Becoming a cavern diver in the Yucatán peninsula
Mario has been doing his Cavern diver course while he has been here in mexico in this blog he talks about his experiences.
Have you ever been fascinated by a National Geographic documentary about scuba divers exploring caves? I certainly have.
As it turns out, the Yucatán peninsula can offer you this experience. There are many underground rivers, forming huge cave systems. The entrances to these caves are called cenotes. Already two days after I had arrived in Mexico, I went on my first cenote dives in Chak Mool, near Playa Del Carmen. They were easy dives in large underground spaces. Many of the cenotes are very popular among snorkelers as well. Local dive centers offer guided tours to all levels of divers, but it’s also the perfect place to learn the techniques specific to cave diving.
During my first weeks here at Pez Maya, I went down to Tulum, the town nearest to base, and went on more cenote dives. Being impressed about how different each dive is, I decided to take a course. Seeing the more complex equipment setup and the dive style of the dive leader, I knew this would take my own diving to another level.
So on a long weekend, which we get every four weeks, I did the cavern course. For the first time, I didn’t do it with PADI, but with IANTD. This is the entry level certification in a row of three before becoming a full cave diver. They taught me how to configure a double tank on backmount, which backup and safety gear I needed to take on dives and how to do extensive buddy checks in and out of the water. I could barely move around in the equipment, it’s so tight and so heavy that a weight belt is not even part of the gear.
Then we went diving, in a shallow, open water part of the cenote. It felt like my very first dive again, years ago during a Discover Scuba Diving session. I kept rolling over from left to right and back, until I managed to keep my balance using correct fin position and kicks. The other days, we started on land, practicing the use of reels to mark the way in and out of the cavern. A lot of attention is given to the safety drill, which is basically the low or out-of-air situation. As we are diving in an overhead environment, there is no immediate ascent to the surface possible. So there is a strict procedure to find your way out together with your buddy. To make it more exciting, we sometimes were blindfolded to simulate the effect of kicking up silt. As a final test before certification, I had to lead a dive in a cavern and demonstrate all skills.
It’s fun and exciting, but it feels like learning to dive all over again since being used to single tanks. Be ready to have some stress and frustrations on the course, but you’ll finish with a satisfied feeling and a lot of new experience and technique that can be used on any dive.
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