The fact that Cave Diving is described as ‘A deceptively easy way to die’ should alert you to the dangers of such a sport, however every year experienced SCUBA divers take that extra step and enter a world under the realms of being underwater.
Cave diving, as opposed to cavern diving or even just ‘normal’ diving, is an extreme sport.
Sometimes divers will enter a cave above ground and slowly descend into the nooks and crannies of the earth’s crust. This type of diving is NOT for anyone afraid of being in tight spaces in the dark with only one way out. Diving in fresh water caves is a wonder. Often divers are seeing places that have remained hidden since the Earth was much, much younger. Deep within the labyrinth of tunnels and open spaces, crystal clear water reveals stalactites and stalagmites that may have existed for hundreds of thousands of years. Blind fish and other odd creatures inhabit this world. So does danger. According to statistic’s more than 10 cave divers die each year. Given that there are only a couple of thousand people performing such dives every year worldwide, that ratio is staggeringly high.
In Florida, a series of caves known as The Devils Springs has a nasty reputation of taking the lives of even experts of the sport. Even so, it is a truly beautiful place to lose yourself to the beauty of exploration.
Russia also has underground caves that redefine the word breathtaking. The Orda Caves, 900 miles west of Moscow, are the largest gypsum crystal caves in the World, and are far less dangerous than other caves found in the states and other places. The down side is that the water is colder than, say, caves in Thailand.
In Europe, the Emergence du Ressel in France is an underwater cave system that will accommodate hand held motorized diving engines that pull you through the water. Not many caves will allow for this as there is often a lot of silt that restricts the already poor visibility.
Australia also has its share of underwater caves to explore. Mount Gambia for example, has sink holes and chambers deep within the ground filled with fresh water and interesting wildlife. Most of the inside of Australia is desert on the top, caves below the surface. There is some incredible, if slightly dead defying, sport to be had underground.
However if salt water cave diving is more your thing there are many other worldly sink holes and tunnels deep within the ocean itself.
In Thailand you will find the Samaesan Hole which is a 90-meter-deep former military ammunitions dump. The cave tunnel is said to be filled with unexploded ammunition – an added challenge- but even so, the site remains popular with divers and dive schools. The cave area is pitch black and has strong currents. If you get through the bombs and currents, though, the diving is said to be amazing.
One of the most famous deep cave ocean dives is the Belize Blue Hole. This tunnel is filled with wildlife, including sharks, and is popular with free divers (that is, people who don’t use air tanks) as well. It used to be a series of limestone caves, but they collapsed after the last ice age, and now this perfect 1000 foot wide, 480 foot deep hole is yours to explore. And finally, another warm and deep place to visit the wet insides of the Earth is the Bahamas, also built on limestone caves that filter the water to remarkable clarity, and create a layer of fresh water that floats on top of the salt water. A remarkable thing to see.
Cave diving is something that either excites or terrifies you, but those who take up the sport weigh up the risks, and take them anyway. Perhaps it’s the adrenalin, or the idea of going where so few have been, but whatever the diver’s drivers, the fact that so many go back into the darkness again and again speaks volumes about the sport.