Published: July 12th 2011July 12th 2011
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Florida is home to many amazing things. Amazing beaches, amazing cities, amazing theme parks, and some pretty amazing dive sites. For a diver you have an abundance of choices. The corals and wrecks of the Keys, the Gulf of Mexico, endless rivers and inland lakes, or one of my all time favorites the caves. There are several major cave systems in central Florida that are available to divers. I had the pleasure to visit a great spot called Ginnie Springs. Ginnie Springs is located in a Town called High Springs that is located West of Jacksonville and North of Gainsville. It is almost between the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. The street address is 7300 Ginnie Springs Rd. High Springs, Fla. They offer a full service dive shop, picnic area, camping sites and access to one of the largest cave systems in North America. The water is crystal clear and stays a constant 72 *F all year round. Jacques Cousteau visited here once and stated it had “Visibility forever” To access most of the sites available at Ginnie Springs you need to be able to show proof of having completed Cave and Cavern training from a recognized training agency. If you don’t have a cave card they will issue you an open water wristband and you will only be allowed in certain spots. If they find you wandering into places you are not qualified to be in they will ask you to leave the park. I had yet to take any Tech or Cave training when I visited here so I was limited to the open water locations as well. They do host several instructors who provide training on site but I am sure you would need to make arrangements with them before you show up. I was pretty happy just diving what they call the ballroom. The Ballroom is located right behind the dive shop. There is a large parking lot and picnic area with BBQ’s and tables. There is easy access to a small shallow basin that is a great place for swimming or snorkeling. The basin empties into the Santa Fe River and I think you can rent an inner tube for a little float down the river. Just inside this basin you will see a large opening in the limestone. Welcome to the ballroom. There is a lot of natural light that gets in through the entrance but you want to bring a light to explore the whole cavern because there are some dark spots. If you go straight in and go down to the bottom right of the cavern you will see a small steel grate that covers the aquifer that supplies 35 million gallons of warm clear water to this spring every day. If you approach the grate head on you will exhaust yourself swimming into the torrent and just float away so you need to go to either side of it and move sideways until you are directly in front of it. You can hold on to the grate and feel the power of the water as it rushes past and then let go and be swept back into the cavern, it is far safer than it sounds a pretty fun thing to do actually. The deepest point in the cavern is about 50’ deep. And it is large enough to explore on a single tank dive. There was not much life to see just a couple small fish and a river eel that was about 3 ‘long. For someone who has never been in a cave or cavern this is a great place to go. Further down the Santa Fe you will find the entrance to the Devil’s Springs caves. There are two systems the Devils Eye that has several thousand feet of caves and opens into the second system, the Devil’s ear it is a much larger and deeper cave system and many people have died in here. There are grates in place and signage to warn you that without the proper training and equipment divers are forbidden to enter. They do not allow open water divers to have a light with them to further discourage you from wandering into a place that you should not be in. This is a great place to spend a day diving or if you are so motivated take some cave training. Though it is more suited to experienced cave divers an open water guy like me can still have a great time. So put this on your list if you want to try something a little exciting and different from a regular open water dive. You won’t regret it.