All of which are pretty friendly.
Convenient also. One need only show up for the appointment (made by calling 407-WDW-TOUR) with your swimsuit, your C-card, and some money. (A Tip here is that the savings are worth using an American Express Card). Bring a desire for a great dive too, and you will not be disappointed.
No seas, no currents, and visibility of 230 feet, the diameter of the tank. Forget the tables and those worries, as max depth is 27 feet.
One of the more noble residents
A guide meets you at the gate, and brings you in to the complex, saving one the need for an admission to Epcot. You are then given your dive suit, and after changing, using a nice locker room, you view an informative video about the aquarium and the system. The staff is very knowledgeable, answering any question about the facility that we had with ease.
Then it is time to get wet, and the rules were simple. Let the inhabitants contact you, and not the other way around..... the same as in the oceans.
Divers passing by the habitat
By the time the dive was done, I had been passed by a shark within arms reach, been checked out by rays, and nibbled by several tropicals. Sea turtles and other life, including dolphins, in view. Not to mention the look on the children's faces, as they peer into this large glass from the dry side, and there is someone on the inside of the water actually waving at them. Interaction with the diners at the restaurant can be fun also.
The View from within the restaurant
The long time divers were impressed, and even better, it was a great first dive after certification for several in the group (eight of us were there together).
T-shirts and certificates awaited us all after showers, and a viewing of ourselves in the aquarium on video, filmed by one of the staff as we explored the place.
Playing with the amazed kids on the other side
A few days later, a friend asked me about the dive at work, and I could only
recommend it be tried out without hesitation. Then, the ultimate test of
a dive, I was asked if I would do it again, to which I could only say