On the way back to NC from a Florida van trip The Dude and I made a stop to Ginnie Springs. Ginnie Springs was a place I had wanted to go to previously in the year but the weather had different plans when Hurricane Matthew hit and canceled my original trip/diving plans. When we decided to go to Florida I had it in my heart to definitely make a stop at Ginnie Springs , initially because of the hope for manatee sightings as well as t,o experience the crystal clear water. Visibility Forever, is the first thing you see on the Ginnie Springs homepage, and they aren’t lying.
Being a novice diver of North Carolina wrecks and quarries, and wanting to expand to free diving I thought it would be a great way to get my gills back into mermaid mode. Since I had recently snorkeled in what is said to be some of the clearest water in the wold in Iceland, I was excited to experience something similar and within much better reach. Snorkeling Silfra between the European and North American tectonic plates in Iceland was an unforgettable experience, if you’re interested in my snorkel adventure check it out here.
Our route our Florida was from I-95 to the Jacksonville area followed by stopping near Orlando and then making our way to the west coast to visit Sanibel, Cape Coral, the St. Petersburg area and the surrounding Tampa areas over the course of about a week. Being on the west coast towards the end of our trip it was feasible to a stop at Ginnie Springs passing Gainesville on our way back to I-95. During our time in St. Petersburg The Dude came through and went full Adventure Logistician and I had an amazing encounter with manatees, fish, and all other kinds of wildlife in a more natural setting that certainly made my wildlife-loving soul full.
We made it up to the springs by early afternoon and checked in. Ginnie Springs is privately owned and has a check in area that resembles and feels like a mom and pop campground. It was empty at first in the bigger springs and I was able to explore around as far and deep as my confidence would allow. My mother used to tell me as a child “climb no higher than you care to fall” so I seemed to transpose the sentiment in the opposite direction and “swim no deeper into caves than I care to be stuck without air”.
Even though I may have been in a bikini I was wishing I had at least a spring wetsuit on as it was a bit chilly. When I first got in the springs it was cooler and as the sun rose higher more people arrived, divers and diver course came out, and the sun warmed the chill whenever I stepped out from the water.
Ginnie Springs was an amazing experience because of the peacefulness, once I took my last deep breath and my head went below to surface to dive down, only the sound of lingering bubbles floating up were left until I was left with nothing but calmness and quiet. A calmness that can be meditative, and in a way both an experience of sensory deprivation and sensory overload all at once. Diving can be peaceful and relaxing but ditching a regulator and surrounding boat noises doesn’t deprive that sense. Hearing virtually nothing while feeling weightless in comparison to the rising and falling that I feel while inhaling and exhaling on a dive, leaves nothing but the visual overload of visibility forever. The visuals and the movement from swimming made it easy to forget how cold it was. The sensation of seeing crystal clear blue color in the more open springs, and deeper green in the springs with vertical trenches, was only amplified once coming up for air and seeing trees and what looked liked diving up from a forest floor. Not going to lie, it was pretty trippy.
Ginnie Springs in January was cold but definitely worth the stop. I hope to explore more of the springs in Florida next time I’m down. Diving the springs would be a sight to see with the caves, trenches, and clearness of the water without the constraint of a breath hold. The springs also offer a place to kayak, standup paddle board and float in inner tubes in a lazy-river fashion.
One of these days I plan on working on my breath holds and possibly expanding into the world of free diving with a course, just have to work on my gills. Luckily I can go fresh or saltwater mermaid mode. Don’t forget your mask and fins when near bodies of water, and don’t forget a towel.