Crystal River Operator?

Discussion in 'Florida Diving' started by LSUGIRL, Sep 28, 2009.

  1. LSUGIRL

    LSUGIRL Garibaldi

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    My husband and I are fairly new divers (only dove in Caribbean, Panama City, Florida and Gulf Shores, Alabama) and are looking for a friendly operator to dive with the manatees in Crystal River, Florida. Any suggestions?

    Thanks!

    Libby
     
  2. cruzandiver1

    cruzandiver1 Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: Glenshaw, PA
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    I took my girlfriend to Crystal Lodge Dive Center a few years ago. The dive center is operated by a Best Western so you know the rooms are clean and very close to the water. The operaters were fantastic, although expect more snorkeling than diving when checking out the Manatee. When in the area, ask about a drift dive on the Indian River. We really enjoyed this dive after a few days of taking pictures of the sea cows. We were there in January and it was a bit chilly on the boat ride out to the springs so be better prepared better than I was.

    Enjoy, Jon
     
  3. Jim Lapenta

    Jim Lapenta Tech Diver

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Canonsburg, Pa
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    Bird's. Do not use American Pro! Cattle boats, they harass the animals, and are just a shoddy operation. Big but shoddy. There is an old thread with links to videos of them screwing with the animals and corralling them for visitors. Not only illegal but stressful to the manatees. But you can get a PADI manatee diver specialty with them.:shakehead:
     
  4. Pearldiver07

    Pearldiver07 Scuba Instructor

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    that's sad. when we were diving with them our guide called in two different boats for infractions. I hope that this example was of an idiot, not representative of the operation.
     
  5. herbdb

    herbdb Manta Ray

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Allentown, PA
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    I booked a snorkeling trip with Bird's Underwater Dive Center Crystal River Scuba Diving Florida Classes Snorkeling FL Dive Tours. According to them they don't do scuba Manatee trips because the bubbles spook the Manatee.

    I also booked a Rainbow River drift dive with them for the next day. They take you upriver on a pontoon boat, then you drift dive with the boat back to the start. My son and I will dive, they will let my wife ride the boat for free.

    I found favorable reviews on this dive center, but have no personal experience. Looking forward to both trips. Then we will head for two weeks in the Keys.

    Herb
     
  6. CrazyUncle

    CrazyUncle Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Northern Kentucky
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    I agree, Bird's Underwater is great. We were there in February with Bird's for the manatee snorkel and they also certified my daughter at King Spring and Devils Den. Good people and very accomodating. It's also within walking distance from teh Best Western Crystal River, just across the parking lot.
     
  7. Greendiver

    Greendiver Nassau Grouper

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Southwest Michigan
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    When my family and I were in Crystal River we went on the Manatee snorkel trip with Bird's Underwater, and will again. What an experience for us! It was the highlight of the trip. I also did the Rainbow river drift dive with Bird's and had a great time there, but the Manatee were tops! Personally, I wrestled with the decision prior to booking the Manatee trip, in no way did I want our visit with them to be negative. We enjoyed ourselves and it sure seemed as though the Manatee enjoyed the visit too, what impressive animals. I highly recommend Bird's for the Manatee snorkel trip.
     
  8. Diver Lori

    Diver Lori Scuba Instructor

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: oHIo
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    Ditto on Bird's. He runs a tight ship and is well respected cave diver and instructor in the area.
     
  9. herman

    herman Divemaster

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Raleigh,North Carolina
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    Been with Birds twice, both times I got tired of petting manatees, the things were all over us for a couple of hours. You have to get there early but it's worth the trouble.
     
  10. I Dive

    I Dive Divemaster

    # of Dives: 0 - 24
    Location: Pinellas Park, FL
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    It was probably the Rainbow River, the Indian River is pretty far away and not much known for drift driving

    Beyond that, they are just arrogant and rude. Even if they treated Manatees like Royalty, I wouldn't give another penny to those pricks. I hate them. Birds is awesome, American Pro sucks!
     
  11. trigfunctions

    trigfunctions Regular of the Pub

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
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    I agree - Crystal Lodge Dive Center is great!

