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Sandra from Williston FL | Scuba Diver

Hi Y’all,

For those who want a brief profile, I’m a safe diver, and will have your back.

For those looking to learn more, get tied on, and have fun reading. :-)

As of Nov. 18, 2015, I completed my full cave certification, and I am also a member of the Silver Springs Professional Dive Team, who do volunteer work. We are a group who has been given permission to perform volunteer services promoting spring conservation and protection through cleaning the spring bottom, cleaning the glass bottom boats, and pressure washing the the algae off the statutes.

I started technical diving, during the summer of 2013, with instructor Lloyd Bailey, of Lloyd Bailey Scuba, in Gainesville. I completed Cavern with him.

While waiting for my other buddies to get their cavern cert., whereby we could merge on Intro to Cave together, I proceeded to prepare myself for the next level of cave by becoming sidemount certified through Bill Foote of the Ocala Dive Center

Having chosen to buy the 2015 Nomad LTZ, a sidemount bcd by Dive Rite, and being tiny, I needed it cut down radically, to fit my body. On Dec. 2, 2014, Lamar Hires, the creator of the bcd invited me to join his group at Peacock 1, and then fit my Nomad to me. His invitation brought up another good point for students searching for instructors to keep in mind. Select one that is an expert in the specialty you are going for, and don’t just take one based on lowest price, friendship, loyalty to a store, buying gear etc. Select your instructor based on knowledge, expertise, and that they actually dive in the gear you are going for. If you want to learn the correct way for sidemount, know that there are 2 schools of thought on this setup (loop bungee versus metal to metal), and know that if you are selecting a backmount doubles instructor, you will not be getting the best sidemount doubles instruction.

That day I took my "maiden cave-diving voyage" inside the Peacock 1 cave system with Lamar and his students, and am now his Cave student for life! ;-)

As of Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2015, I completed my NSS-CDS Full Cave course. I hope to continue dives with Lamar helping him reset and fix line in the various caves. Additionally, I’m about to begin learning the basics of cave survey through my buddy Guy.

On Wed. Feb. 8, 2017, I completed my 100th full-cave, non training dive, thereby qualifying to submit for my Abe Davis Award, which has been awarded to me. This is a big milestone accomplishment for all cave divers. I was extremely fortunate that a fantastic underwater photographer, Warren Lo, from Canada, offered to dive and photograph me and my buddy during my 100th. What a blessing indeed.

My caves thus far have been inside Peacock1 & III, Manatee Springs, Ginnie Springs Devil’s system (which is enormous with many dives to do including the Catacombs), Little River, the NSS-CDS owned Cow Sink, Madison Blue, Orange Grove, Jess’ Hole (private), Lisa’s Sink (private), Jug aka Ichetucknee, the Cave at Blue Grotto, Ruth Walker Sink, Telford Springs & Sink including Terrapin, Lafayette Blue, Hart Springs (Little Hart & Black Lagoon), Pot Springs (river cave), Lineater (river cave), Jackson Blue Spring, Buford Sink, McIntyre (river cave in GA) & Cypress Sink (river cave in GA).

So far, being a cave diver has been a glorious ride!

For those who don’t know, Lamar is one of the master cave diving pioneers, creator of the sidemount system that I now own (Nomad LTZ), and he’s a super cool, solid, trustworthy instructor, who majors in Cave Rescue & Recovery. He dives sidemount all the time, and his teaching style is very personable and relaxed. These elements combined, make for a solid foundation of an education.

Those who dive with me, know that I love underwater photography.

For those new to this site, diving and underwater photography, I came upon a good read when I first joined, that is also worth your time. Skip Straus summed up "a beginner’s ventures" quite nicely in his article, "Underwater Photography - Selecting Your First Camera," found at

As the Skipster stated, buoyancy is a key issue for all divers, let alone one trying to capture fantastic underwater images without stirring up the bottom. Combine that with learning a new camera, in a new environment, totally opposite of our "gravity bound" existence, while trying to curb one’s desire to shoot everything they see, and you will have a better picture of all the elements that need to come together to capture that "perfect image".

Plus, when choosing a dive buddy, make sure that you agree to dive with those sharing your interests, who are equally developed in their abilities if you are hoping to photograph your dive. Otherwise, you will be greatly disappointed.

