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What is cave diving?

Cave diving is a form of penetration diving (as are wreck, ice and mine diving). Divers have no direct access to the surface and must handle potential problems directly underwater and exit the cave to reach safety. A continuous guideline is placed to the reference the exit.
Cave diving exploration was responsible through the years for most of the progress in dive equipment, configuration and dive techniques. 

Why is cave diving considered as a separate cursus?

Cave diving is one of the most refined forms of technical diving, which may combine many of its aspects, like diving in greater depth, decompression diving and breathing mixtures other than air. But also, it has some specifics such as diving under a ceiling, distance to the exit, confined spaces and complete darkness.

When did it start?

The first cave diving activities were registered when the Cave Diving Group was founded in England in the late 1930’s, in order to provide basic safe training to English cavers.

Who can become a cave diver?

Students must show above-average fundamental skills as well as the right mind set-up. Cave diving requires a high level of preparation, knowledge and technical abilities. Divers must display a safe and conservative attitude and must show the willingness to learn and to improve. 

Where can I train?

You can train in many places, but we strongly recommend that you take your course in an area with an active cave diving community. This should ensure that you get the most modern training available. Mexico is widely recognized to be the best place to train, since some of the greatest cave divers in the world live there, enjoying and exploring the largest cave systems in the world.

Is it necessary to undergo specific training to cave dive?

Yes. No amount of open water diving experience can prepare you for the cave environment. In fact, the vast majority of divers who perished in underwater caves where not specifically trained for cave diving. Many of those divers were open water scuba instructors. You don’t know how much you don’t know.

How do cave divers find their way out?

They lay/follow a continuous guideline from the open water all the way to the deepest point of penetration and follow it on the way out. Cave divers are trained to face situations such as the loss of guideline, getting entangled in it or finding it broken on the way out.

How do cave divers manage their gas supply?

Cave divers use the “rule of third” as a minimum safety for gas management. Divers always keep at least two thirds of their gas supply to exit the cave, one third to cover the exit distance in normal circumstances and a safety third to be used in case of problem or delayed exit.

What kind of equipment is used?

Cave divers use redundant life support equipment organized in clean, streamlined and accessible configuration with a minimalistic mind-set.  Cave divers typically use back-mounted twin cylinder, side-mounted cylinder or rebreathers. Advanced cave divers frequently use stage/decompression cylinders and DPV’s.

Is it true that cave diving is a dangerous activity?

For some outsiders, cave diving is perceived as one of the most dangerous sport in the world. But in fact, cave diving have extraordinary high safety records among specifically trained cave divers. Modern cave diving instructors and agencies pretend that cave diving is safer than recreational open water diving. This is due to the high prerequisites in terms of experience, training, time and equipment cost.
Accident analysis databases suggest that very few divers have died while following accepted rules and protocols, and while using proper equipment configuration accepted by the cave diving community.

What can I expect from my course?

Cave diving training is demanding in terms of knowledge, diving techniques and mind preparation. You will learn how to handle redundant gear configurations, complex dive planning and gas management, while reinforcing fundamental skills and develop a suitable mind setup for cave diving, raising your awareness level and your conscience of the environment.

What hazards are specific to cave diving?

Cave diving is one of the most challenging kinds of diving. Visibility can vary from nearly unlimited to non-existent, and can go from one extreme to the other in a matter of seconds. Cave divers must count with a ceiling that doesn’t allow surfacing in case of problem. Navigation in cave systems may be complex and the risk of being lost exists. Combined with a limited supply of breathing gas, this means that there is little or no space for mistakes or confusion. 
Other hazards include but are not limited to: complete darkness, confinement, strong currents and siphons, distance to the exit, silt outs, entanglement, disorientation, depth, yo-yo dive profiles, etc.

When did it start?

Side mount is sometimes seen as a new trend, but it has in fact been used since the 60’s, when British cavers first used side mounted scuba cylinder to pass through flooded sumps. 

How did it evolve?

The “English Style” was adopted by Florida cave divers in the 70’s. They started to develop techniques and protocols for the safe exploration of flooded caves.
A decade later, cave divers from around the World started to flock to the Mexican Riviera Maya, attracted by what was to become the largest cave exploration playground!
Side mount evolved within this new cave diving community and several specific side mount systems and protocols appeared since. 

What was its primary purpose?

The then new side mount configuration and techniques allowed cave divers to pass much tighter and restricted areas, and also in a much safer manner.

What is the Razor system?

It is without doubt the most accomplished side-mount specific system available. It has been developed during the last decade in the Mexican caves by englishman Steve Bogaerts.
It represents the fruit of years of experience gathered while diving and exploring in the most demanding environments.
A specific integrated course for his harness has also been developed and is available by CDT Mexico.

Who uses it today?

It is now widely used by cave divers all around the world, but side mount diving is no longer the reserve of cave explorers.
The last years have seen many recreational sport divers showing increased interest for this configuration, recognizing its inherent safety, but mostly because it is incredibly fun to dive!

Where can I learn it?

Today, almost every diving agency offers side mount specific training program, recreational and technical alike, in almost every dive location.
Obviously, we advise to take your course with a specialized cave diving instructor, who will be able to prepare you for further education such as technical or cave diving courses.

Who can dive in side mount?

Any 18 years old diver with at least 25 logged dives can undergo a side-mount diving training.

Is it practical for traveling?

The Razor system is very light and compact. The rigging for the cylinders consists only on two aluminum clamps and two clips. It also solves the problem of the un-availability of twin-sets in most of diving centers around the world.

Is side mount diving safer?

