If you are interested in exploring undersea wonders, you have probably already known the popular diving destinations like the Caribbean, the Philippines’ Palawan, the Pacific, and Thailand’s Koh Tao. According to your knowledge, diving experience, and location, you may also see a few underwater treasures like human-made things as sculptures and shipwrecks. There may be various marine life, including manta rays, magnificent sharks, and stunning coral reef formations.
You can be an experienced scuba diver or a snorkeling free diver, and you may have to dive in various locations. But if you are interested in cave diving, here is the site that you have not visited yet. They are the incredible underground caves in Florida. The Sunshine may fall very rarely, and that would be a motivation to keep hidden undersea treasures. You do not have to travel far offshore to enjoy breathtaking underwater caves that are naturally created by springs and underwater rivers. These are ideal diving locations for many scuba divers, as the water in them is so cold and often very clear all year round.
Although you need specific training and gear to become an open-water diver, you will also need a special certification to begin cave diving. Training to dive and explore in caves and caverns may be one of the most rewarding and challenging things you can take. Cave training will teach you many things, including streamlining your equipment, fine-tuning your buoyancy, and trim that others envy. Once you finish it, the whole new underwater world is revealed in front of your eyes.
Cave diving in Florida
There are many beautiful and fascinating sites of cave diving in Florida. Some of them, as discussed below.
Devil’s Den, Williston
It is a famous 60-foot deep prehistoric underground spring that is on many divers’ bucket lists. It is a cave den filled with ancient rock formations, fossil beds, and crystal-clear waters and that await to be explored by those willing to enter the naturally-formed cavern window.
The river is mostly underwater, and its temperature remains constant at about 72°F degrees. Steam rises from the water when the outside weather of the cave is cold. It makes the cave look like a chimney from hell, and it was a memorable name given by early settlers.
The ideal way to visit the Devil’s Den is to book a guided snorkeling or scuba diving tour as Devil’s Den is not open for public swimming.
Leon Sinks Geological Area, Tallahassee
The Leon Sinks Geological Area is a part of Tallahassee’s Apalachicola National Forest in the northwest Florida Panhandle. It can say that it is a wilderness area with miles of nature trails. And they open the road to several sinkholes that are worth discovering. We can find different sizes of caves, tunnels, and holes. They were formed through the erosion of the Leon Sinks limestone layer over many years.
You can enjoy its natural mystery, and the sight of rare diversity changes when you explore these caves.
Ginnie Springs, High Springs
You will love Ginnie Springs if you are looking for crystal clear cave waters. It is a privately owned park near High Springs, boasts, and it is some of the most transparent spring water in Florida. The water is always at 72°, and it is perfect for swimming, diving, boating, snorkel, tubing, and scuba diving like in the Devil’s Den.
Peacock Springs State Park, Livek
It was named after a local pioneer cave diver and underwater photographer, The Wes Skiles Peacock Springs State Park. It is one of the largest and longest underwater cave systems globally, and it covers 733 acres of land and water, home to six large sinkholes and two significant springs. We can say that this is the only park that is perfect for cave diving.
Cave divers go to this part of Florida from all around the world to snorkel. They explore over 28,000 feet of underwater passageways at the park.
Blue Grotto Dive Resort, Williston
This is located just a few miles away from the Devil’s Den in the Williston area. The Blue Grotto Dive Resort is the most extensive and deepest clear water cavern in North Florida. It is rich with a sizeable crescent-shaped sinkhole with clear freshwater springs and that divers of all skill levels find irresistible.
It has two areas called the cavern and the cave. The cavern is the most popular dive site that allows explorers to go as deep as 100 feet. The cave is dedicated explicitly to certified scuba cave divers. Swimmers and snorkelers are always accompanied by extra divers, as the site has many amenities that will cater to the enjoyment and safety of its visitors.
Morrison Springs State Park, Ponce de Leon
This park is located in northwest Florida. The Morrison Springs State Park is famous for its extensive underwater cave system with pristine, sandy-bottomed springs. There three cavities go deep as 300 feet. The 250 feet of natural freshwater springs are open for public swimming and diving.
Wakulla Springs, Crawfordville
Wakulla Springs is one of the broadest and deepest freshwater springs in the world. Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park protects it. It currently hosts various wildlife, including alligators, turtles, manatees, and even birds and deer.
Apart from being an excellent diving place for scuba diving and swimming, it’s also an activity-packed area. It is where visitors can go on guided riverboat tours, cycling, picnics, hiking, etc.
Cow Spring can call a relatively advanced dive, requiring a full cave diver certification to dive into the upstream. You will have to squeeze yourself through two restrictions where some divers might not fit in the cave. Once you were able to go through the entrance restrictions, then you are done. The cave opens up to some stunning passages with clay banks and goethite everywhere. This cave does not disappoint, but you should be sure about diver skills to match the cave you are diving.
