Cave Diving: First Time Cave Training in the Cenotes
For a long time I had been intrigued by cave diving. There are many underwater caves in the world ready to be explored by intrepid cave divers.
The Cenotes of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico are particularly famous caves. Read more about why we chose the Cenotes for our First ever Cave Training.
When Dom and I decided to come to Mexico, one of our plans was to become full cave divers. A couple of weeks into the Country we enrolled in the full cave course. We chose to do it with Anders Heegaard of GoPro Playa a very experienced cave diver and an excellent TDI full cave instructor.
Everyone I know that went through the course described it as the hardest and most challenging course they ever done. I could not fully understand this statement until I did the course myself.
I was very excited but also a little scared of doing something totally unknown. Speaking of scuba diving I was getting out of my comfort zone.
COURSE HIGHLIGHTS AND EQUIPMENT
The course was divided into three parts: Cavern Diver, Introduction to Cave and Full Cave. And it was spread over 9 intensive days.
It’s paramount to get into the course with a very open mind. You must forget that you’re already an experienced scuba diver or in our case experienced scuba diving instructors. It is a whole different level of diving.
Every diver needs a set of twin tanks with two regulators, one primary underwater light and two back up lights, one cutting device, one primary reel and two safety spools (minimum), personalized cookies and arrows, a spare mask, dive computer and a timing device. The maximum number of divers for any team is three. It’s all about Doing it Right.
CAVERN DIVER: DAY 1-3
This included an introduction to cave diving, equipment set up, land drills and in-water practice. From day one we learned that it’s paramount to look at the line at all times to never lose orientation.
We were introduced to pre-dive gear matching and safety drills (the practice of gas sharing). These need to be done between all team buddies at the beginning of every dive. We learned how to communicate underwater making signs with our primary lights and how to calculate our turning gas points (dive planning).
We practiced trim, buoyancy and efficient kicks technics including reverse kicking. We practiced exit in a gas sharing or no visibility situation and a situation when both occur at the same time. This is the ultimate worst-case scenario in cave diving.
INTRODUCTION TO CAVE: DAY 4-6
At this point, we were ready to be introduced to caves. I was still struggling with my trim and buoyancy which made me very frustrated. Trim and buoyancy were for me the most challenging part of the course. I am a small person and it took a long time to adjust to the huge and heavy equipment. (I might in the future turn to sidemount, much better for small people!)
During this part of the course we learned to set up the line from the open water cavern area to the cave line and we started to enter the cave slightly. We continued practicing exit in no visibility and gas sharing. It’s very important to exit the caves in less time than it takes to enter especially in an emergency situation.
FULL CAVE TRAINING: DAY 7-9
That’s it! Here we entered the cave properly. In this last part of the course, we practiced all that we had learned so far plus more challenging skills such as setting up a line for doing jumps from one cave to the other, lost line and lost buddy situations.
On the last day, we had our assessment dive. The dive included pre-dive gear matching and safety drill, dive planning, enter the cave, turning point, and exit the cave in a gas sharing no visibility situation in less time than we entered.
We passed it and it was such a relief! Of course, we also had a written evaluation test.
The whole course is awesome, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It definitely makes me a more aware and confident diver. I have given some highlights here but there is much more to it.
During the course, I was able to fully understand what people meant by hard and challenging. At certain points, I felt frustrated and useless. I had to accept that all I knew about scuba diving had to be forgotten to be able to start from zero on this course.
Almost every day I wanted to give up but the next day I was always going back for more. I was intrigued by where it would lead me and by the possibilities at the end of it. I am glad I had completed it. Now I have to get into the caves more and discover the beauties inside our amazing planet.
The course is not about how to enter the cave but how to be able to get out of it safely in any situation that might occur. If done properly, cave diving is one of the safest forms of scuba diving but without training and knowledge, it is probably the most dangerous one.
Do not dive caves if you do not have proper training and equipment. Cave diving is truly amazing but not worth to die for.
Have you ever done any Cave Diving and what Cave Diver Training program did you participate in?