Side mount offers real gas redundancy by using two independent cylinders, preventing complete air depletion.
It increases safety by protecting the valves and regulator first stages under the armpits, where they are visible and easy to reach, permitting a fast identification and handling of eventual equipment failures.

Is it comfortable to dive?

The configuration is comfortable to wear as it releases the weight from the back and the hips. Also, it becomes easy to take off and put the cylinder back on, without removing the harness. This can be practical on the surface, but also very enjoyable underwater!

How will it benefit my diving?

Mounting the cylinders on the sides will decrease the diver’s profile and water resistance. This will reduce the effort and the air consumption.
By freeing the back of uncomfortable BCD’s and back-plates, divers become more flexible and mobile, which will in turn benefit their trim.

Can I not carry only one cylinder?

The configuration is also versatile. You can carry a single recreational scuba cylinder, usually on the left side. You lose gas redundancy, but this is of course not an issue, as long as you’re diving with a buddy and within non-decompression limits.

How many cylinders can I carry?

The Razor system can carry up to six full on side mount and stage cylinders for cave and technical diving purposes.

Can I take a technical diving course with the Razor?

Yes you can, as it integrates an oral inflating back up wing to offer full buoyancy redundancy for technical diving.

What is a cavern tour?

Those tours are usually called “cenote tours”, but what they really are is “cavern trust me dives”, meaning that the guest-divers are not trained to execute this king of dives by themselves, and therefore, rely on a guide. 

How did that start?

Cavern tours started in the late 80’s as a promotional stunt for cave diving. At the times, the Riviera Maya was extremely seldom developed. Playa del Carmen was a tiny fisherman village with no main road, and cave divers and explorers struggled to make a living. They started to embark sport divers coming from then well-known Cozumel and made them discover those marvels, while promoting the sport of cave diving.

What is a cenote?

The natural gateways to the underground rivers are the thousands of collapsed cave ceilings that the Mayans call “Dzo-not”, the now world famous “cenotes”. The collapses, called sinkholes, occur over millions of years of a very slow geological process.

Is it safe?

This kind of diving has proven extremely safe in the area during the last two decades, and shows impressive records of safety. Respecting very strict safety rules and limitations, it is in fact possible to visit the famous cenotes, guided by an experienced cave diver and without being cave trained. This is due to the huge size of the caverns of the area, where we find cavern guidelines especially laid to keep divers within safe distance of the exit, and within the daylight area.

Can I not get stuck or lose visibility?

Cavern dives are done in very large passages, where crossing and turning are always possible. Lowering the visibility to zero or getting stuck is virtually impossible in such large passages.

Where can I do it?

The Riviera Maya is one of the very few places in the world where recreational/sport divers can safely discover the beauties of the underwater caves without being especially trained.

What can I see?

Divers first get struck by the endless visibility in those crystal clear waters. You will be then stunned by the beauty of the fragile calcite formations, the flowstones such as stalactites, stalagmites and gigantic columns. You will see amazing changes in the colors and textures of the waters, according to their specific content of salts, calcium and other minerals. The rocks also are stained by hundreds of thousands of years of contact with minerals, sulfuric and tannic acids.
The sun light falling into the translucent waters creates dream curtains of light descending to the bottom of cavern sometimes over 30m deep…
Hydrogen sulfite will sometimes lay in still, thick white clouds giving the feeling to fly over them, and the layered salt and fresh waters, that refuse to mix, create an unbelievable effect, like a layer cake of differently colored waters!

Who can guide?

Any Open Water Instructor who is also a certified cave diver can claim being a guide, and if this may be true, it is obviously a better choice to rely on a highly trained professional who knows the area extensively. There are many operators, more or less legal and/or qualified in the area. Prices can vary greatly and the offers are seemingly same. By choosing your operator, the level of training of your guide as well as its experience should be your primary concern.

What is the guide/client ratio?

Each guide can guide a maximum of 4 divers.

Who can do this?

Any 18 years old certified Open Water Diver with good buoyancy control or 15 year olds diving with their parent or guardian.

Is it difficult?

Obviously a good mastery of buoyancy skills is a prime necessity. You must be able to avoid bouncing and dragging fins on the ground, for your safety and for the conversation of the very fragile cave systems.

What kind of equipment do I need?

You will use the normal recreational equipment, without snorkel, gloves or knifes. We will provide you with the necessary lights if needed.

Can I take pictures?

Clients can take pictures, but the guide cannot, he must remain focused on the guiding. Some landlords will charge a fee to take a camera on their land.

What do I need to take with me on the dive site?

You diving equipment, food and water (or we organize it for you on demand) and a towel. Bug sprays and sun lotions are forbidden on the cenote sites.

How do we go there?

We will pick you up at your hotel and drive you by pick-up truck to the dive site, and drive you back at the end of the tour.

How long are the tours?

At CDT Mexico, things are done slowly and right. No rushing, no tight schedule, this is the pleasure of diving with a small operation. Tours usually starts at 8am and finish between 2pm and 4pm, depending on the distance to the chosen dive site.

What facilities do we find on the dive site?

Access to the majority of dive sites is very easy and convenient. Most of the cenotes offers simple but sufficient facility, as for example concrete tables to put your gear together, safe stairways if necessary and sometimes toilets or even snack bars for a few. It is our pleasure to inform you about every special dive site on demand.

Do I have a cell phone connection on the dive sites?

This will depend on the dive site. Half of the dive sites will be covered by network. It is our pleasure to inform you about every special dive site on demand.

Can I eat/buy food on the dive sites?

You can eat on every dive sites, but only three out of 14 actually serve food.

Do I need to take my food with me?

We will have the pleasure to organize it for you on demand!