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echeng

Operators for Crystal River?

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Hello, guys. can someone introduce me to a good operator for Crystal River? I may be going this season, and will probably have 4 or so people total. Looking for something private and flexible to avoid large crowds. thank you!

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I can second that recommendation. I dove with them twice and have been happy both times. The first time I did a manatee snorkel tour. The second time I brought my wife and we did a snorkel tour but also used them as guides to dive in the Rainbow River, Blue Grotto, and Devils Den. It may be too late in the year to see the Manatees, but cave diving is year round. On the snorkel tour there were 12 of us on the boat. For the rainbow river dive there were 8. On the Blue Grotto and Devils Den dives, it was just my wife, me, and the DM.

 

See http://wetpixel.com/forums/index.php?showt...2814&hl=manatee] and http://wetpixel.com/forums/index.php?showt...1815&hl=manatee for more details

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It may be too late in the year to see the Manatees

 

There are always Manatees in the river and springs, but the encounters are far less reliable between early April and late October.

 

Having said that: my best photo ops were when only the last 40 or so Manatees remained, because during the peak season the tourists are almost always in the way (at least if you want to shoot any scenic wide angle) and if you rent a boat and head out before the commercial tours do, the light isn't as preferable.

 

I think I would choose to go during the summer, rent my own boat, and even though I'd see far fewer manatees, I'd be able to work those I would see in better light without a bunch of people and boats in the water.

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I had a great experience with birds as well, however, like Silvio, I thought if I had more time I'd rent a diveyak and go exploring. The commerical spots get a lot of silt kicked up in no time and the first commerical boats (birds) get out there at the crack of dawn. By 8AM, the water is usually fairly silted up. I'd go ahead with your private charter first, pick their brains/get educated on the dos and don'ts and then do the diveyak/boat thing later.

Gary

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I agree about the siltup issue. Birds leaves at 6:30 to get to the sites before the other operators. This was particularly painful since I had just flown in from the west cost. It was hard to get up and get my gear ready at 2:00AM (on my body clock). We went to 3 sisters springs and I was the first one in the spring. It was amazing. Ten minutes later when the kids started standing on the bottom, it was a mess. Oh, well, at least I get ten minutes of awe.

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Haven't been there in about 20 years, but I second the get up early thing. We got up at the crack of dawn and dove off a rented Canoe. No tanks necessary. Just free dive. Today I would use a kayak as better than a canoe.

 

We dove some of the smaller springs and had several manatees to ourselves. While watching the dive operators motor around the lake looking for manatees.

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Eric, I concur that "Bird's Underwater" is an excellent operation and they do get out early (many other operators get to sites shortly thereafter which is very annoying since they "drop off" numerous people); however, IMO it is much better to stay near a site (e.g. Three Sisters) and go in and out of the spring on your own (swim or Kayak)...this way you can avoid the crowds and get more time with the subjects...also, there are some Natzi operators that yell at photographers who breath hold for photo's...they claim that violates regualtions and that you are suppose to stay at the surface snorkeling??? If you go out alone (when operators aren't there) then you avoid their interference...furthermore, the light is not usually optimal at 0630 (sun too low)...

 

Bird's rents out a home right at "Three Sisters" but I understand that they now only rent it long-term (3-months?)...other homes are available and most have Kayaks that are part of the deal...the key is to avoid holidays (Thanksgiving and Christmas) and to get there when a cold front is moving through or has just moved through (October and November are optimal)...

 

PS: I am interested in going again this year...I have a 3-year old daughter with a wetsuit (as wll as good swimming skill) and I want her to "model" with the Manatees... anyway, we are hoping to spend a few weeks at Crystal River...let me know if you are interested in splitting lodging expenses (me, my wife and daughter as well as a pro-photographer friend of mine from Boca Raton)...

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