Southeastern retailers have long counted on manatee trips and/or cavern diving training to provide much needed dive activity during winter months. Manatee trips can be some of the easiest dive travel a store can run because tanks are optional.
Snorkeling is the prefered way to interact with manatee and that opens to doors to all ages and gives younger kids a chance to share an experience with their parents or each other, which might not yet be possible because of age restrictions or costs.
Because of years of intervention to protect manatee the population has grown significantly ironically rreating the need for more refuge area thereby limiting access to once favorite dive sites like Three Sisters Spring in Crystal River. There have been other rules changes as well. Dive Centers must now have permits to rent boats for their own tours and very few permits are available for dive centers not located in the Crystal River area. US Fish & Wildlife encourages visiting divers and dive groups to go with licensed tour operators who are required to show the Manatee Manners video (which PADI co-funded) and explain the regulations regarding inwater interaction with these huge gentle mammals. Crystal River continues to be unique in that it is the only marine refuge in which inwater interaction is allowed. Following the rules and avoiding any actions, which might be concieved as harrassment, is extreamly important to assure that this wonderful opportunity to meet manatee it their own environment is not lost to the diving community.
Cavern diving is another wonderful winter activity. The water temp remains a constant 72 degrees year round and the gin clear water provides access to funtastic learning experiences for divers from all over the world. Becoming a Cavern Diver Instructor requires that instructors be cave certified and wear full cave gear when teaching,
but many local cave instructors offer packages for instructors leading groups who desire to become cavern instructors.Combining manatee and cavern diving makes for an adventure filled week. Throw in digital photo and your student travelers will take home great memories, great photos and bragging rights to two or three new specialties.