Jug Hole is located in the Ichetucknee Springs State Park. Although the walk to the entrance is not for the weak, the long haul is valuable enough to see the stunning sunbeams pierce through the water and into the cavern. It is not as extensive as the others, with less than 1,000 feet of the cave to see, but it is still worth visiting.
Ginnie Springs, High Springs
This is well-known as one of the most precise springs in Florida. Ginnie Springs is not only a beautiful place to cool off, but it has incredible freshwater dives with over 1,000 feet of subterranean passages for adventure-seekers. Devil’s Eye cave system deserves a mention of its own in a Part of Ginnie Springs. By offering 30,000 feet of various passageways, this can be known as one of the world’s most famous cave diving spots.
If you are drawn to the undiscovered, the thrill, and the challenge of natural underwater environments, cave diving might be the most exciting thing for you.
Underwater cave diving
Underwater cave diving is diving with an overhead environment and no direct vertical access to the surface, open-air, or light. A cave diving exploration can easily be a round trip of miles underwater.
You can also discover ancient rock formations that have never fallen the light of day or been touched by a human on a professional expedition. Underwater cave diving is not a hobby, but it is a calling. Some experts say that as few as 75 people around the world can call themselves professional cave divers. This specialist diving qualification came from birth from the need for divers who want and can go further than any other humans before. And this may be either for scientific research and, in some cases, rescue missions.
What is the Difference Between a Cave and Cavern diver?
There are a lot of differences between cavern and cave diving.
Cavern diving is usually done at the mouth of a cave. Although there are overhead obstacles, the diving environment can still illuminate by daylight. According to the National Speleological Society’s Cave Diving Section (NSS-CDS) definition, cavern diving is diving in an open area that receives direct sunlight. It is no deeper than 70 feet. And also, it is within 130 linear feet of the cave entrance.
Generally, cavern diving is doing in the daytime that is not too far removed from open water diving. And then the cave divers can dive miles underwater. They can go into areas without natural sunlight and as well as limited water visibility. Another critical difference between these two is that one is an extreme sport, and the other, cave diving, is a specialty qualification that only the top 1% of divers can do.
When we think about equipment-wise, cavern and cave divers also vary from each other. The cave divers have specialist terms for clear water and murky water dives called spring and sump.
The Dangers of Cave Diving
When it comes to diving, every stage of diving comes with its own set of risks. You have to learn to manage stressful situations in the water in the introductory course of the Open Water Certificate and diving. But in scuba diving in open water, you should always know that you will reach the surface by swimming up. Although you knew which way was up, it would not be a considerable matter in cave diving. Stress is heightened as the fact that the path to the safety area can be in any direction. Before preparing for cave diving, divers have to master a lot of drills.
- How to manage the situations where your tank runs out of air.
- Addressing equipment failures and managing them in the correct situation.
- What should you do when you lose your dive partner in the cave?
- What to do when your dive buddy gets tangled in the line?
- What to do when you lose the line that connects you to the exit of the cave?
These are extreme situations in cave diving. But in cave diving courses operated by their board of diving specialists, they also include exercises where swimmers’ masks are blinded. So they can only navigate with the guideline imposed on them.
If you feel that you cannot deal with the situations above, even in dive training, then cave diving is something you should avoid. The PADI Specialty Course suggests that you need to have no fear and enough confidence when cave diving. You will also need to continuously engage in training exercises, as practice makes you perfect. But like you need to walk before you run, you always have to spend many open water diving hours before considering cave diving.
Cave diving certification
Before you set off on your first cave diving adventures, you need to consider the following things.
Firstly, you need to complete an Advanced Open Water Course, which allows you to dive to 130 feet. This cave diving certification then needs to be followed under a specialist course related to cavern diving. It will enable you to experience overhead environments and low-light conditions, as in cave diving. Finally, you must complete a night diving course because the caves are not exactly known for being abundant with light. Only when you can meet can you start the plan to embark on a cave diving course.
You will get to know about the different types of underwater caves during your diving education.
There are four types of caves that you will meet in cave diving.
Littoral (Sea) Caves
Waves create these and usually do not extend. It can find mostly in coastal regions. Most of these can be found in the Great Lakes, New England, and California.
The name suggests that large formations of coral reefs grow together as clusters to form closed-off caves. These usually are tunneling, and they are habitat to fish and sharks.
These are formed by volcanic activity. The surface cools and hardens when lava flows from a volcano and hits the sea. The body cools and sets, creating a tube inside the lava that is still moving.
