Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Just Add Water! (and #8 Rainbow River)

This past weekend, Kate and I helped Harry with his big Florida Springs trip that he organized with Just Add Water SCUBA from Ohio! We did 4 different dives over the weekend, caravanning  from Gainesville to Devil's Den and Ginnie Springs on Saturday and to Blue Grotto and Rainbow River on Sunday.

We started bright and early on Saturday morning with a trip out to Devil's Den. It was a fun re-visit to my first spring dive ever :) Even though it was pretty cloudy and a bit chilly, the 72 degree clear water was impossible to resist.

This is the view looking up from the dive platform. Thankfully you don't have to be lowered into the hole to go diving...

...although you do have to lower yourself through this other small hole and down the skinny staircase. This is definitely the most dangerous part of the dive.

View from the dive platform looking into the water. Looks like a shallow kiddy pool with some rocks? Think again.  You can dive down to ~50 feet and explore swim-throughs and bedding planes and feel like you're in a cave.  The actual caves are grated off or have grim reaper signs to discourage you from getting lost.

Looking back up towards the dive platform from underwater... Kind of reminds me of Pride Rock from the Lion King.

Woww, crazy numbers of divers appeared at the end of our dive.  And only one person allowed on the stairs at once. Time to pack up the gear and head up to Ginnie Spring!
Next, we drove from Williston up to High Springs and had lunch in the sun and got more tank fills before heading to the main spring at Ginnie.  I was topside with Harry for this one so don't have any underwater pictures, but according to Kate, the cavern was pretty crowded.

View of the spring from the top of the stairs... don't be fooled by it's crystal clear and calm appearance... the cavern below (15-50 feet) is crowded with many divers!

On Sunday morning (after a much needed good night of sleep and lots of rain), we drove to Blue Grotto, very close to Devil's Den where we dove on Saturday morning. There were a surprising number of divers for the pouring rain and chilly 45-50 degree temperatures, but we managed to beat the crowds and get in a beautiful dive before leaving for the Rainbow River drift dive at 10:30. We even saw 2 little turtles, the huge catfish that hangs out under the steps, and stuck our heads up in the bell to talk to each other at 30 feet underwater.

Our first sight of the Rainbow River at K.P. Hole Park. It was so chilly out that the 72 degree river was steaming!

"Snake" bird. They have no oils in their feathers so they have to dry out their wings. Not doing much good on a rainy, humid day like today.

Pontoon boat that brought us up the river so we could drift back down with the current and end up back where we started.

It may have been cold and rainy, but I got a pink tank that matched my drysuit (and BC and wetsuit and nails etc.), so life was good :)

Harry is up and at 'em! Briefing us on the drift dive before we went out on round 2 of the boat rides.

We were also joined by a not-so-shy heron. When he flew away, his wingspan was probably about 6 feet!

All loaded on the boat and ready to motor upriver to be dropped off. So much fun meeting everyone from Ohio, what a fun group :)

First view when we entered the river. Lots of beautiful seagrass and quite a bit of current.

More grass and one of many sunfish that cruise around and point into the current in the river.

I actually took this shot upside down looking behind me (through my legs), but it looks pretty normal rotated around! I was towing the dive flag so we didn't get run over by any passing boats.

Good thing it's wet in the water anyway... a little rain will never ruin a dive. Actually I think it makes it more fun... I love looking up and seeing the raindrops.

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