For hardcore daredevils, SCUBA diving is simply not extreme enough. These uncompromising thrill-seekers turn their attention underground, where mysteries of the flooded unknown await.
Some of them are also well aware the United States is home to a wealth of cave diving spots in Pacific, Atlantic, and the interior. Their sheer diversity and number warrant an abundance of mysteries waiting to be unveiled.
Alas, navigating narrow shafts and tunnels with impaired visibility working against you is no walk in the park. So, before you dive in, you need to arm yourself with knowledge, training, and a good dose of caution.
That is the only way to safely embark on an underground adventure of your life. And to help you make an educated choice, we have compiled a list of 5 of the most majestic holes to wander through.
1. Indian Springs, Wakulla County, Florida
Just south of Tallahassee, lies the sunken kingdom of Indian Springs.
Spelunking experts and nature vacation enthusiasts regard it the best cave in the whole of North America and for good reasons too. The average depth is between 120 and 180 feet, which means this endeavor is both a technical dive and a regular cave dive.
The main passage tunnel stretches for 600 feet and the key point of interest is a T-junction.
That is where divers need to make a choice: to head left downstream or right upstream. Either way, diver propulsion vehicles can take you further into the tunnels. Some special spots to visit are Bone Narcosis Room, the Wakulla Room, and Power Room.
There is a lot to investigate as pristine white walls slowly embrace you. The right time to hit this destination would be late June to October.
2. First Cathedral, Lanai, Hawaii
Surrounded by ocean, islands of Hawaii offer more than big waves and sunshine.
First Cathedral is the best proof of this, being the most popular dive site off Lanai Island. What used to be a 100-feet-long lava tube is now dotted with tunnels, caverns, sinkholes, and passageways. Maximum depth of the cave is 50 feet.
The most breathtaking part of the journey is a huge chamber, where lave cutouts in the ceiling create a “spotlight” effect. This is due to the part of the roof collapsing and letting the sunrays pierce inside.
Illuminating holes in the back of the cavern, the light also gives birth to a stain glass-looking illusion reminiscent of cathedrals. There is even a fallen piece of rock appropriately dubbed “The Altar”. In the many nooks and crannies, marine life is brimming.
Both beginners and intermediate divers can give this one a try.
3. Devil’s Cave System, Ginnie Springs, Florida
This enchanted cave complex attracts swimmers, snorkels, and tubers from across the globe.
Its four of the most dive-able springs are Ginnie Springs, Little Devil, Devil’s Eye, and Devil’s Ear (the latter two are entrances). With their forces combined, they produce around 80 million gallons of water every day. And it’s some of the cleanest water you can hope for.
Vision is excellent and many people head there for underwater photography.
As for aspiring explorers, they can navigate numerous interconnecting tunnels with limestone ceilings. It’s hard to pick the best section, but Little Devil is a special experience for sure.
Only 4-feet wide, it goes to 50 feet depth. The ultimate reward is the skyward view from the bottom, which is nothing short of mesmerizing. This is definitely not your typical Florida vacation.
The whole devilish system has 30,000 feet of mapped passageways, with more to be added. You could spend the lifetime of cave diving there and still not see it all.
4. Jacob’s Well, Wimberley, Texas
On the surface, this looks like an ordinary swimming pool, where adults and youngsters alike flock every summer for their share of refreshing bliss.
The water from it overflows to a natural karstic spring, which occasionally supplies the dying Cypress creek. But, the depths tell a whole different tale. Jacob’s Well is the largest underwater cave in the region, with an average depth of 120 feet.
Both open water and cave divers who pay admission fee can enjoy its hidden world. It contains a series of silted chambers separated only by narrow restrictions and the longest passageway is whopping 4,500 feet long.
Just tread carefully when exploring the subterranean realm because this is quite a challenging dive opportunity. There have been eight fatalities since 1964.
Throwing caution to the wind is not an option.
5. The Lost Sea, Sweetwater, Smoky Mountains
There are many things to do in the Smoky Mountains, but did you know about cave diving opportunities?
The area around Eastern Tennessee is rich with caves that tell an ancient story. Some of them also served as bases of moonshine operations for Native Americans in more recent times. The most spectacular spot, however, is 75 miles from a resort town of Gatlinburg, near Sweetwater.
It’s called The Lost Sea, a registered national landmark, part of the Craighead Caverns, an extensive system of caves. It harbors Cherokee artifacts, rare crystalline structures (“anthodites”), and other treasures.
Guinness World Record also declared it the largest underground lake in the whole of States. The visible section of this grand body of water is 800 feet long and 200 feet wide. Divers and sonar readers have charted only parts of the cave in the abyss beneath.
For now, nobody knows what more untold secrets lies there.
Cave Diving at Its Finest
From inland underwater caves to remote mountain retreats, the United States seems to have it all.
Some of the best sites around are just a flight or drive away. The only problem is that cave diving is seldom as simple as putting a mask and jumping in.
You require specialized equipment, proper training, and certification to appreciate these wonders of nature. There are also many risks associated with this extreme sports, so be advised. Practice cavern diving before going full cave diving.
Once you are ready for the real deal, hit the road. Examine halls packed with magnificent formations, creatures of the deep, and natural splendor. Get in touch with beauties only accessible to cave divers.
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