What is Cave Diving?
Cave scuba diving is diving and exploring in underwater cave systems in the ocean and inland flooded sinkholes and underground caves. This level of diving requires advanced training and courses added onto regular open water diving certifications. The difference is the location and the experience required to enter this new environment.
After an introduction to cave diving and going on various courses, spending time underwater will improve your experience and allow a better understanding of different diving environments. These courses range from wreck diving, night diving, and of course cave diving certification.
Completing the cave diving course will give you the tools and the basic understanding of how to approach diving in caves. It is a written and unwritten rule, never to approach any diving alone and this is especially so with cave diving.
Ocean and inland waterways have a myriad of underwater caves for either cavern diving or cave diving, the difference being that with cavern diving, you can always see natural light, whereas with cave scuba diving there are many dark areas that require an additional light source.
Why is it important to learn cave diving and get certification?
While there are numerous cave diving certification institutes worldwide who offer different certifications, they all have fundamental similarities. These range from introduction to cavern diving, closed-circuit rebreathers, diver propulsion vehicles and others.
Cave diving differs from conventional diving in several ways relating to specific knowledge on equipment and the cave environment. This is imperative to you and your dive buddy’s safety. The typical cave diving equipment is generally more rugged and offers greater exposure protection such as dry suits and robust life support and cave diving tools.
Things you need to know before taking a cave diving course
Many divers are intrigued to discover what diving in a cave is like. However, they do appreciate there are many different considerations when choosing this diving experience, as this is an entirely new world compared to conventional scuba diving.
Claustrophobia and fear of confined spaces is something to factor in when thinking of extreme cave diving as there will be times when you find yourself in dark narrow openings and small spaces.
There are various techniques and equipment that are required when diving in a cave. Sometimes the way things are done with regular scuba diving needs to change entirely to adapt to this new environment.
As cave diving is intrinsically more dangerous, one needs to be aware that in an emergency you cannot simply ascend to the surface of the water. Should a problem occur, this typically has to be resolved below the surface and in the cave.
What does the cave diving training process entail?
During training, various role play and drill scenarios are practiced. This is done to instil knowledge on how to be prepared in the worst case situations that may occur underwater. An example is how to control stress and stay calm in risky moments, which is vital for survival.
Courses for extreme cave diving will include several courses on swimming blind in zero visibility. These are simulated by either covering your mask or switching off the torch and using the guidelines to retrace your way to exit.
Many cave divers use rebreathers with double back mounted or side mounted tanks. If you do not have previous experience in using this equipment, this should be acquired. Familiarizing yourself with buoyancy control and different propulsion techniques are important because in confined spaces, fins can stir up fine silt and make visibility bad for those diving behind you.
Why is it worth learning to cave dive?
If you are the proverbial adrenaline junkie, which most cave divers are, now is the opportunity to expand your horizons by exploring flooded underwater caves that have a unique beauty. This challenge is what drives most cave divers. Deep sea cave diving is extremely technical and requires an advanced level of proficiency.
While migrating from conventional open water scuba diving to a more extreme activity, attending courses to learn to cave dive is necessary. All the unusual environments present the diver with a unique set of challenges with every dive.
Most cave diving training operators generally require a minimum of 100 logged dives to even begin a cave diving course, so this is usually attended by advanced divers who are looking for the next challenge.
While most scuba divers are naturally curious and love the environment, safe cave diving training can progress divers to a new and extremely unique experience, which is well worth the effort.
Popular cave diving spots
Around the world there are numerous awe inspiring inland and deep-sea cave sites, too many to mention, but there are a few that stand out from the rest:
- Mount Gambier, South America has around 30 cave diving sites, however 2 extraordinary sinkholes stand out and have gained popularity amongst advanced divers.
- Ben’s Cave, Bahamas is one of 2 inland blue holes in the Lucayan National Park on Grand Bahama. If you are the adventurous type, this is for you.
- First Cathedral, Hawaii has an underwater tunnel that leads to a vast two-story cavern about 15 metres deep. It offers a variety of passages and ridges to explore. Exiting the cave is an exhilarating ride as the surge shoots the divers out via a small opening.
- Grotta di Nereo, Sardinia limestone cliffs of the north western coast of Sardinia have caves with several tunnels and air chambers to explore. Nereo Cave is found 100 metres north of Neptune’s Grotto at around a depth of 35 metres.