Meet the Crew
Our in-water guide and soon-to-be-captain, Jake has long been infatuated with manatees and wildlife in general. Not a native to Florida, Jake grew up in a military family which moved a lot during his childhood but ended up settling in Missouri. Often moving as a youth led to dreams of adventure and a restless spirit that demands to explore. Unbeknownst to him the stage was set for his future profession at nine years old when he and his siblings took a trip to Florida to visit with family over Christmas. That was when Jake went on his first manatee tour and got his first opportunity to be blown away by the magnificent Florida manatee! It was a cold winter day, and Jake still can recall his surprise at not only how massive these animals were, but also by how gentle, silent, and majestic they were. Usually kiddos are the first to get cold and want to get out of the water on mornings like this, but Jake stayed in this new world until the last possible second, trying to soak up all of the manatee experience that he could.
Jake’s passion for wildlife started getting a contender as Jake grew up and became interested in the human mind. He had a tough choice to make when he graduated high school– move to Florida and pursue the wild or continue his education in his home state. Jake ended up choosing to continue with his education and attended Truman State University in northern Missouri, graduating with a degree in psychology. Jake does not believe that anything happens by accident or coincidence and his decision to pursue research on the mind only helped his realization that experiences in nature are pivotal for a healthy mind and soul. He finally made the move that he had considered years before and came back to Crystal River, Florida.
It has been over two-and-a-half years and Jake has established himself as a well-respected in-water manatee tour guide and he has recently passed his Captain’s class! Motivated as ever, every day on King’s Bay is an opportunity to “Make dreams come true,” which is his ever present goal in the manatee business. He sees the kiddos who come through our town, much like he was when he was young and loves the opportunity to open others’ eyes the same way that he was opened to the wonders of nature years ago. With quick wit, bottomless patience and a desire to make the day special for every one of his guests, Jake yearns to maintain responsible ecotourism and give people the highlight of their Florida vacation!
Captain Evan is one of our locals who grew up right here in Crystal River. During his childhood days he would spend most of his time outside exploring King’s Bay and the backcountry of our beloved town. From swimming with manatees, boating, fishing and even scuba diving, he has always gotten excited for adventure. The first time his dad took him out on the boat he knew he belonged on the water. Evan was taught from a child how to operate a boat and he fell in love with boating quickly. Fishing was a big hobby growing up and was a passion that he and his father shared together. The excitement of catching fish and bringing dinner home to his mother and the rest of his family was something very special to him that he always enjoyed doing.
When Evan turned 13 years old his parents put him and his brother into scuba diving classes together because they had a passion for swimming and freediving and so they became open water certified. Evan had the opportunity to dive many springs around Florida growing up because his friends’ parents were both dive instructors and took him along when they would go on vacation. Snorkeling with manatees was something Evan and his entire family loved doing. It was a great pastime and was fun for the entire family and also a way to bring everyone together. The experiences these manatees gave the whole family was very special and something they could all relate to.
Captain Evan started his career in the manatee tour industry at 15 years old. washing wetsuits and working on the weekends and during the summer months. When he got out of high school, he knew that he wanted to follow his dream of becoming a licensed boat captain so that he could show his guests the same wonderful experiences that he was lucky enough to grow up having!
Still as enthusiastic as ever, Evan is excited to take guests from all over the world to meet the gentle-giant manatees, and with ten years of industry knowledge and a lifetime of experience, nothing gets him more excited than being able to show our guests the area that he calls home! Captain Evan has become well respected within the industry and as passionate as he is, he is sure to give you the ultimate experience that you will not forget while you are visiting with us!
Our stellar in-water guide, Puahina, is a Florida native who has long been interested in the water and wildlife. Puahina grew up in the Jacksonville area on Amelia Island and spent much of her youth on the beach surfing, fishing, and finding any excuse that she could to spend her days outside. As the oldest of four, Puahina’s discipline and leadership skills, aligned with her sense of humor and love of the water made her an amazing candidate to help educate and introduce the youth to new experiences. She spent her teen years as a surfing instructor, and had to become comfortable teaching guests of all ages how to use the ocean to their advantage, conquer their fears and become confident with potentially stressful experiences.
Puahina found her latest passion as a guest on our tours, just like you! After moving to Citrus County, she and her family took the opportunity to explore the area and the natural wonders available. They came upon a company called Nature’s Discovery and booked a trip with Captain Jake and Evan. Puahina was quickly infatuated with King’s Bay and the amazing resident manatees. Before the tour was over, she was already asking about jobs available in the industry! Now months into being a full-time swim guide, Puahina has proven to be a great guide. Her obvious passion for wildlife, kindness, and attention to detail makes her an ideal swim guide for novice snorkelers, small children, and experienced divers alike.
After entering the industry as a swim guide and enjoying every aspect of it, she has decided to obtain her Captain’s license! In a few months you may know her as not only your guide, but maybe as your Captain. Puahina’s ability to turn every situation into a positive one will ensure all of her guests leave happy! She enjoys sharing the wonders of the bay with guests, making the experience exciting for everyone. While the manatees are the main priority, she will also point out the abundant wildlife in Crystal River. From identifying schools of fish, birds, and plant species, to teaching the importance of wildlife conservation – she is full of information!