We pulled up a little after nine. After losing our GPS signal about three times, drive out to the middle of nowhere, then driving for another half hour on a dirt road, Cortana (nickname for the GPS because OJ is a Halo Fan) happily chirped that we had arrived at our destination. A little sign pointed towards a trailer and another building. There was a field, a couple of benches. We were definitely in BFE.
“You need to stop reading stuff on Pinterest,” OJ said, looking around at the field.
“Come on, this is an adventure,” I said, climbing out of the car.
“It was an adventure getting here,” he said, grabbing our scuba diving bags. “Let me get this straight; we are going cave diving in the middle of nowhere in Florida.
“Probably snorkeling, my ears have been popping all morning long.”
A couple of months, my best friend tagged me on something on Facebook “Hey Heath, our next adventure.” A little research later, and I found out that this video was shot only an hour away from my parents’ place in central Florida. Most of the reviews were positive talking about how easily of a dive was (all you need is a basic Open Water Certification) or if you weren’t certified, you can just put on a mask and snorkel around.
I was a little leery since it’s been a couple of years since my last dive. But all the dive sites said it was an easy dive. I told OJ about it, but after the drive out there, he wasn’t convinced.
Devil Den, located in Williston, is one of the many water caverns that littered the underground of Florida. There is a big reason why you never hear of basements in Florida. Dig 6 feet, and you hit the water.
The Den got its name because on cold mornings the early settlers could see steam rising from the hole. The air must have been cold because the water is about 72 Celsius.
After a couple of owners later it was rebranded as being a scuba diving school and a place to go swim in a cave without having to have all the training.
In the registration office, after asked a ton of questions, and my ears still popping, we decided to try snorkeling. The lady behind the counter was nice enough to transfer the fees over if we decided to change our minds.
She told us that the deepest the cave is about 55 feet (most of my dives have been over 60 feet) and good luck find that area. I did manage to find it, but to tell you the truth; it wasn’t that exciting. The cave is about 120 feet in diameter and mushroom shaped. There are a couple of tunnels out of the cave through the underwater cavern system that makes up Florida core, but either they are too small for a human or have been barred off. Completely safe for those who never dive a cave and wanted to try.
“It’s about the size of a large swimming pool and other being a little dark down there; most people find it an easy dive or snorkel. But don’t worry we, have the camera all around the cave so that you wouldn’t get lost.
After paying the fee (I believe it was $15 per person plus extra for whatever you need to rent) and filling out a ton of paperwork, we struggled into our rental wetsuits and went into the cave.
You take a boardwalk and a flight of stair down into the cavern. At the bottom of the stairs is an underwater platform. One person down the stairs at a time, because they are very narrow and slippery.
She wasn’t kidding about being like a pool. The cave was maybe a couple of hundred feet wide with blue cold water.
When we first got down there, there was a school group of about 15 young boys that were learning about rocks. Two teachers were down there instructing them on what they needed to find. Once they had their list, the kids paired up and started to snorkel around. Once in a while, I would hear them call out to the teacher that they found whatever they were looking for. Other than that, it was quiet. OJ and I headed into the water to explore.
The lady at the front desk was kidding when she said it was like a big pool with a bunch of rocks in it. Crystal clear and very refreshing. The water was alive with the life. In my exploring I found a couple of frogs that were enjoying one of the rocks, cave fish swim around, darting behind rocks and the stairs. I brought the GoPro, but there wasn’t much light.
One of the teachers loaned us a light so we could explore the darker areas of the caves. About 15 minutes into our exploring, the school children left (he told us to keep the light since he will be back with the next group in a half an hour) and we had the place to ourselves.
At one point, I floated under the hole, and all you could see was the greenery and the sky. The cave was silent except for the sound of trickling water.
OJ floated up next to me. “Got to admit this was a good find, even if we couldn’t dive it.” He said.
“See sometimes being addicted to Pinterest pays off.”
“I can’t get over how refreshing the water feels.”
We continue to explore in silent just enjoy the cave, the rocks, the water and the fish. As we started to get out, a group of guys was making their way into the cave. One shouted down in broken English, “How is it?”
“Amazing,” I said.
We climbed out and stripped out of our wetsuits. OJ sat on the porch of the building eating a Snickers, and I walked the trail that leads you to the whole. Covered by green and plants, it was hard to see. A little platform allows you to peer into the hole. Some of the people down there waved back at me, before diving into the water.
We climbed back into the car, hoping that Cortana could find our way back to my parents’ place. Not bad for something that Aimee posted on Facebook.
“The next time we are scuba diving it, you are just going to have to be drugged up for it,” OJ said pulling out onto the dirt road.
Yes, we are going to return, and bring the best friend along. Worse case, if I have another ear infection, she is certified too.
More pictures from the trip
Information about Devil Den
About Willison, Florida