Check out this video with me as the underwater diver, at Devil’s Den during Feb. 2013. Shah, my dive buddy from Malaysia, created it. What a fantastic job he did. Oh, and FYI, for all the scubadiving nitpickers, it was essential for me to move around in the light, under the overhead, to comply with Shah’s video choreography and needs in a low light environment. Had I have stayed still, all tucked up, it would not have worked for his 007 production. ;-),

Backing up a bit, most of my life I’ve lived on a coastline. From Cape Hatteras, NC, to Isle of Palms, SC, to northern and southern California, to Hawaii, to Florida, swimming, surfing, and snorkeling have always been a part of my life.

I enrolled in my first scuba diving class when I was 15 in SC. Unfortunately, we didn’t have transportation to our check-out dive in FL, so my sister and I never got certified.

Despite living in Hawaii, I still never took up the tanks, which looking back on now, I can’t understand.

It wasn’t until a few years ago, 2011, when I was starting up a photography business, that I was asked if I’d be interested in shooting an underwater wedding. With that thought in mind, I didn’t hesitate a moment, and immediately enrolled in a diving program and purchased my first SeaLife dc1200 for underwater photography, though I switched to the dc1400 immediately thereafter.

Now that I’ve had ample experience as a diver using a point and shoot, lights, running reels, buoyancy control, overhead environments, and ocean dives, I’ve just invested in a new Ikelite package that included a Canon EOS Rebel SL1/100D. This new setup will take me many months to learn, but as of May 2014, we begin. It is now Sept. 2016, I am now quite comfortable with my new camera setup, but need many more remote strobes to capture the truest essence of the magnificent cave’s nooks and crannies.

Inspired by diving with Shah, from Malaysia, I began my search for "Buddy Lists" again, and came upon

What a blessing. This is a "full service, one stop shop" community. I love it and thank Greg for creating this global network, along with Scuba Earth, which has connected me to a multitude of dive buddies, who I hook up with regularly. Additionally, linked me to ScubaBoard, whereby another local diver (Instructor Bill Rivers), also now on DiveBuddy, found me, and we too have become dive buddies. Bottomline is that Greg created a site that has reopened a door for me, that appeared to be closed, to a world that is beyond magnificent. Thank you Greg.

Dive History:
Certified through Bill Foote of Ocala Dive, LLC. & Lloyd Bailey of Lloyd Bailey Scuba, in Gainesville, FL.

Have dived:
Rainbow River’s KP Hole (drift dive), Alexander Springs, Troy Springs, Blue Grotto (cavern & fc, i.e., full cave), Devil’s Den, Manatee Springs, Catfish Hotel (fc), Ginnie Springs, Devil’s Eye/Devil’s Ear (fc), Fanning Springs, Paradise Springs, Orange Grove Sink (fc), Volusia Blue Spring State Park, Peacock 1 & III (fc), Madison State Park (fc), Silver Springs, Little River (fc), Ichetucknee Springs aka Jug/Blue Hole (fc), Cow Sink (fc), Jess’ Hole (fc), ocean sites off of West Palm (OW), Ruth Walker Spring (fc), Telford Spring, Sink & Terrapin (fc), Lafayette Blue Spring and her many, many sinks along the cave route (fc), Hart Spring (Little Hart & Black Lagoon)(fc), Pot Springs (fc/river), Lineater (fc/river), Jackson Blue Spring (fc), Buford Sink (flooded with zero visibility made it a full cave dive), McIntyre (fc/river) & Cypress Sink (fc/river).

The West Palm dives consisted of 6 dives, which included night diving and shipwreck diving, and using Nitrox. Deepest dive thus far has been 120 ft.

Favorite local "recreational" dive: Without a doubt, it has to be the duckweed covered, Catfish Hotel, located at Manatee Springs, and Devil’s Ear, located at Ginnie Springs. They are absolutely surreal due to organic matter creating phenomenal colors as a result of the tannins in the water.

Devil’s Den and Blue Grotto are tremendously fun dives with unique photographic opportunity, and like them, Paradise Springs in Ocala, has turned into one of my new favorites too.

