“If the wind comes from an empty cave, it’s not without a reason.”Chinese Proverbs
We pulled up to a field a little after nine in the morning. After losing our GPS signal about three times, driving out to the middle of nowhere, then driving for another half hour on a dirt road, Cortana (the GPS nickname) happily chirped that we had arrived at our destination. A little sign pointed towards a trailer and another building. Behind the trailer, there was a field and a couple of benches.
And that was it. No other buildings, roads, or signs said we were still in civilization. If it wasn’t for a couple of palm trees and the sign that said no pet alligators, I wouldn’t believe we were still in Florida.
“You need to stop reading stuff on Pinterest,” my companion 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, “Let me get this straight; we are going cave diving in the middle of nowhere in Florida.”
“Snorkeling, but yes,” I reply.
A couple of months ago, my best friend tagged me on something on Facebook “Hey Heather, our next adventure.” A little research later, I found out that the video was shot only an hour away from my parent’s place in central Florida. Most of the reviews were positive, talking about how easy a dive this was (all you need is a basic Open Water Certification), or if you weren’t certified, you could just put on a mask and snorkel around.
Devil’s Den, located near Williston, is one of the many water caverns that make up 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 the early settlers could see steam rising from the hole on cold mornings. The air must have been cold because the water in the Den is about 72 Celsius.
A couple of owners later, it was rebranded as a scuba diving school and a place to dive/snorkel in a cave without having all the training.
The trailer on-site serves as rental headquarters, diving school, and general store.
The deepest part of the cave is about 55 feet, making it ideal for those who want to learn how to scuba dive without getting on a boat. The water is fed from natural springs, which makes the water feel very clean and refreshing.
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’s core, but either they are too small for a human or have been barred off. Entirely safe for those who never cave dive and want 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 cameras all around the cave so that you will not get lost,” the lady at the rental told us.
After paying the fee and filling out a ton of paperwork that stated I would not sue if I die. I struggled into my rental wetsuit and went into the cave.
You take a boardwalk and a flight of stairs down that probably were there when the cave opened to visitors. One person down the stairs at a time because they are very narrow and slippery.
At the bottom of the stairs is an underwater platform.
A school group of about 15 young boys was 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.
The lady at the front desk wasn’t kidding when she said it was like a big pool with a bunch of rocks. Crystal clear and very refreshing. The water was alive with life. While exploring, I found a couple of frogs enjoying one of the rocks. Cave fishes swim around, darting behind rocks and the stairs.
One of the teachers loaned us a flashlight so we could explore the darker areas of the caves. About 15 minutes into our exploring, the schoolchildren left (he told us to keep the light since he would be back with the next group in half an hour), and we had the place to ourselves.
At one point, I floated under the hole, and all I could see was the greenery and the sky. The cave was silent except for the sound of trickling water.
My companion floated up next to me. “Got to admit this was a good find.”
We continue exploring in silence, enjoying the cave, the rocks, the water, and the fish. As we started to get out, a group of guys made 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. I sat on the porch of the building, eating a Snickers, and I walked the trail that leads you to the hole. Covered by green and plants, it was hard to see. A little platform allows you to peer into the hole. Some people down there waved back at me before diving into the water.
We climbed back into the car, hoping Cortana could find our way back to my parent’s place. Not bad for something that Aimee posted on Facebook.
“The next time we are scuba diving,” my companion said, pulling out onto the dirt road.
Devil’s Den Prehistoric Springs is located near Williston, Florida. This is a privately owned SCUBA diving Training and Recreation facility. It is open 7 days a week; time varies, please call ahead. They do not allow swimming in the hole, but you are allowed to snorkel, which is by appointment only.