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How to Prepare for Underwater Cave Exploration?

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An underwater cave exploration is a form of diving that very few people can practice. We already know what you’re going to say, “I’ve dived a cenote, why do the Dressel guys say that?” The answer is simple, underwater cave exploration is not the same as cavern diving. When you dive a cenote under recreational diving requirements, you do cavern diving.

If you have enjoyed cenote diving with Dressel Divers…

  1. You saw sunlight at all times.
  2. You did not go farther than 200 feet (60m) horizontally from the entrance.
  3. You did not descend below 70 feet (21 m).

These are the conditions for cavern diving. However, technical diving skills are required for underwater cave exploration. It is a mix between diving and speleology where all the above-mentioned limits are exceeded.

Do you have what it takes to explore underwater caves? Let’s see!

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The Certifications You Need for Underwater Cave Exploration

A diver who intends to start exploring underwater caves must have specific skills to overcome critical moments inside a cave. For example, how to plan a dive in a cave? What configuration, mixes, and amount of gas will you need? What to do if you lose the line that connects you to the cave exit? What to do if your buddy gets tangled in it?

Therefore, training is a must.  The training plan could be summarized as follows:

  1. Open Water Certification
  2. Advanced Open Water certification.
  3. Cavern Diving Specialization is recommended.
  4. Introductory cave diving course.
  5. Advanced Cave Diving certifications.

We tell you all about the training and requirements for underwater cave exploration in the article: Cave Diving Certification: What Does It Take?

How to Plan an Underwater Cave Exploration?

To plan an underwater cave exploration, you should do a thorough research that goes over the following points.

  1. Define the objective of your underwater cave exploration.

Do you want to visit a specific place, for example, a dome of special beauty? Do you intend it to be a photographic dive? Are you a speleologist and you want to discover new galleries like the divers who discovered the largest cenote in the world? Defining the objective of your dive is very important because it will condition the type of equipment you are going to take with you.

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2. Get a topographic map of the cave you want to explore.

In this way, you will know in advance the characteristics of the cave, its dimensions, if it extends horizontally or descends to a great depth. You should also know the different exits and adjacent galleries. Discover the narrowest corridors and where they are, So, you will be able to prepare your equipment to overcome them. You will also know if there is an air bubble where you can rest.

3. Ask local divers.

Expanding your research for underwater cave exploration by asking local divers will be very useful. They will be able to tell you if it is advisable to enter a cave in a certain season (for example, the rainy season), if there is a particularly slimy area where visibility is at risk, or if there is a point of special interest for your objectives. You will also know if there is any natural or artificial signal to indicate a bubble and what the oxygen levels are like in the bubble, etc.

2. Get a topographic map of the cave you want to explore.

In this way, you will know in advance the characteristics of the cave, its dimensions, if it extends horizontally or descends to a great depth. You should also know the different exits and adjacent galleries.

Discover the narrowest corridors and where they are, So, you will be able to prepare your equipment to overcome them. You will also know if there is an air bubble where you can rest.

3. Ask local divers.

Expanding your research for underwater cave exploration by asking local divers will be very useful. They will be able to tell you if it is advisable to enter a cave in a certain season (for example, the rainy season), if there is a particularly slimy area where visibility is at risk, or if there is a point of special interest for your objectives.

You will also know if there is any natural or artificial signal to indicate a bubble and what the oxygen levels are like in the bubble, etc.

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4. Decide what your route is going to be and set the dive limits.

Caves often have numerous galleries and branches. Before an exploration of underwater caves, decide what the route will be. Also set the limits of the dive (maximum depth, time, air consumption). Do this according to the level of the less experienced diver who will participate. Do not exceed the established limits ever.

5. Draw up a list of equipment.

With the above points in mind, you can now draw up a list of the equipment you will need for your underwater cave exploration. You will be able to calculate the bottles that you are going to need, extra air, and the different mixtures. You will know if you are going to need a dry suit to withstand the temperature, the amount of reel, etc. Another important point is the light. Your lighting system must have a longer autonomy than even the air you have available, even if one of the light sources fails.

Besides, you have to think about how you are going to place the equipment, remember that your equipment must not hang or overhang, or you may run the risk of getting stuck.

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6. Organize the divers who are going to participate.

Establish dive buddies, the tasks, who is going to carry what, and make it clear to everyone what their role will be in the underwater cave exploration. Review signals and underwater communication, indicate what guideline signaling system will be used, and specify the order of entry and exit.

7. Draw up an emergency plan.

Write down emergency telephone numbers, insurance policies, nearest hyperbaric chambers, contact persons of the group members, and how to contact them.  Draw up first aid, call for help, and rescue procedure. Establish who will be in charge of first aid (always the most knowledgeable person).

8. Request permission to explore the cave from the authorities.

This point is not always necessary. If it is, do not forget to do it.

Anticipating Stress Points in Underwater Cave Exploration and How to Prevent Them

Stress point Prevention
Temperature Use the right wetsuit
Ballasting mistakes Test the balance by carrying full equipment in the open ocean
Darkness Carry at least 3 light sources
Visibility If the entry is already cloudy suspend the dive, improve your navigation skills.
Depth Respect the limits imposed by your capabilities and those set for the dive. Be conservative.
Distance Keep fit, well-weighted, slow movement and breathing, make sure all your equipment is in good condition.
Air limitation Always dive following the 3/3 rule. Avoid unnecessary physical exertion.

It’s your turn, would you like to add anything else related to underwater cave exploration? Write to us!

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