Ok, I am quite sure that from an aquatic animal perspective this may be the best dive I will ever encounter. I find myself at a loss of words when attempting to describe this experience. I suppose I could use typical vernacular such as, "wonderful, incredbile, fantastic," and yet I do not believe that a true expression of that which I experienced is possible. Therefor, for those who are interested, I will attempt to reconstruct the events of the experience as they occurred.
4:15 Meet "Mike" the guide for Dive Quest at Living Seas outside of EPCOT at Guest Services.
4:20 After collecting our C-cards, they ask for our shoe and shirt sizes and estimate our wet suit size and weighting requirements.
4:30 We begin a backstage tour of the Living Seas Aquarium. First, we walk through the rear entrance for cast members. We are reminded through out the tour that we (divers) are now considerd cast members and that we should smile, wave, and act like Disney characters whenever onstage during our tour.
4:35 We are shown the kitchen area where the meals for the animals are prepared. Mike indicated that foods such as calamari and lettuce have priority in the Living Seas. The aquarium will get first right of refusal on all items served Disney restaraunts. So, the fish get the best produce. Having sampled the wonderful food served around all Disney properties, I can say that the fish eat very well indeed.
4:45 We met two beautiful Manatees. One was missing its tail and swims by moving his fins. The other has started to mimic this behavior. These two Manatees have an incredible relationship in that they express sorrow in the others absence and extreme joy when in each others company. We were informed that the Florida game commission could, at any time recall any of the animals contained within the Living Seas if it was believed that the animal would be better served by such an act. The Manatees will be reintroduced into their natural habitat in all likelihood.
4:55 Suit-up for the dive.
5:00 Onstage. We walk through the aqarium with visitors starring and waving. One of us signed an autograph for a youngster actually. The signature read, "Disney Diver Chris." Back off stage, we walked up a "refrigerated" spiral staircase to the surface of the aquarium.
5:15 We were given a small briefing and directed to our individualized gear. We were all wearing ScubaPro jacket BCD`s. Not a big fan of the jacket, but I really didn`t care. We used ScubaPro fins and Atomic B2 regs. No Octo or alternates. Their explanation was that we were only 27 feet deep, and that if we experienced an out of air situation, we could tap any guide on the shoulder and he/she would gladly surrender their primary and surface.
5:30 We begin the decent. My mask! It was filling with water quite rapidly! I had tried to clear it several times during the decent and near the bottom, decided to ascend. I asked for a replacement and made a second decent. SUCCESS! No leaks.
We were submerged for nearly 50 minutes. During this dive I encountered a very friendly stingray who acted more like a puppy than anything else. I think if he had a tongue he would have licked me. Then came the shark! Well, one of three. I pointed out the 12 footer to my dive buddy and we watched him for about a minute. Then, feeling as though I was being watched, I decided to check my six. The 16 footer was coming straight for me. These sharks swim in a figure eight pattern and do not give way to anyone or anything.
I had a deer-in-the-headlights feeling. I could not move. I was so focused on this guy...and then I snapped out of it. I noticed his eyes and three rows of teeth approaching me rapidly. I decided to ascend as quickly as possible to avoid a collision. As I lifted my feet over his back, my thighs rubbed against his sandpaper skin. It was incredible absolutely. A small child approached me outside of the aquarium and asked me if I was the one who was almost eaten by the shark.
If you would like to know more, write back or call me. I am sure that I will not grow weary of discussing this experience as long as I live.