By: Marco Valera
The majority of recreational scuba divers are not ready to be exposed to an overhead environment, such as the cavern portion of a flooded cave. Darkness, confinement, minimum experience or worse, minimum level of training (since the open water diver certification is a prerequisite), poor buoyancy control skills, lack of a clean equipment configuration, relaying on your guide’s “trust-me-I-know” mindset can and has caused accidents with fatal results in the last couple of years.
Cavern diving is a serious activity. It is not the average recreational scuba dive. You cannot compare your cavern guide’s dive briefing with formal training provided by a Cavern Instructor. Hence, these are five excellent reasons to sign up for a Cavern specialty course through a recognized agency that has outlined and updated standards with a Quality Assurance program.
1. To develop a committed sense of conservation
Cave systems were formed over the course of hundreds of thousands of years. Their unique beauty has no comparison. These fragile environments can be destroyed forever in an instant. Even the silt laying at the bottom is part of the cavern. There is no place for “fin pivot.” So far there’s no means that can repair or replace those delicate formations. Understanding their preservation will allow future generations to study and enjoy.
Remember: “Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but bubbles, kill nothing but time.”
2. Master your buoyancy
In order to preserve such environments you will need to thoroughly understand how buoyancy works. You will learn how to remain horizontal (trim) during your bottom time, all the time! There is no place for “fin pivot,” remember? Different kicking techniques will allow you to move smoothly without disturbing the surroundings. With enough time to practice you will be capable to deploy your primary reel guideline without bouncing to the bottom, reaching the ceiling, or worse getting entangled with it. Because well developed buoyancy becomes second nature, once you jump back in the ocean you’ll never be the same.
3. Mental and physical challenges
Diving into an overhead environment causes a certain level of discomfort. You will learn how to recognize and manage stress, deal with internal and external doubts and understand why massaging your ego is a negative factor. Suiting up, gearing up and walking to the entrance of the cavern will increase your level of discomfort. New pieces of equipment will demand your muscular memory. Understanding that repetition is going to lead you to mastering any skill is important. Frustration is not prohibited but you need to have what it takes to “bounce-back.”
4. Top-up your situational awareness
Situational awareness becomes a real factor. That time when you were a “passenger” in a scuba guided dive is over. You need to become proactive. Ask questions; gather information concerning the cavern dive. Implement the Accident Analysis rules to your dive plan. Understanding and sticking to those rules can save your life.
While underwater evaluate yourself: is your mind clear enough for ten more minutes into the dive? How about your body? Track your gas consumption, your bottom time, your depth. Are you navigating the guideline properly? Haloclines (almost mixture of fresh and saltwater) are a unique experience but they decrease the visibility. Where is your guide? Where are you in the group? How far is the diver behind you? Do you still see any daylight? Is there any silt-out ahead? How far are you from the guideline?
Remember this: there’s no direct access to the surface, your senses have to be sharp every second and every minute of your cavern dive in order to get back to the entrance/exit.
5. Mature as a solid reliable recreational diver
There is no “in future dives remember to do this skill this way” debriefings. It’s either, you do master the skill or retry until you are capable of executing so you can overcome a situation and get yourself out of there. Then you earn your Cavern diver certification.
Cavern training has some sort of awakening. You evolve as a scuba diver. You won’t be the same. You are going to be better. You’ll notice that once you jump back in the ocean, lake or a quarry.
Lately, if it happens that you appreciate and value the intrinsic beauty of caverns and their flooded cave systems you may have the calling to enrol in the Intro to Cave diver level, the second step into the Full Cave diver program, the elite, the astronauts of the inner space.
To find out more about International Training, visit www.tdisdi.com.