     
  12. Splash-X

    Splash-X Dive Con

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Palm Harbor, FL
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    I have used American Pro Dive Center mainly for trips to Rainbow River but I have used them for a couple of trips to snorkel with the manatees and have not experienced the same issues as Jim Lamp has pointed out. This may be an issue with individual captains and not the entire dive center operation.

    I'm not defending them but I am pointing out that when you grow to a business of their size there are going to be times where your employees may not use the best judgment. While APDC may get a bad rep for the employees actions in these videos or tours that captain/instructor may very well have been fired for it.


    Rainbow River (springs) is a great place to get some shallow drift diving in. Nothing over 22ft deep and most of it 10-15ft. The region that both Crystal and Rainbow river are in is a very beautiful area and I hope you enjoy your trip regardless of who you use.
     
  13. svm

    svm Guest

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    We just returned from our trip to Florida and I wanted to report on our snorkeling experiences. I booked a trip with Crystal Lodge Dive Center on a friday to avoid the crowd. Unfortunately our flight was canceled and we arrived a day later. So we had to go on saterday. Result : 30 people on our boat and a second boat with another 15 people. But for the rest, no information, just "jump in the water and you'll find them over there".
    This was very disappointing.

    We decided to go again the next weekend, but this time we went to Homosassa and took a trip with Air Tank Divers. It was great. We were the only 2 people in the water and there were about 15 manatees in the area. We played with them for more than an hour. Captain Don gave us a good introduction, was very helpfull and really wanted you to have a good time instead of only cashing the check.

    So next time, go to Homosassa.
     
  14. Splash-X

    Splash-X Dive Con

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Palm Harbor, FL
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    SVM,

    I'm glad you were able to interact and enjoy your trip. I personally love interacting with the wild life and try to head up to the springs around Christmas time every year.

    No matter where you go you'll find some operators run cattle boats, cram you in, drop you off and thats about all the service you get.

    There is no doubt that the tiny group you had on your second trip contributed to the upbeat atmosphere. It was great to hear your experience (both bad and good) about your trip and maybe it will help others!
     
  15. trigfunctions

    trigfunctions Regular of the Pub

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
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    SVM - I'm surprised to hear about your experience with Crystal Lodge. We've used them 3 times and never had that problem. If you go again, remember that Crystal Lodge will rent you your own boat CHEAP! You can rent small jon boats or float boats, and now that you know how to find the manatees you can go out with your own group and avoid the crowds entirely!
     
  16. rcohn

    rcohn Manta Ray

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    Agree with Bird's. Only do the first trip of the day and avoid Saturdays.

    Ralph
     
  17. Splash-X

    Splash-X Dive Con

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Palm Harbor, FL
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    I have to ask, what good is a shop/charter if they are only good experiences "on the first trip" and if you should "avoid them on Saturday"?

    Lets face it, most diving is done on the weekends. A shop should provide the same service regardless of the day of week or time of day. I agree that there are times that a boat may have more passengers but that doesn't justify a "jump in, they are over there" attitude of the captain/operator.

    We're all human and we all have our bad days, maybe it was just an off day for this operator or maybe this is just how he treats larger groups?
     
  18. azchipka

    azchipka Tech Diver

    # of Dives:
    Location: Durham, North Carolina, United States
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    Birds Underwater no question about it!
     
  19. rcohn

    rcohn Manta Ray

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    You have to try to read more carefully. I DID NOT say Bird's is only good first dive of the day and not on Saturdays. The swimming at Crystal River regardless of operator is only really good 1st dive of the day, BEFORE THE CROWDS SHOW UP when the viz drops and most manatees leave, and Saturday's crowds can be hopeless.

    Ralph
     
  20. Splash-X

    Splash-X Dive Con

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Palm Harbor, FL
    577
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    Ralph,

    If I took your comments out of context, I do apologize. Most all trips I take to Crystal River are the first boat. With a two hours drive each way it allows me to have the rest of my day to relax rather than making a dive a whole day event.

    The viz is hit and miss regardless of time of day but it does get worse as more people arrive.

    Unless things have changed, no person interacting with the manatees should be scuba diving as the park rangers and DWF want to be able to have a clear view of you on the surface. I'm pretty sure this is law and not just policy.


    Making sure your on the first boat out of any shop will improve your experience
     

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