Cave diving is a thrilling and exhilarating adventure sport. Dive deep into the depths of the waters to explore parts of the world largely untouched by human hands. Discover underwater caves and explore the deep, hollow caverns. Dive into the dark depths of a new world and swim alongside stalagmites and stalactites. Extravagant, open chambers will leave you wanting more.
So, what is involved with cave diving? Different equipment and training are required compared to recreational diving. We will go in-depth on what you need and where you should go for the ultimate cave diving adventure.
Cave Diving Tips
Basic tips to help you prepare for cave diving and understand what to expect on your journey. Always remember that your trainer knows your area best and will be able to provide the most effective tips.
Understand What Cave Diving Is
Cave diving is a form of technical diving. This is different than recreational diving like open-water diving or cavern diving. These recreational forms of diving have easier access to the surface of the water and sunlight is visible throughout.
People typically gain experience with open-water diving first before moving to cavern diving. Finally, they will have enough experience and knowledge to receive training in cave diving.
Cave diving requires more equipment and more training. Fitness and ability to get the best gear is important for this adventure sport. You will be going deeper underwater and entering complex cave systems that can take a long time to exit.
First, and most importantly, you will need to learn the basics through a professional trainer. Although cave diving is the ultimate underwater experience, it does not come without dangers. A trained professional will be able to teach you the best methods and skills to prepare for possible mishaps.
Cave diving is different from other types of diving, so your previous experience will not factor into this training. You will need to use specialized swimming techniques when cave diving. For example, to avoid disturbing the sediment at the bottom of the cave, you will need to learn the art of frog kicks or modified flutter kicks. These techniques keep moving towards the center of the body.
Pull and glide movements help a diver move through a cave system in a gliding motion with ease.
To become a certified cave diver, you will need to progress through several education courses. The certifying organization, NAUI, lists these courses for cave divers: Introduction to Technical Diving Skills, Mixed Gasses and Decompression Diving, Overhead Environments, Cavern Diver, Cave Diver Levels One and Two, and Cave Guide.
These courses will often involve multiple class sessions and include several dives. While some people will not be considering the cave guide as a career option, this course is still required to complete the training program and receive your certificate.
On your first few dives, it is important to take it slow and remember that you are still learning the ropes.
Turn the Lights On
Since you will be diving deep into the caverns and trenches, you will require light sources. Complete darkness lurks around you without these light sources, so it is often recommended to take three separate lights. Make sure that your main light source and backup sources are prepped with fresh batteries before heading out.
Dive lights are often either halogen, high-intensity discharge types, or light-emitting diodes. Many divers prefer a light that has a narrow beam, but make sure you pick whatever you feel most comfortable using.
Use a Guideline
During training, you will be taught how to use a guideline throughout a cave system. Since getting lost within a cave is relatively easy, it is important to make guidelines to use a habit.
Make sure that your guidelines are made of nylon or some other strong material that can resist natural elements. Create knots along the line to help measure distances that you have explored. A white or other reflective color is also beneficial, although this is not a hard-set rule that everyone follows.
Rule of Thirds
The rule of thirds is all about appropriate gas management. Safety is necessary to consider and plan ahead of time when diving. This rule states that you should use one-third of your gas on the initial dive, another third for exiting the dive, and the final third should be used for unexpected circumstances.
Understand the Limits
Knowing your limits refers to your body and your equipment. You should never exceed the operating limits of the gas and stay within predetermined parameters.
Caves are dark and cold, and you may need to retreat for a variety of reasons. Equipment failures, tiredness, or some other problem limit your safety and you will need to quit. It is important to create a hand signal (like a thumb’s up sign) to end the dive.
Potentially stressful situations will likely occur at some point in your adventuring, and it is vital to remember to stay calm. In cave diving, there is likely no chance of quickly getting someone in a panic to the surface.
Training scenarios will often include some of these stressful moments to help you prepare for them. Examples of these scenarios include losing visibility, losing a buddy, running out of the air, equipment malfunctions, or even a combination of these things.
Equipment for Cave Diving
While most people will have their preferred items that they like to bring along for the journey, several pieces of equipment are necessary for cave diving. Your instructor will help you learn how to use these tools.
The best masks available for cave diving are crafted from black silicone skirts. This material is durable and lightweight with great volume. Black silicone skirt masks allow your pupils to dilate, which will help you in the dark caverns that you are exploring.
You will be diving down into deep waters that are quite cold. These suits are made for the cave diver and often have pockets that allow you to carry other necessary equipment. Enough space is provided that you are also able to wear thermal undergarments for added warmth.
