Article and photos by René C. Schutte
how the diving is in the state of Florida,
USA? Well, if you ever do get a chance to go
out there, then rest assured there is enough
to do in terms of blowing bubbles, and it's
most defintely worth it!
Diving the Fresh Water Springs - "Blue
Blue Grotto though is more like Mariko Oog here in South Africa, and no serious caves around here. Bigger than Mariko Oog, and with a max depth of 30m it's a gem of a dive site. Set amongst the lush green trees with hanging moss common in Florida, one feels that you've really stepped onto unspoiled paradise. In fact, the waters from this spring is bottled and sold in the shops in Florida to give you an idea how clean it is.
About a 1.5 hour drive from Orlando (Disney World) Blue Grotto has good picnic facilities and is a popular dive location for local divers as well. Get there early, to avoid the potential disappointment of someone kicking up the viz. I was very lucky to have had an excellent guide and dive buddy in the form of Instructor Joe from ScubaOdessy. We managed to squeeze in two 60 minute dives, with lots of photo opportunities, and ultimately a very successful daytrip.
Snorkel with Manatees
at Crystal Springs Anyone?
is situated about two hours drive towards
the West Coast of Florida looking out onto
the Gulf of Mexico and is surrounded by
fresh water springs that meet up with the
ocean tides in dozens of little river
systems. These canals are home to numerous
friendly Manatees that feed of the lush
underwater flora that grow here.
Manatees are a type of sea cow that reminds me of a cross between a walrus, and a hippopotamus. A strange, gentle and solitary animal that easily grows to over 500kg (1000 pounds) they can be quite playful in the water and it is common for divers and snorkelers to interact with these graceful underwater mammals. There are of course as expected strict rules of conduct that must be adhered to and a compulsory introductory DVD that all divers must watch prior to particpation.
Gator Snapper Turtle
Aside from the
manatees which are a real treat and the
highlight of this trip, there are some
beautiful pristine fresh water inlets one
can visit on the same excursion,
and you are
likely to see some fresh water Swimming
Crabs and if your lucky, even a Alligator
Snapper Turtle and a Fresh water Flounder
continue on top.../
Getting up close to
Joe, around the sunken sail boat
The diving conditions along this eastern Florida coast line can be subject to tropical systems (hurricanes) and I would suggest you pick your dates to visit accordingly. You can liaise with Joe.
Nonetheless the further south you go from Daytona Beach, Cocoa Beach, and Finally Palm Beach you are still in a 2.5 hour drive from Orlando, and therefore a decent day trip.
At Palm beach, as I discovered, again with the help of my new found dive buddy, Joe, you are practically assured of a decent dive at Palm Beach Yact club and bridge. The columns of the bridge has become home to a surprising number of fascinating sea life, along with whatever the seas and currents bring towards this lagoon on a given day.
Guilded Pipe Fish (ain't it tiiiiiny against Joe's index finger?) :-)))
We spotted the usual Snapper, Butterflyfish, Raggy Scorpion, and a Blue Spotted Ray.
The dive is especially long due to the average depth being only 5m. This meant we were able to take great pictures with the abundant light and clock an amazing hundred minute dive! Another real advantage here was there was no concern over no-flying time :-)
Spider Crab (Arrow Crab)
Then there were the alien looking spider crabs, along with the little pipe fish and all the other animals that made this a most worth while trip, and a pleasant all round adventure.
So that would seem to confirm that if you ever find yourself in the State of Florida for whatever reason, and you wanted to do some great diving without spending an arm and a leg, or traveling beyond the Central Florida area, you have a number of great options to choose from.
You are welcome to send comments to Rene@scubaversity.co.za