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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Florida Day Two: Devil's Den

For Memorial Day Weekend, Todd and I decided to go to Florida to do some diving in the freshwater springs of Central Florida.  Todd's family lives in Florida, so we stayed with his parents and made the drive to the springs each day.  On Day One, we visited Blue Grotto.

On Sunday, we woke up earlier than we did on Saturday, but still didn't get quite the early start that we had wanted.  We initially had thought we wouldn't dive on Sunday since Todd's brother and family would be visiting that afternoon, but since Blue Grotto had been such a success, we decided to go ahead and get some more dives in before they arrived.  We decided on Devil's Den for the dives.

Devil's Den is located in Williston, just a mile or two from the Blue Grotto.  It's different from the Blue Grotto, because it is located within a dry cave, and rather than being a shaft downwards, it is more like a round pool that descends under the ceiling of the dry cave.

We arrived and checked in, meeting the three Devil's Den cats in the process (I'm totally a cat person).  We had our tanks filled, and then had a dive briefing from the lady who was running the front desk.  We walked around and checked out the cave, and got ourselves ready.

Entering the Devil's Den

When you dive at Devil's Den, you walk down a narrow set of stone steps, so that you're underground in the cave.  Then, you walk down another set of wooden steps that take you to the floating platform.  The cave is "dry," in that it's not filled to the brim with water, but the entire bottom is a pool of water from the spring.  The ceiling of the cave has a hole in it - a natural skylight filled with vines, which makes the whole cave look beautiful and dramatic, and lets in sunshine so that the cave is not dark at all.

The light enters through this natural skylight

Divers in the water from the floating platform

Once you're on the floating platform, you can walk down steps into the 72 degree water, and start your dive.  At the part where you can surface in the cave, it's about 15-20 feet deep, and then the ceiling of the cave drops to the water level, and the water continues into a cavern environment in a circle around the pool.  You can reach a max depth of about 60 feet, and explore lots of swim throughs that were created from fallen boulders in the cave.  There are several caves that branch off from the main cave, but they were either blocked off with grating or had "grim reaper" signs at their openings to prevent divers from entering without cave certification.  Todd and I do not have cave certification, so we stayed away.

This is me doing my descent on the first dive, where you can clearly see the natural skylight in the ceiling above (complete with beautiful vines):

On our first dive, we basically swam in a circle counter-clockwise, exploring the depths of the cave.  I love swim-throughs, so it was very fun to swim through each of the little holes and explore.  Even though we knew that lots of divers had been here before, it still felt like we were exploring something completely new and unexplored.  The rule was that we were to douse our lights and peek through the hole.  If we could see a glow of light, we could go in.  Otherwise, that was a cave and we could not go through.

Coming out of a swim through:

As we circled, we eventually started to ascend to the 20-30 foot depth, to look more at the walls and ceiling of the cave.  They contained fossils of sea biscuits and fish, and it was really interesting to see them.  We also found the caves that contained the grim reaper signs, which is creepy, especially knowing that people had died going into them.

The Grim Reaper Signs:

Peeking through a hole:

As we approached the shallower depths, we were treated to some beautiful sunlight that was entering the water from the hole in the ceiling.  The light was so nice, and the water was so clear that it was truly breathtaking.  We spent some time here on our safety stop taking photos and just enjoying the water.  What a treat!

We had lunch (that my mom-in-law packed, bless her) and then went down for our second dive.  This time, we went clockwise, which was a whole new dive.  Swim-throughs and exploration, and then exploring the fossils in the walls, and then the beautiful light.  We also found a nice alien head that we hadn't seen before, which someone had placed in the cavern as a joke.

I am not certain why I look so worried:

Todd handed me the camera:

It was hard to leave Devil's Den.  It was so beautiful and such a relaxing and pleasant dive.  We would have LOVED to have done a third dive, but we had to get home to the family, so we rinsed and packed our equipment and headed home.

Another wonderful day of diving in Florida.

Coming soon: Ginnie Springs...


Kovas Palubinskas said...

Thanks for sharing these diving days - I envy you this vacation. Those Devil's Den entry steps are somewhat foreboding, but the photos of the sunlight underwater are amazing!

Staci Dombroski said...

That is seriously so cool!! I would love to do that one day! Loved the pictures :)

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