Blue Spring State Park, located in Orange City, Volusia County, is hands down, one beautiful site to dive. Now it has become my new favorite, and it’s not just because the manatee were there my first day diving it, but honestly, the formations inside the spring are simply beautiful.

Orange Grove Sink and Peacock 1, continue to call to me to return to them, and so , I shall. I’m now Full Cave certified, and without a doubt, I can’t really pinpoint a favorite cave system, as they are all so unique and individual in what glories they offer.

From what I’ve seen inside the Ginnie system, I liked the Catacombs, with all it’s nooks and crannies, like swiss cheese. It was fun to navigate with no lights on, exploring how to follow the line to get out without crashing into the walls being that the line goes under many small places.

Little River has so much to offer cave divers, videographers, and photographers, and I can’t wait to return.

Of course, depending on the lighting and water levels, the views inside of Devil’s Den are magnificent. Good place for underwater video. Easy to do a two tank dive there, but recreational divers are all that are allowed. No backmount doubles, or sidemount permitted. No penetrating their cave system either.,

I also liked the upper portions of the Rainbow River, and Alexander Springs.

Favorite Dives (ever):
Recreational: The reef called Mizpah and Flower Gardens on West Palm coast.

Technical: Hart Springs, as she offers so much photographic opportunity with the diversity of terrain after the 1400 ft. of penetration mark. The closer to Black Lagoon you get, the more incredibly beautiful the geography gets, plus...less flow! However, now that I’ve dove Jackson Blue and have become acquainted with her tremendous fossil bank...I’m hooked!!!

Type of diving desired: Early morning, daylight diving in order to capture the light rays and get good photographs before bottoms get stirred up, fish depart, and visibility reduced.

I’m also interested in “environmental” diving, and learning more as to how to reverse the harmful effects we humans have had on all waterways and marine life.

Qualities in a dive partner: I’d like to link with another photographer, or a diver not in a hurry to complete a dive, so as to allow me the time required to capture good underwater shots, and to simply sit still on the bottom and enjoy being a fish. I’d like to connect with non-smokers. While smoking is your choice, I’m extremely allergic to cigarette smoke, and smelling it causes me migraines. Plus, I do love my lungs and don’t wish to do bodily harm to myself as I explore God’s waterways.

I’m available to dive weekdays, as I typically work all weekends, unless arranged well in advance.

Additional Information: I’m 5 foot, an ex-jockey, an animal welfare advocate, vegan who eats predominantly organic, non-GMO foods. I’m full of energy, joy-filled, and love Jesus. While I enjoy going out for a bite to eat after a dive, with the group, I really have no interest in going to burger joints or bars, which is why I’d prefer to pack a lunch, and be with divers cut from the same cloth. No offense, just my personal taste, so to speak. Love a good beer though! ;-)

For those not familiar with what FL has to offer, here is a link to various FL springs:

As a former NM resident, I eagerly await the time when I’ll move back to the wonderful southwest. At that point, I will be sure to dive the Blue Hole.

Therefore, altitude certification is also on my diving, educational agenda.

In conclusion, I have all my gear, tanks are filled, and I’m ready to roll. I’m attentive to details, have a background in healthcare, CPR/First Aid trained, retain a DAN membership, don’t take any drugs, fearless but intelligent, and game for exploration.

Being a photographer, I’d like to link with other divers who appreciate exploring our God-given water world, but who do not feel inclined to hunt, harass, harm it (meaning buoyancy control and watch what your body and fins hit), or take it from its natural place (meaning don’t pick up the marine life).

As pledged in medicine, "Do no further harm". Blue Grotto Cave


Deanna - 5/20/2017 6:56 PM
Would love to dive Devils Den in August....would you be able to dive with me? I’m free after August 1. I live in VA but, coming to Jacksonville to see family between semesters.

SantaFeSandy - 1/28/2015 5:35 PM
Check out this article I wrote called, "Protecting our Beautiful Springs," and the photos I shot, on the new Sportody Broadcast Blog.
tstormdiver - 1/29/2015 6:04 AM
Very nice! Heading down that way in a couple of weeks. "Cave country" has become my home away from home!
MJ_Kiss - 10/20/2014 5:59 AM
Hi Sandy. Thanks for accepting me as your buddy. You sound like a fellow lady of adventure. I look forward to meeting you. - Marian "MJ" Jacklich
GoDeeper - 10/31/2013 6:11 AM
Nice to meet you!