These are built over eons. The water containing carbonic acid seeps through the limestone and dissolves the rock at the lower level. That creates the cave structure. You can see this type of cave in Florida’s cave network.
Cave diving techniques
Although it is all good to have the certificates and know what type of cave you are exploring, at the same time, you will need to go with instructor-level buoyancy control. It is a perfect multiple propulsion technique.
That includes techniques like
- Flutter kicks.
- Back kicks.
- Frog kicks
- and Helicopter turns.
These are tough techniques for cave divers as bad practices will stir up silt on cave floors and ruin visibility. But this is not a problem in open water situations.
If you have never followed all the qualification requirements and have the skillset nailed down, you need to ensure that you have the right gear to go forward with cave diving.
Cave Diving Equipment
Cave diving is a very specialized activity for beginners as well as experienced divers. For cavern diving, you only need to use a single tank with K-valves and a single regulator. However, Cave divers use systems with two separate on/off valves and regulator first stages. That means if your valve-to-regulator O-ring should rupture or a regulator begins to free flow, and you can shut off the problem equipment and use the second tank. Your scuba gear will still need to reconfigure to ensure that entanglement risk and silt kick-up decrease. As all gauges, regulators, and inflator hoses are fitted or stowed on the suit tightly. Flapping fin straps also need to be taped down too.
Then when your snorkel is left behind, you cannot reach the surface of the cave. Also, they tend to get caught in obstacles on the ceiling of the cave.
As divers cannot stress enough and entanglement is a massive risk for cave divers, everything has to be strapped down. Flapping fin straps need to be taped. Other accessories need to be kept or attached to the body with straps.
The hardest part of cave diving equipment to a cave diver is their reel. This reel line is lying down as the divers discover the cave network. Without it, there is no other guideline back to the entrance of the cave. Even if all other conditions are clear, a lousy kick of the fin can ruin the whole visibility.
We can say that the cave diver’s rope is their lifeline.
An activity like this is dangerous for individuals who like to test themselves, discover new things, and push their ability limits.
There is also something to be mentioned about finding a cave that humans never discovered before. In a world running out on new frontiers of adventures and experiences, the underwater cave offers an opportunity to experience genuine exploration and adventure.
Cave diving deaths
Cave diving is considered one of the world’s most dangerous sports. Here, divers must undergo extensive training to receive their cave diving certification because of the challenges of diving in an overhead environment and underwater environment. Cave divers often find themselves in risky situations as they are always looking to push their limits. It has increased cave diving accidents. The yearly average of 2.5 fatalities tripled in 2011. In 2012 deaths reached the highest annual rate to that date at over 20.
In February 2014, two divers died in a vast cave system in Norway at a depth of more than 100m. The authorities stated that it was too dangerous to discover their bodies, but the four men’s friends decided to risk it. After seven weeks later, they descended into the dark and glacial waters.
When the Blueprint for Survival was published, most cave diving accidents involved common risk factors and the cave diver training agencies also accepted that. initially, the most common factors are such as:
- failing to dive with a regular guideline to the surface
- Not able to limit the dive to 1/3 of the starting air volume and
- diving apart from a safe depth for the type of gas being used.
And after that, two more additional rules were added as the divers entering caves should be well trained, and each of them should have three sources of light capable of outlasting the dive. These five rules have become the form of the core of many cave diver courses. The research reviewed 368 cave diving deaths to identify the rules most frequently violated in trained or untrained divers. It can say that different circumstances would apply to fatalities in these groups and argue that for trained divers. Breaking the most important rules is reasoned with the most deaths. Much more attention to these rules during training might make cave diving even safer.
The cave-diving fatality records in the collection housed at DAN were reviewed using a root cause analysis process, and then the circumstances surrounding each death classifies. The four levels are the cause of death. Then, the preceding event immediately before the death, the next one is the harmful action known to have occurred immediately before the last event. The final is the event that led to or triggered; it is a dangerous action.
From autopsy, medical examiner reports, and death certificates, causes of death were taken. Circumstances preceding each death are categorizing according to evidence in each file, such as witness statements, equipment examinations, gas analysis reports, police reports, and other documents. If there are any cave diving safety rules that broke, they are noted and breaking the law directly as it affected the chain of events. And then breaking that rule was also classed as relevant. Merely being untrained was not deemed appropriate if no other laws were broken and tagged as appropriate.
Each death case is then reviewed again, and a second reviewer classified the chain-of-events. The overall inter-rater agreement calculates each of the four stages and rules divides as broken or relevant.
Although cave diving is much more exciting and full of many adventures, proper and formal requirements and training should be done and fulfilled before you go deep down into the underwater and explore the earth’s hidden beauty.