While we usually complete the Open Water checkout dives at Lake Denton in Avon Park and at Rainbow River in Dunnellon, we sometimes make our way over to Blue Grotto just about a half hour north of K.P. Hole (where we insert into Rainbow River). It’s across the street from Devil’s Den, too. It’s something I recommend diving once or twice, but outside of training dives there isn’t much reason to make frequent visits. It’s a pretty and simple dive for the Open Water Diver and maxes at a depth of 100 feet in clear water, making it a prime training site for Deep Diver or Rebreather courses.
Blue Grotto, like the other freshwater springs prevalent in north Florida spring country, is a constant 72° F year-round (so, if you’re like me, it’s freezing). Without disturbing the silty bottom, the visibility is pristine. Not much life resides in the spring other than some fishes and the resident soft shell turtle, Mrs. Virgil (yes, she’s a lady!).
Divers enter the mouth of the 80-foot-wide cavern down a set of stairs onto a platform. The main area is called the Open Water Basin, with an air bell at 30 feet. The bell is fed compressed air and a 360° view of the basin. At 50 feet the Upper Cavern begins, and a guideline leads the way all the way down the the Lower Cavern, down to 100 feet.
The grotto is privately owned and offers showers, camping, and picnicking. You can find more information about their campsites and cabins, as well as park fees, at the Blue Grotto website. Be sure to arrive on time if you are with a group, or earlier than your planned dive if you’re diving on your own, as you have to watch an informational video and sign waivers before you may dive.
Upcoming at Blue Grotto
As I mentioned, it’s certainly something to see once or twice for fun. But I find its value in its ease and crystal visibility for training purposes. That being said, I’m writing about Blue Grotto because we’re teaching a Deep Diver and Night Diver course at Jim’s Dive Shop this month and the checkout dives will be at Blue Grotto on Saturday, September 24, 2016. The classroom session will be held at the shop on Wednesday September 21. Click here to access the Facebook event page. We’re meeting at Blue Grotto at 2:00 PM and between dives we are going to kill time with a fun cookout! The park is very pretty and is pleasant to spend time in even if you aren’t diving the cavern.