Diving with Nemo


After we passed our PADI Open water certificate in the murky waters of Sarasota, we decided that our first real dive should be in the most unreal environment there is – the Epcot DiveQuest experience, i.e. diving in the Disney World aquarium. Our instructor had talked about it with some other divers and it sounded like a fantastically quintessential American experience so we booked our tickets and headed over to Orlando. Luckily Conor also has a friend who lives close to Disney World so we got free lodging! (Gracias Adolfo y Andreina!)


Our dive was scheduled for 5:30 in the afternoon and we arrived a little early to take a look around Epcot from the outside; the DiveQuest tour does not include entrance into the park. (Did you know that Epcot stands for “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow”? The future is not looking good…) Unfortunately there wasn’t much to see besides the wginormous golf ball and the monorail that links the different parks: Disney Hollywood Studios, Disney World, Epcot, etc. When our dive master picked us up, we got a look behind the scenes of the aquarium or “off stage” as they call it at Disney. Everything that the tourists get to see is called “on stage”, everything else is “off stage”. Even better, anyone who works at Disney World is called a cast member, not staff or employee.

We walked past the tanks used to pump around the water from the tank for cleaning. 21 million gallon of salt water, which gets cleaned several times a day – every 39 minutes a complete cycle. Then we saw the kitchen where the food for the aquarium inhabitants is prepared and which gets fully sterilized 4 times a day, making it without doubt the cleanest kitchen on all of Disney’s properties. Does lack a stove though.

After we had signed away our rights, life and first-born and promised that we would NOT touch the sea turtles under any circumstances or get too close to the dolphin enclosure (the former because it is a protected species and the latter because it will treat you as a toy – in either case biting will be involved) we changed into our wet suites and booties and were led up to the top of the tank. From there it looks like you’re just entering any old pool until a sea turtle suddenly sticks its head out of the water.

Our dive master warned us to be careful on our descent so that we wouldn’t accidentally hit a shark or something. Of course the first thing I did when I went down was hit a shark, almost. Very accidentally. The lazy beast silently floated past my head, with a look of contempt that seemed to say “I hate those stupid divers. Always in my way. I am swimming here. If only I were hungry, I’d take a bite our of this one right now.” After that fun and welcoming opener, the dive master took us on a little tour of the tank to orientate us and let us know which areas were off limits: anything closer than 3 metres to the dolphin enclosure and a little area in front of one of the aquarium windows because that’s where the “Finding Nemo” hologram show gets played and the kids would probably not appreciate it when Nemo suddenly gets gobbled up by a diver and *gasp* comes out on the other end or something equally horrifying. After our orientation tour, we were free to roam on our own for half an hour.

Over the next 30 min we swam with manta rays, tiger sharks and the aforementioned giant sea turtles. There were also a couple of groupers that looked to weigh around 300 kg each. Giants! We got to play with the ‘audience’ on the other side of the glass and entertained families eating their dinner at the Coral aquarium restaurant. Then we completed our circle and did the whole thing again. And again. And again. Yep, we were in an aquarium and the boredom started to creep in. After a while we dropped into the same circular route as the sharks, all thinking “THERE IS NOWHERE TO GO!”

Image blatantly stolen from the Intertubes

Image blatantly stolen from the Intertubes

This is how the audience outside the aquarium sees the divers. (And that guy is in the forbidden “Finding Nemo” zone! How dare he upset those poor kids?!)

Wait, but where are the pictures of you guys diving? Ah well, that’s a problem – there aren’t any. The DiveQuest people make a video of the dive which you can purchase at the end of the experience for the bargain price of $35. But they don’t take any still pictures unfortunately. (Now that I think about it, I should have mentioned that in our debriefing questionnaire.) So you’ll just have to take our word for it: we looked like pros and had the audience in stitches with our funny antics under the sea.

One Response to “Diving with Nemo”

  1. […] the Epcot Aquarium we met a couple of sea turtles during our dive that struck me as very large at the time but they were nothing compared to the Leatherback momma we […]

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