November 20, 2016
Twice now we have made a journey to Florida over Thanksgiving week for a scuba dive trip. Despite diving being our primary focus, we of course did a little hiking. I actually changed the name of my blog to the Herd of Turtles Hiking and Adventure Club to reflect our enjoyment of other activities in addition to hiking.
Our first dive was in a sinkhole affectionately known as Catfish Hotel. I’ll never forget my first look at Catfish Hotel Sinkhole back in 2014. All I saw was a duckweed covered puddle that looked to be a perfect place for alligators to hide! The sinkhole is considerably bigger than it appears from the surface and is 60 – 70 feet deep depending on water level. Despite being covered in duckweed, the water visibility is usually quite good. Especially compared to our lakes up north!
Catfish Hotel gets it’s name from the numerous catfish hiding amongst the rock shelves lining the edges of the sink. The catfish could be visualized with flashlights but I was unable to get a decent picture of them. I did get a few interesting underwater shots of the rock walls.
Our second dive took place a short walk to the outflow area of the cave system. This is a shallow dive in a sink at the end of a short tributary of the Suwanee River. Lots of fish here and lots of fun seeing how close you could get to the cave entrance battling the strong outflow current.
After diving, hitting the full service BBQ run by Anderson’s Outdoor Adventures is a must-do. After a tasty pulled pork sandwich and a cold beer (yep, they have those too!), we were ready to hit the trail. First walk was down the short boardwalk leading to the Suwannee River.
The boardwalk offers a great view of the cypress swamp. A severe drought meant the swamp was mostly dry.
A short metal pier allows you to venture out over the Suwannee River a bit. We saw large groups of birds flying over the water.
The boardwalk is an out and back hike of less than a mile. There are a total of 8 1/2 miles of hiking trails at Manatee Springs. We followed up our boardwalk hike with a short loop on the North Trail. The trail was dry and sandy with lots of saw palmettos. We did less than 3 miles total hiking but after our 2 dives, we were ready to head back to our cabin.
Manatee Springs is a beautiful park and you can easily spend a day, or even a weekend here. Lots of hiking opportunities for those so inclined. The diving is fun and costs only the price of admission to the park. You must register at the gate and leave your C-card, but that’s it! There is no dive shop so go prepared with all your equipment and full tanks. Be sure to remember to pick up your dive card when you leave. Otherwise you’ll have to make a return visit to retrieve it. Ask me how I know this. 🙂