Drysuits are limited with waterproof material and openings along the neck and wrists are sealed with watertight latex.
You cannot cave dive without air tanks. These solidly built tanks come as a pair and are held together with steel bands. Each has its own on and off valves for independent operation.
Flat-bladed fins will prevent entanglement and assist the diver with the specialized swimming techniques required of cave divers. Split fins and hinged fins are not permitted when cave diving.
The timer will allow the diver to gauge time. These timers use standard decompression tables and allow you to calculate the amount of decompression that stops while ascending.
You will need your primary and backup light sources anytime you dive. Your primary light source should be an LED lamp that is at a minimum 1000 lumen. Higher lumen is preferred and often recommended. A hand mount is needed for the light, and backup battery canisters connect through a cord.
The backup lights are typically stored on the back of the hand. Although you do have a primary light, your backup lights should not be made from cheap materials. In the deep, dark caves, these lights can be lifesavers.
If you get entangled in plant matter, guidelines, or other equipment, you will want a way to cut yourself free. This knife will often be attached to your harness for quick access. Many divers keep a secondary knife on the light head handle.
Backplate and Harnesses
These will hold the tanks in the right position. The webbed threads help hold the equipment in place.
This is all about buoyancy regulation. It is attached to the tank and can be inflated to increase buoyancy as needed.
These oxygen housing units help the diver accelerate their decompression schedules. This is often used during emergencies.
Surface Marker Buoy
When you are learning how to cave dive, you will need a surface marker buoy. These mark the area of the surface and where you can ascend. Using the regulator that you have, you can use the exhaust to inflate the buoy into the water.
Reels and Spools
When team diving, it is important that the whole team has a primary reel that starts at the cave entrance. Each diver should have two safety reels of their own.
An adequate length is 150ft or higher for reels, and spools can offer a convenient way to manage them.
Wrist slates are popular amongst other technical diving enthusiasts, but you will not need that kind as a cave diver. Instead, you should opt for the wet notes that can be stored in your thigh pocket. Since you will not be needing these notes very often, this is a convenient way to store them.
Best Places to Cave Dive
You have learned proper tips for cave diving and learned about the necessary equipment needed. Now, let’s discuss the best places to cave dive.
Cave diving is stepping it up in the world of diving, and the world provides limitless opportunities for you to get your feet wet. These epic places are complete with dark fissures, narrow shafts, open caverns, and so much more. See what you can discover all across the globe in some of the most gorgeous locations.
Many of these places are best experienced in the fall, so get to work on your certifications and training early.
Anhumas Abyss in Bonito, Brazil
The gorgeous steam of sunlight illuminates this cavern for a short period each day. Experience crystal clear waters while swimming alongside schools of fish with a moderately sized group of people. You will need an open water certification. The best time to come here is December through March.
Great Blue Hole in Belize
This limestone sinkhole is commonly found on lists of the most beautiful places to see. There are 11 spectacular underwater caves to explore – each unique and worth seeing in full. Thousands of years ago, this cave system was formed through a sinkhole and the deep blue appearance is just one reason to come here for quality cave diving.
Chinhoyi Caves in Zimbabwe
These complex cave system is great for all levels of divers and provides something for everyone to see. Entrances to caves are at various points, but the Sleeping Pool is by far the most popular. Crystal clear waters sparkle along the 65-foot vertical walls.
Other rooms are littered with bones for those interested in oddities and anatomy. Other rooms contain coins, tossed in for a stroke of good luck and a promise of a wish fulfilled.
Kilsby’s Sinkhole in South Australia
This is a year-round option for our cave divers looking for a challenge. With a fascinating history and sparkling clear fresh waters, divers have been flocking to this cave since the 1950s. Measuring at about 213-feet, this limestone sinkhole is filled with overhead places for a cave diver to explore.
Indian Springs in Florida, USA
You will need to be an experienced cave diver, with at least 100 cave dives under your belt, to experience Indian Springs. On the surface, this might not appear to be anything spectacular. Sitting on private property, this cave dive is one of the best experiences to collect in the USA.
Deep tunnels reach 600-feet before splitting at a T-junction. There are several caverns and other points of interest to explore within the cave. Some of the most popular rooms are given mysterious names like Bone Narcosis Room, Wakulla Room, or the Power Room.
Cave diving is a technical diving adventure sport that requires skill and provides chills and thrills. With the proper training and certifications, you can work your way up to the most challenging and complex cave systems in the world. A healthy mind and body are required to keep up with the physical demands and mentally stressful tasks. Turn your autumns into vacation dreamlands by challenging yourself to the thrills of cave diving.