Websters define the
word “‘grotto” as, “a small
cave (usually with attractive features).” Seems
fairly straight forward, until one conducts a search
on the Internet using the keyword, “Grotto”.
Web surfers will find non-profit organizations, literature,
and even a pizza company. In the process they may
miss out on the adventurous opportunities waiting
in the world of grottos, specifically, via Hal Watts'
Forty Fathom Grotto, located 40 minutes from Ocala,
Hal’s grotto actually began as one of Florida’s
infamous sinkholes. A sinkhole, is, in essence, a large
depression in the ground, resulting from a collapse
of the underlying bedrock. According to the Florida
Sinkhole Research Institute (FSRI), “In Florida,
because of the unique geologic and hydraulic conditions,
sinkholes appear almost everywhere, especially in the
Central Florida region. Sinkhole collapse has become
a serious problem. In 1981, there were over 300 sinkhole
incidents reported. The most spectacular one was the
well-publicized Winter Park sinkhole, which occurred
on May 8, 1981. This sinkhole was approximately 320
feet (100 meters) in diameter, with estimated damage
of more than two million dollars (U.S. $2.0 M) worth
of property. Subsequently, more sinkholes collapse
every year, especially during the drought, cold, and
extremely wet seasons. Potential sinkhole occurrence
will impact adversely on land development and construction.”
Nevertheless, Hal has
managed to turn a seemingly negative subject into
a very positive experience
for many people.
Hal started diving in the sinkhole back in 1962
with his buddies from the gun club. Today, Hal offers
deep-water scuba diving courses, and guided tours
within the grotto.
The hole reaches 240 feet, or "Forty Fathoms.” Divers
are at their safest within the grotto, because
of its cloudless and pleasant water. The water
ranges from 67 to 73 degrees.
Hal’s Forty Fathom Grotto is a NAUI Technical
Training Facility. Hal specializes in deep-water diving,
also called Extended Range Recreational Diving, and
is the founder of PSA, an organization established
in order “to offer the diving public quality
training and certification through Extended Range Diver
Courses (ERDCs). Originally PSA planned to offer only
Extended Range Deep Air training; however, the staff
quickly recognized that their expertise could benefit
divers who were interested in other ERDCs,” as
Hal’s web site describes. Their logo is the “Golden
Triangle”, which highlights the organization’s
three values - Knowledge, Safety, Integrity
During the training at the grotto each participant
will first receive a course manual. Then, divers
will be put in the hands of an extremely skilled
to begin hands-on learning in the water. The
training is a tremendous value, and convenient.
participants can obtain all required equipment,
through the full
service dive shop. For extra value, take advantage
of Hal’s special, when a student enrolls
in two or more classes they receive a 10% reduction
class fees. Also, all scuba instructors are allowed
complimentary entrance in the grotto, when they
bring other divers.
Guided tours in the
grotto are also available. There are thousands of
reasons to dive in the grotto.
fact, there are thousands of ancient sand dollar
and sea biscuit fossils. They range in age from
30 to 50
million years old. The walls of the grotto are
made of limestone, and make an impressive display
The facility is fully
equipped for a day’s outing,
with restrooms, showers, picnic tables, grills,
a classroom, loading decks, steps to the water, and
air fills situated
on floating docks. There is also a bungalow on
site that houses about 10 people.
The professionals of "The Grotto" offer
several different types of certifications, including
Certification, referral certification dives,
and certifications through IANTD, TDI, NACD and NSS-CDS.
Visit Hal's web site
Adventure.com and let his photo gallery
tell the story of “The Grotto”.
Watts` Forty Fathom Grotto
LOCATION: Ocala, Marion Central Florida
ACTIVITIES: Cave Diving, Guided Expeditions,
Scuba Diving, Scuba Instruction
DESCRIPTION: This is one of the most interesting dive
sites for all phases of diving, including all levels
of training from open water through technical, or just
Phone: (352) 368-7974
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