Tips and Techniques for Cave Diving
Cave diving can be a wonderful experience. When diving in a cave, divers have the unique opportunity to enter a world that is almost untouched by human hands. Underwater caves have held a fascination for divers since the dawn of diving.
What Is Cave Diving?
There are several types of cave diving. Many people consider a spring basin dive the start of a cave dive. However, there are others who believe cave diving doesn’t start until you have an overhead ceiling. There are four distinct types of diving that relate to cave diving.
When you enter a freshwater spring basin, you can see the surface at all times. Spring basins do not require special certifications. Many open water divers are qualified to dive in spring basins. The ambient light from the surface is visible throughout the spring. This makes spring diving safer than other forms of cave diving.
Cavern dives offer divers overhead obstacles with a clear exit. A cavern is often the entrance way to a cave. Natural light will penetrate the entrance and permeate the cavern. Many caverns open into harder, more technical dives.
Often entrance ways into caves that come from caverns will have gates or signs warning divers away. Cavern divers may wish to get their overhead environments certification before entering a cavern. Along with the overhead environments certification, there is a cavern diver certification offered by many diving organizations.
When you enter a fully enclosed environment with no access to the surface and no light you have officially entered a cave. Cave diving requires special certifications including nitrox or tri -mix, and cave diver level one or two certifications. Many caves, like Indian Springs Florida, require proof of dives to enter. Cave diving will often have guidelines that show divers how to navigate the caves.
Similar to cave diving, mine diving is a fully enclosed environment. To dive inside flooded mines, you should earn a specialty certification in mine diving (Can you scuba dive without certification?). This is similar to wreck diving because it is a technical certification. Mine dives require a special set of skills because they happen in old, flooded, man-made structures.
Do You Need Any Special Gear?
When cave diving you need a few items of specialty gear. It is always a good idea to have spare lights and goggles in case of an emergency since you cannot surface right away. Since some cave dives are at depths greater than 100 feet, they are technical and require tri-mix or nitrox certifications and technical diver certifications.
Many cave divers use special weight attachments that will move their weights off their belt and onto their tank. This helps them achieve the proper form of cave diving. Cave diving body positioning differs from traditional diving because you must achieve a level body position. This helps avoid kicking up any sediment at the bottom of the cave. When sediment floats through the water in the cave, it can cause visibility issues for days or weeks because of the lack of flowing water.
Weights are positioned on the tank so that divers cannot dump their weights. Dumping weights could pin divers to the top of a cave which would cause a diver to become helplessly stuck within the cave. Besides different weight requirements, cave divers use different air tanks then open water divers. Steel tanks replace aluminum tanks. The steel remains negatively buoyant while the aluminum will gain positive buoyancy as it empties. Buoyancy control is of the utmost importance to cave divers because of visibility issues as well as protection of the natural environment.
Things to Know
Never ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever dive a cave without proper certifications and training. There are over 400 known deaths due to improper training and cave diving.
Cave diving is something that shouldn’t happen without proper training. An example of a simple difference is the swimming styles, there are different styles of swimming used by cave divers then open water divers. Cave divers use modified frog kicks and modified flutter kicks to stop sediment at the bottom of the cave from being disturbed.
The frog kick is the best because it can get you the furthest. Frog kicks also reduce the risk of disturbing sediment because the motion of divers fins is side to side. If, for some reason, the diver cannot perform a frog kick then they can use a modified flutter kick. Modified flutter kicks keep the knees bent so that the fin movement is above the center of the body.
How to start?
Start with education. There are levels of education that each diver must take to progress to a proficient cave diver. According to the certifying organization NAUI a diver must take the following courses to become a cave diver.
- Introduction to Technical Diving Skills
- Mixed Gasses and Decompression Diving
- Overhead Environments
- Cavern Diver
- Cave Diver Levels One and Two
- Cave Guide
While not everyone who dives caves will become a cave guide, this is the complete progression of training for one certifying organization. Keep in mind depending on which diving organization you go through, their requirements may be slightly different. Each class may comprise 3 to 4 in-class sessions and anywhere between 4 to 6 dives.
The best places to cave dive will depend on what you want to see. There are many cavern dives and cave dives that only require an open water certification, like Kilsby’s Sinkhole in South Australia.
However, there are more advanced diving locations, like Indian Springs Florida, which require full cave diver certification, trimix certification (What is Trimix Diving?), and proof of 100 dives. No matter your level of experience, there is a cave diving location that will be good for you. You can check out a list of the top 10 best dive locations at Diviac Travel.