Cave Diving Mexico

By , January 26, 2009 08:43

Cave DivingSo it’s done – I’m now fully cave certified.  In the last week, I racked up some pretty high numbers: 17 dives, spending slightly more than 20 hours under water, and swimming in the neighborhood of 19 to 20 miles.  Nothing like a lot of bottom time to build muscle memory.

I had two purposes for the course: improving diving discipline (especially bouyancy) and reel skills.  I have to say I was a bit nervous in starting out because I fully admit to being claustrophobic, and I once saw an IMAX on cave diving that just made me shake my head.  Of course I knew the scenery would be cool, but that was just an added bonus of the course.

My instructor sat me down on the first day and asked me to describe a mountain.  I used words like “majestic”, “inspiring”, “challenging”, “rewarding” and “breath-taking”.  When he asked me to describe caves, I used three words – dark, restrictive and wet.  He explained that this was the problem.  Most people have seen mountains and have an appreciation for their grandeur.  Almost no one refers to a mountain as “scary”.  The opposite is true of caves.  Less than 1% of people have spent any kind of time in caves, and their perception of the environment was entirely negative.  When people ask him what he sees in caves, he always responds, “A lot of water, and a lot or rock.”  When they ask him why he has been diving them for 35+ years and over 7000+ dives, his response is that, “You won’t know, unless you go.”  He was right.

While I did feel like I learned more in one week than I have in the five years I have been diving, the caves were beyond description.  I think they were more beautiful than almost anything else I’ve ever seen.  This might be because one grows used to mountains and oceans and sunsets and canyons over the years, but the caves were unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.  Fashioned by a Master Designer …  I wasn’t there to take pictures so I couldn’t take my own camera on any of the dives, but I asked my instructor and he took his on the last day for some photos.  Unfortunately, the cave system on the last day is the oldest in the area and didn’t even come close to some of the dives during the week.  Still, I’m glad to have some kind of snapshot …

First of all, let me describe some of the places I dove including Dos Ojos, Chac Mool, Dos Palmos, Vaca Ha, Tortugas, Caracol, Calimba, Bosh Chen, Pet Cemetary, the Blue Abyss, Dark Side of the Moon, and the Car Wash.  Some of these places, like Vaca Ha and Tortuga, were nothing more than a puddle in the Mayan jungle.  I’m not kidding.  You drive out a dirt road into the middle of no where and come to a puddle about six feet around.  Take Tortugas for example.  Jumping into a puddle no more than 10 feet in diameter (it used to just be a well), you would drop down a steep embankment underground to about 60 feet and … BAM … you were in a room that was 60-70 feet high, 100-200 feet wide and more than 1000 feet long.  You couldn’t even hope to see from end to end.  Massive pillars stretched from floor to ceiling.  Stalactites 30 feet high would hang from the ceiling and stalagmites 40 feet high would reach from the floor.  Unbelievable!  Other places like Chan Hol (Small Hole) started with a small 5 foot puddle about 2-3 feet deep, and you would swim under a rock ledge (on your belly) into the most gorgeous cave system.  In this cave, and in others, were human remains which (supposedly) are dated at 1000s of years old before the cave systems were flooded.

The best of all dives was the Blue Abyss and the Dark Side of the Moon (you can find them on this map).  The Blue Abyss was about 40 minutes in – through one giant cavern area, beautifully decorated tunnels and rooms and two pretty tight restrictions.  Then you hit it.  A giant abyss!  One minute you’re swimming through a beautiful (and small) cave passage at a depth of only 20-30 feet, and then suddenly you swim out over a massive … nothing … a perfectly circular underground room more than 100 feet across and that has perfectly vertical walls to a depth of 240 feet.  You hang suspended, in the middle, with water so clear you think it’s air.  Surrounding you on every side are the most incredible formations you can imagine.  It cannot be described.  The next dive that same day took us to the Dark Side of the Moon.  Running several jump reels, we hit the end of the line in an area of the most incredible decorations I saw over the course of the week.  Untouched!  I still had my safety reel (sometimes you carry as many as 5 or 6 reels) and I actually laid 150ft of new line past that point to a place where no one has ever been before.  Those formations were the most incredible of anyplace I’ve ever seen.  The song, “How Great Thou Art” echoed through my head the entire dive.

2 Responses to “Cave Diving Mexico”

  1. ed says:

    Danny, Is it now only one step away from CaveMAN status? 🙂 anyways, sticking with CaveDIVER may be the better plan. Looks like quite an adventure for sure & makes me want to go, although i’m really out of the diving loop. great shots & all the best. Stay safe & breath easy (underwater!)…..

  2. Rob C says:

    Sounds very cool… great descriptions.

Leave a Reply