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Review Date       AVG       ShoreDiving Site
11/21/2011        4.70      Epcot Dive Quest Florida, USA East
This is a 'bucket list' type of dive for me: while I'm glad I completed it, I probably won't rush back unless I happen to be in the area again and find that I can't tolerate Mickey Mouse, Goofy or the noise of the Disney parks any longer. The dive starts with a briefing and then a behind the scenes tour of the facility. All very interesting. The dive itself is easy as can be: no current, unlimited vis, shallow depths, etc. This is probably one of the better aquarium dives, but it is not as spectacular as the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta where whale sharks circle above the divers and a plethora of shark species swim about. The diver accessible portion of the tank in Atlanta is over twice as large as the Disney tank. Then again, the Disney dive is also half the price of the Georgia Aquarium and if you get a group of 10 together and reserve a session, you can pay as little as $100 for the Epcot dive. Given that I have already been spoiled with the magnitude of the Georgia Aquarium experience, I was just a tad bit underwhelmed with this experience. But I bet that had the Disney Epcot dive been my first aquarium dive, I would have been quite thrilled. There is simply less sea life in this Florida aquarium compared to the Atlanta aquarium and the tank is considerably smaller: after 30 minutes and several slow circuits of the tank, I did find myself becoming just a tad bit bored. After the DM 'called' the dive at 40 minutes or so, I was ready to get out. One of the staff videos the experience and you can purchase a DVD memory at the dive's end and I'd recommend you buy one to wow you landlubber friends when you get home (this DVD is also much less expensive that the similar DVD in Atlanta). If you've never done a large aquarium dive and you are in Orlando, you've got to try this. If you've been diving in the Georgia Aquarium, you still might enjoy this one for what it is, but realize it will be a pleasant, but less thrilling experience.
07/16/2010        4.10      Blue Heron Bridge Florida, USA East
If you enjoy photography, this is the place for you. I've done about 75 dives at Blue Heron Bridge in the last 18 months and am constantly surprised at what I might see. On several occasions, I've had manatees swim up to me. Spotted morays can be seen on most dives: once-in-a-while you'll see a purple mouth eel. On about 1/3 of the dives, I've seen sharp-tailed eels. Spotted eagle rays are common, especially during the winter. Southern rays are also present. I've seen cow nose rays and one bull nose ray too. Octopi come out late in the day and some are quite brave and will interact with the divers: I've had a few gently touch my camera or glove as I photographed them. All manner of tropicals swim in these waters: angels, barracuda, tangs, filefish, parrots, spadefish, slippery dicks, puffers, balloonfish, flying gurnards, sea robins, batfish etc. etc. From a macro standpoint, you'll see mantis shrimp, blennies, nudibranches, arrowcrabs and all sorts of other tiny critters. Right now the east side of Phil Foster park is closed to diving due to bridge repairs; repairs should be completed in mid 2011. The sand area side south of the park contains critters on the mooring ball lines and the west span of the bridge is prolific with sea life. Parking is normally easy, but can be a challenge in late morning or early afternoon on weekends during the late spring and summer as fisherman, picnickers and scuba divers compete for spaces. Best to arrive earlier. You can set up on the picnic tables when they are not being used. You can wash off in the showers or the fish cleaning stations (when not being used by someone to clean fish). Slack high tide is the time to dive: you're normally safe 60 minutes prior to high tide unless the current looks swift. If you find that the current is too robust but you've already entered the water, just duck behind a bridge piling for a few minutes and enjoy watching the critters and fish that congregate on and around the piling. I can easily get in a two hour dive and have done a 2 hour 45 minute dive when the high tide was fairly 'low'. Carry a knife to free yourself if you can tangled up in a fishing line. Bring a dive flag so fishermen don't mistakenly cast into you (and because itís the law). Force-E has been sponsoring some night dives during 2010 so call the shop on Blue Heron Blvd to get details: night dives take special permits so don't try doing one without a shop. Force-E is where I get my air fills. Enjoy!

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