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LSUGIRL
September 28th, 2009, 04:43 PM
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

cruzandiver1
September 28th, 2009, 06:16 PM
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

Jim Lapenta
September 28th, 2009, 06:33 PM
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:

Pearldiver07
September 28th, 2009, 07:01 PM
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:

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.

herbdb
September 28th, 2009, 07:12 PM
I booked a snorkeling trip with Bird's Underwater Dive Center Crystal River Scuba Diving Florida Classes Snorkeling FL Dive Tours (http://www.birdsdivecenter.com/index.html). 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

CrazyUncle
September 28th, 2009, 07:41 PM
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.

Greendiver
September 28th, 2009, 08:03 PM
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.

Diver Lori
September 28th, 2009, 08:14 PM
Ditto on Bird's. He runs a tight ship and is well respected cave diver and instructor in the area.

herman
September 28th, 2009, 11:16 PM
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.

I Dive
September 28th, 2009, 11:36 PM
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

It was probably the Rainbow River, the Indian River is pretty far away and not much known for drift driving


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:

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!

trigfunctions
September 29th, 2009, 09:24 AM
I agree - Crystal Lodge Dive Center is great!


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

Splash-X
September 29th, 2009, 09:38 AM
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.

svm
November 18th, 2009, 06:50 AM
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.

Splash-X
November 18th, 2009, 10:20 AM
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!

trigfunctions
November 18th, 2009, 11:31 AM
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!

rcohn
November 19th, 2009, 01:12 AM
Agree with Bird's. Only do the first trip of the day and avoid Saturdays.

Ralph

Splash-X
November 19th, 2009, 10:59 AM
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?

azchipka
November 19th, 2009, 12:13 PM
Birds Underwater no question about it!

rcohn
November 20th, 2009, 12:00 AM
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"?


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

Splash-X
November 20th, 2009, 04:05 PM
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

redstrom
November 20th, 2009, 04:33 PM
We stayed at the Plantation Inn Golf Resort & Spa and used their dive shop last year. Can highly recommend them. Small boat, great captain, left early so we got to the first stop (King's Spring?) before the cattle boats. Second stop (three sisters) was a complete mayhem. Sad too see no control over how many boats were allowed to dock. Several people harassing manatees left and right (not from our boat). Our Captain who got in the water with us made calls to the sherrif(?) and alerted the volunteer guys in kayaks.

The manatee business on crystal river is cleary out of control. Three sisters should be shut down --let people watch them from the shore instead.

trigfunctions
November 20th, 2009, 05:00 PM
The manatee business on crystal river is cleary out of control. Three sisters should be shut down --let people watch them from the shore instead.

I think the shore surrounding three sisters is privately owned. The State or other local government has been trying to buy it to protect it, but I don't think they have made any progress. I think - someone local could probably give more accurate info.

uksnowbird
December 3rd, 2009, 04:51 PM
Is there a problem at all with gators on the river drift dive - I'm not sure about it!

mheaster
December 4th, 2009, 12:02 AM
I have used American Pro Dive on two occasions and the only issue we had was the crowds on Saturdays. Not really too bad on the boat we were on but in the area. I had no complaint with owner/operators/staff at all. I did not observe anything I would consider harassment of the Manatees. There were the volunteers in kayaks patrolling and the Sanctuary/Preserve areas provide them with areas where they can avoid tourist crowds when they please.

I actually attended the PADI Manatee Specialty presentation and for the $35 price, was overall was pleasantly surprised that it was much more informative than I expected. (about 1 hour PowerPoint presentation, lecture and hands on display of bones of manatees. These are licensed by State of Florida as it is illegal to possess these articles.

Yes, it is a pretty much of a stretch as far as Specialty Courses go and at least $16 goes towards the PIC Card. It is a marketing gimmick allowing operator to make a little more $ of the tourists!

Never had any issues with gators BUT it only takes ONE! lol

Mimac
December 27th, 2009, 02:56 PM
What is the difference going to Crystal River and going to Homosassa? I just posted on the Dixie Divers forum for info going down to snorkel with the Manatees - did not realize there are different places to choose from.

svm
December 28th, 2009, 12:12 PM
TO Mimac :

the difference is : do you want to snorkel together with 50 other people (=Crystal River) or do you prefer it more privately (=Homosassa). In winter Crystal river can get up to 300 manatees but also a lot of tourists, while Homosassa only gets 100 manatees but also less people

CaptEsteban
December 30th, 2009, 11:01 AM
Pretty much describes it. Homosassa is less crowded that Crystal River can be. The area around 3 Sisters Springs can be terribly crowded , especially on Saturdays. If you cannot get there before 7:30, expect to see a lot of mayhem ! BEST TIME TO GO= early weekday mornings !! If you want to SCUBA, Kings Spring is really the only site. You may see a manatee there, but don't expect it, & leave them alone , if you do. You are to " snorkel " with manatees.
Rainbow River is a good & easy drift dive. I do suggest going with a dive shop whose boat & captain stays with you, rather than just being dropped off & being on your own. Gators,,, yes it is water,,,, && it is Florida,,, but I have never seen one in that area in the Winter months. I have taken people to swim with Manatees & drift down the Rainbow for years , but am retired, AGAIN.

CoachSteve
December 30th, 2009, 12:03 PM
I took a trip with APDC 2 years ago to the manatees, and I can say that they were nothing but professional and informative. The captain of our boat, on the way out to the manatees gave us a lot of information about the manatees, and the migrations and history of them. we got out there, and he was very helpful in pointing out what we needed to do and what to stay away from, what was legal and illegal. My only experience with APDC was a very good one. I wouldn't hesitate to use them again. But I can't speak for any experiences but my own.

voyager29
January 19th, 2010, 10:59 PM
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

Nature Coast Manatee Tours is a good operation to go out with and swim with the manatees

voyager29
January 19th, 2010, 11:00 PM
I have used American Pro Dive on two occasions and the only issue we had was the crowds on Saturdays. Not really too bad on the boat we were on but in the area. I had no complaint with owner/operators/staff at all. I did not observe anything I would consider harassment of the Manatees. There were the volunteers in kayaks patrolling and the Sanctuary/Preserve areas provide them with areas where they can avoid tourist crowds when they please.

I actually attended the PADI Manatee Specialty presentation and for the $35 price, was overall was pleasantly surprised that it was much more informative than I expected. (about 1 hour PowerPoint presentation, lecture and hands on display of bones of manatees. These are licensed by State of Florida as it is illegal to possess these articles.

Yes, it is a pretty much of a stretch as far as Specialty Courses go and at least $16 goes towards the PIC Card. It is a marketing gimmick allowing operator to make a little more $ of the tourists!

Never had any issues with gators BUT it only takes ONE! lol

Nature Coast Manatee Tours takes groups of 6 people at a time to beat the crowds there really great!

deepstops
January 19th, 2010, 11:39 PM
Nature Coast Manatee Tours is a good operation to go out with and swim with the manatees


Nature Coast Manatee Tours takes groups of 6 people at a time to beat the crowds there really great!

So is Nature Coast Manatee Tours a good operation?? :shakehead:

CaptEsteban
January 20th, 2010, 09:08 AM
The extremely cold temps we had 2 weeks ago has kept the manatees close to the springs as long as possible. Usually, at about 9-10am, they will leave & go looking for food. Recently, there there over 100 manatees inside the roped off sanctuary at Three Sisters, up until almost noon. It is a MAD-HOUSE out there on Saturdays.

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