Florida diving offers something for everyone, from the newbie to the most experienced divers, from coral reef diving to fresh water, wrecks, caverns, 4000 lb statue of Christ of the Abyss to ... diving at the The Florida Aquarium.
I came across this incredible adventure while looking for guided scuba diving trips around Tampa. The Florida Aquarium in Tampa Bay offers two great diving adventures - Swim with the Fishes and ...Dive with the Sharks !
Diving with the great white sharks near the Neptune islands of southern Australia has been on my Bucket List since I first got my PADI Open Water certificate.
But diving with sharks at The Florida Aquarium was no less thrilling.
The program is approximately 90-minutes. The first 20-30 minutes you spend with one of the dive masters learning about the ocean's top predators, their habits, physiology, reproduction, followed by a short introduction video.
Being one-on-one with your scuba master is a great chance to ask questions and learn interesting facts.
Did you know that it's a scientific fact that sharks don't like the taste of human meat ? In fact, humans don't provide enough high-fat meat for sharks, which need a lot of energy to power their large, muscular bodies.
Or that the reason for many shark attacks on local surfers or boogie boarders is simply ....a mistake.
A shark swimming below a surfer or a boogie boarder, sees a roughly oval shape with arms and legs dangling off, mistakes them for a sea lion (the main prey of great white sharks) or a sea turtle (a common food for tiger sharks).
Or the fact that a shark goes through teeth faster than any other animal. Sharks replace each set of teeth every 8 days on average and can use up over 30,000 teeth in their lifetime !
Or the "argument" that sharks immune to/unable to get cancer was just junk science.
After a very interesting and informative lesson, it's time to put your wet suit on and enter the shark cage. You can stay in the cage and observe the sharks from the safe distance, but then, it wouldn't really be "diving with sharks".
Though, truth to tell, you don't actually do any diving. You and your dive master position yourselves at the bottom of the aquarium and just watch.
But believe me, that's more than enough !
When you see a slow moving shark with an open giant mouth of sharp, scary teeth, you can immediately hear the iconic theme song from "Jaws," with its eerie foretelling of what's to come.
You're trying to convince yourself that you're in a "safe environment", with a trained professional, and these sharks are more like pets....But deep down you still believe that they are just a bunch of man-eating monsters with a taste for human flesh...
Well, that's the whole purpose of this adventure - through education and personal interactive experience dispel the commonly held myth that sharks are man-eaters.
I am not sure how I would feel face-to-face with a shark in open water, but the fact that I was cold ( in 76 degrees water with a wet suit ) proved that may be I didn't entirely overcome my fear.
All in all, it was an unforgettable experience and the highlight of my trip to Florida !
Here is a money saving tip :
Booking this trip through the Aquarium is $175 ( includes aquarium's admission, dive, all equipment, a T-shirt, a one free photo...and , yeah, you get to keep a real shark tooth...that you would first have to find )
"Coupon" sites offer exactly the same for ... $149
Another tip :
"Professional photographer" was absolutely horrible. For $40 I got a p.o.s DVD with 90% of pictures ruined/crappy quality.
General admission is $21.95 ( or save even more online $19.75 ! ), bring a friend or a relative, explore the aquarium before or after your dive, and get him/her take your pictures.