Florida Travel: Dive into the Devil's Den

Scuba diving in this sunken spring-fed cavern in central Florida proved daunting and, finally, exhilarating.

  Years ago, when a friend first suggested that I get dive certified, I laughed. What a terrible idea, I thought. Life is scary enough without adding in danger, like trying to breathe underwater. But last year I reluctantly agreed to give it a try, and now I’m an aspiring dive enthusiast, filling my drawers with T-shirts from dive shops and wondering if it’s too soon to get a tattoo of a dive flag. (It is.) On free weekends, I’m always scheming to fit in dive trips. Recently, I suggested to a dive buddy that we take a drive to the middle of the state where a duo of inland springs outside of Ocala offers a unique scuba experience. They’re challenging dives for novice divers, I’d heard, but the underwater terrain was meant to be remarkable. Plus, more dive shirts. So on an overcast afternoon following a 4-hour drive north, we turned off the main highway to bump down a dirt road to our dive resort. How strange, I thought, to drive inland for scuba. I associate dive trips with heading toward the sea, the land flattening out and the foliage giving over to salt marsh and mangroves, not the rolling hills and live oaks of central Florida. The next morning we were the first divers at Devil’s Den, a sunken spring-fed cavern, and we suited up and headed down the steep stairs that descended into the dim interior. A round hole in the limestone roof let light in, but the cavern still had an eerie subterranean feel. And the water, a steady 72 deg
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