By Clint Leung
There is an interesting dive option for certified scuba divers who are vacationing in the Orlando area especially with family members who are non-divers. The Living Seas at Disneyworld’s Epcot Center is home to a marine tank that measures over 200 feet in diameter and 25 feet in depth. This tank contains a sample of Caribbean marine life in an artificial salt water and reef environment. Through the center’s Divequest tour, certified divers can take a special three hour program that includes a forty minute dive in this marine tank.
The current price is $140 US with advance reservations required. Divers meet at the Guest Relations office just outside the main Epcot gates. Epcot park admission is not required or included. However, I was let out in the main area of The Living Seas after the tour so I ended up seeing other parts of Epcot for free anyway. Twice per day at 4:30 pm and 5:30 pm, a maximum of twelve divers per time slot are taken on a behind the scenes tour of the facilities at The Living Seas. All scuba equipment is provided. In fact, divers are not allowed to bring their own equipment for the fear of contaminating the marine tank. Even jewelry must be removed prior to the dive. Scuba wetsuits (shorties), BCs, regulators, fins, booties and masks are provided. Divers are allowed to bring and use their own masks and bathing suits but these are the only exceptions to the rule.
After the facility tour, wetsuits and towels for each diver are already waiting in private stalls that include private showers in the change rooms. The setup is well organized but a bit odd because after changing into wetsuits, the divers are paraded through the public areas where the other Epcot guests are before going into the main level of the marine tank. Once at the marine tank, divemasters are waiting with tanks and BCs already assembled for each diver. The BCs are weight integrated with more weight than needed and the only gauge attached is an air pressure gauge. There isn’t even a depth gauge or octopus second stage as they are not considered necessary for this shallow dive. After the dive briefing, the divemasters help the divers with their equipment on and everyone moves to a descent line at the middle of the tank.
The dive itself is usually beyond most divers’ expectations. There is a lot of marine life in this tank including sharks, rays, turtles and lots of Caribbean fish of all sizes. In fact, the staff claims that divers will see more variety of Caribbean marine life during this one dive than many dives combined out in the open sea. One of the neat things that divers can do on this dive that they can’t do elsewhere is interact with the public Epcot guests. There are sixty observation windows all around the marine tank including views from the main restaurant. The divers become part of the attractions at The Living Seas as the public behind the windows wave and snap photos. Some divers made arrangements with family members to be on the other side of the windows while a designated divemaster videotapes the entire scene. Even though I was skeptical at first, I have to admit that I had fun interacting with the public behind the glass. I had forgotten that the vast majority of people out there are not certified divers and we are somewhat of a curiosity for them.
For scuba divers who dive mainly to see marine life, the Divequest at Epcot will not disappoint. It’s an opportunity to swim through a few large schools of fish and see some creatures like the sharks and turtles up close which as most divers know, is a real hit and miss out in the open water. It is also a very unique opportunity for non-diving family members and friends to see divers in the underwater environment. Divequest is certainly a special dive that is worth doing at least once.
About the Author: Clint Leung is a NAUI certified Master and Rescue Scuba Diver. He is also owner of Free Spirit Activewear (
) , an online retailer/designer specializing in premium quality scuba diving activewear. Free Spirit Activewear has numerous information resource articles on scuba diving as well as free eCards.