SantaFeSandy - 11/19/2013 7:18 PM
Hi Ty, so did you ever convey your thoughts to Kurt when you were at Blue Grotto? Did you have fun? I’ll be diving there tomorrow.
dheary - 10/28/2013 6:17 PM
That would be great-I will be in the area to shoot some horses in Ocala and dive the ’springs" for the first time. I called Grotto and Devil and one has to have a buddy...t/y for the quick response....SantaFeSandy
alaz - 9/11/2013 7:34 PM
Good attitude! I always carry the plan to train right, to leave with the same number of people that I started with, always have an escape route, and the cavern, ocean, or mountain isn’t going anywhere it will still be there later.

Not the easiest schedules to match, but possible. I’d like to keep in touch the calendar might mesh sometime.
SantaFeSandy - 9/16/2013 2:32 PM
Call or text me when you’re able to dive the springs in my area. 352.262.6993.
SantaFeSandy - 6/05/2013 6:19 PM
So today was my first day of Cavern training. The classroom portion went really well. Now I’m looking forward to our dives at Ginnie Springs, this coming Thursday.
N0MAD - 5/16/2013 4:09 AM
Incredible dives! Won’t get this opportunity in Hawaii. Thanks for hooking up with me, Sandy, and sharing lunch. Look me up if you’re ever out to visit.
SantaFeSandy - 5/16/2013 4:38 AM
Hi Dameon. I agree that both our Devi’s Den dives were magnificent. Too bad that time constraints recent us from diving both holes at Manatee Springs. Checkout Catfish Hotel. I put our pics up on my personal Facebook page, as the low lighting stopped my camera from focusing, & while the quality is horrible, the memories are intact.
SantaFeSandy - 5/16/2013 6:43 AM
oops, iPhone typo in the body of my reply message. Should have said, "Too bad that time constraints prevent us from diving both holes..." Anyway, as I was saying, while my camera was horrible about focusing in such low light (I’ll try messing with all the manual options before sending it back as defective), the two video shots turned out okay. Here is the one with you in it. I’ll post the link to the other one in a few minutes. I did upload these onto both my website, as well as Flickr, where I am SantaFeSandy there too.
WanderingTurtle - 4/29/2013 3:04 AM
Thank you for adding me. I’m a newbie in both diving and photography, and I’m always looking for ways to learn and fine tune my skills. Looking forward to diving with you in the future and to check out more of your photos. Maybe one day, when I get comfortable with the diving part I can shadow you on your photo swim excursions. Dive deep! - Turtle
SantaFeSandy - 4/29/2013 3:07 AM
Hi, what do you want to be called, Turtle? Only problem is that I live in FL, and it appears that you are in NJ. That would have to be a real high sun to have you shadow me at this point. :-)
SantaFeSandy - 4/29/2013 3:08 AM
By the way Turtle, have you been to my website to see my latest upload of photos from the various springs in my area? Some cool shots at Ginnie, Catfish Hotel, Devil’s Den, Manatee etc.
WanderingTurtle - 4/29/2013 3:25 AM
Lol! I get that a lot. Turtle is fine (long story behind it). I got friends and family all over Florida, and I can’t NOT dive in FL. I’ll be stalking your pictures, until I get "schooled."
SantaFeSandy - 4/29/2013 3:29 AM
I use to ride racehorses with colleague going by the name of Turtle too.
WanderingTurtle - 4/29/2013 3:49 AM
Cool! I ride for recreation. Then again, everything I do is for recreation.
TheScubaGym - 4/19/2013 8:39 AM
Looking forward to diving with you! We dive nonstop over now until November. Come along or let us know when you have a day off. With or without the shop, we love to dive! David and Kim with The Scuba Gym
SantaFeSandy - 4/29/2013 3:10 AM
Thanks David. Now where exactly are you located in relation to the Gainesville, or Ocala area? I just sent you a message about a group of us forming to dive Rainbow River this coming May 2, with Lloyd Baily.