Fantastic Cave Dives

Many caves "end" where they reach the water table and the passages are full of water. These passages are known as siphons or sumps. So in fact the cave continues and it is at this point that cave divers take over. By combining the skills needed for diving and caving a whole new underground world is opened up. A world which is silent, dark and chilling but also beautiful and above all, challenging and adventurous. Few sights are more dramatic or special than seeing the mirrored surface above which tells you that you have successfully passed a sump to a dry passage beyond. The experience of driving an underwater scooter along an underwater passage the size of a metro tunnel is almost impossible to describe. Just to go into, and return safely from, such a hostile environment gives every cave diver a sense of achievement.

A division which is sometimes made is between "cave divers" and "sump divers". These definitions are blurred, but essentially cave divers tend to have a diving background, whereas sump divers tend to have a caving background. This is reflected in the types of projects they undertake - cave divers are mainly interested in long and deep cave dives, whereas sump divers are quite happy to do shorter dives provided there is some interesting dry cave to explore beyond. Because sump diving equipment tends to be small and streamlined it also lends itself better to exploring very small underwater passages. Of course some experts push all of these factors to the limit, conducting deep and difficult dives even at the bottom of very arduous caves and then continue exploration beyond.....

Cave diving is a very demanding activity. You must be in good physical and mental shape and you MUST have the right training and equipment. If anything goes wrong underwater the only way out is to retrace your way back to the entrance, no quick escape to the surface is possible. You must be trained to deal with all kinds of emergency situations, there is no second chance cave diving. Although this sounds dramatic, the safety record for properly trained and qualified cave divers is good. Most fatal accidents involving cave diving happen to open water divers who stray into caves unaware of the dangers and the need for special skills to dive these sites safely.

If you have a reasonable amount of experience as an open water diver it's possible to get a feel for what cave diving is like by taking a cavern diving course. In such a course you will stay only within the daylight zone of a cave and the cost won't break the bank. This might sound boring, but in fact the entrances of caves are often extremely beautiful as the light streams in from above. In addition the transition from the fauna and flora seen in the entrance to the dark cave zone beyond can provide a fascinating contrast.

Related categories: Trekking, Flying, Gliding & Ballooning, Extreme Challenge, Rafting & Kayaking

Experts in Cave Diving:  Mark Dougherty,  Allen Wooten,  Alan Owens

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