For experienced scuba divers, who want to experience something completely different, cave diving is fascinating and exhilarating. Scuba diving in a cave is unlike anything you’ve ever experienced, it is similar to spelunking (normal cave exploration), but with the added thrill of being underwater. Open water scuba divers are accustomed to not being completely surrounded and with the freedom to move and swim wherever they choose. Cave diving is different; you will often be following a predefined course through narrow crevasses into great “rooms”. Penetrative wreck diving also involves scuba in an enclosed space, but an experienced diver would agree that the two are difficult to compare.
Aside from the regular scuba equipment, for cave diving you will need an underwater torch or underwater light. Once you are past the entrance you will not be able to see without it. The darkness is absolute. The only light you will get is the light you bring with you. As part of your training, you should know how to secure the strap to your wrist or BCD to ensure that it will not be lost if it is dropped. As exhilarating as it is to be diving in a cave there are few things more frightening than being disoriented deep within a cave, with no light. Scuba divers always dive with a buddy, but in cave diving a buddy with a light can save your life if your light burns out, gets broken or is inadvertently dropped and lost.
For the recreational scuba diver, many popular diving caves will have been explored thoroughly and will be marked with direction signs and strung with guidelines. A cave system is almost never a simple series of rooms connected along an easy path; cave systems are complex mazes of many passages. Imagine entering an underwater room and looking back to see that there is not one, but dozens of passages that all look similar, not knowing which way leads back to the entrance. Being neutrally buoyant, in a space which looks similar in every direction, can be very disorienting and most cave diving fatalities are the result of poor navigation. Established cave diving sites have guide lines strung through them so that you can follow it back to the entrance.
Why would a scuba diver want to explore underwater caves? Quite simply, the interiors of caves are beautiful. As you enter an underwater cave the first sensations are excitement and awe. Many underwater caves look quite boring from the outside, but once you get inside the beauty and serenity will astound you. The water in caves is not stirred by waves or tides, so it is so incredibly clear. In fact, you may forget you are underwater and instead feel like you are floating in air.
Cave diving is obviously not for people who may have claustrophobic tendencies. Before attempting cave diving the diver must know themselves and know their boundaries and be certain they are comfortable in enclosed spaces. For open water divers additional training is required.
Cave Diving is not like Open Water diving. Open Water divers require additional training before attempting cave diving.
Safety precautions for cave diving includes:
- Get training. Learn how to do it before you try it.
- Reserve an extra light source. Every member of the group must have a main torch, and a backup light source strapped to their gear which can be retrieved if the other fails. Some recommend 3. More is safer.
- Be conservative with your air. Do not extend the dive those extra 5 minutes because you’re having such a good time – remember an open water diver can head for the surface at any time. You still have some swimming to do before you get out – don’t count on being able to hold your breath! A popular recommendation is to divide your tank pressure into thirds; spend one third going in, one third going out and keep the last third in reserve.
- Enter and Exit as a group. The air rule applies to the entire group. When the first member of the group reaches 1/3 air supply, the entire group must head back.
- Follow the guideline. Don’t stray curiously into adjoining passages assuming you will find your way back.
- If you go cave diving, do it safely!
- The safety precautions on this page are incomprehensive, and are not a substitute for cave training. To get training for cave diving, ask at your dive shop.