Q: How do cavern and cave diving differ from diving in open water?
A: Caverns and caves are what experts call overhead environments — environments in which divers do not have direct access to the surface.
Among the greatest safety factors in open-water diving is that a diver who is without air and separated from his or her buddies can still make an Emergency Swimming Ascent (ESA). Being in an overhead environment takes away this important safety factor.
Q: How do cavern and cave diving differ from one another?
A: Just as there are critical differences between diving in overhead environments and diving in open water, there are differences between cavern and cave diving.
- Cavern divers keep the cave entrance clearly within site at all times; cave divers do not and may, in fact, penetrate hundreds or even thousands of feet beyond sight of daylight. Because cavern divers remain in close proximity to the cave entrance, they are still theoretically capable of making Emergency Swimming Ascents (ESAs). The only difference between cavern and open-water diving, in this respect, is that a diver making an ESA from a cavern would be swimming out as well as up. In contrast, cave divers have no possibility of making ESAs, and thus must take additional steps to help protect themselves from the possibility of a loss of breathing gas.
- While cave divers use highly specialized equipment, cavern divers use what is largely standard open-water gear (albeit with a few, minor modifications to reduce the possibility of entanglement, improve buoyancy control and body position, and make equipment more accessible).
Q: Why do you need special training to cavern and cave dive?
A: Accident statistics suggest that, overwhelmingly, divers perish in underwater caverns and cave for just three reasons: lack of a properly used guideline; lack of sufficient reserve gas; and/or, diving beyond the safe operational limits of the breathing media used. Why do divers make these mistakes? Nine out of ten divers who die in natural overhead environments lack any formal training in cavern or cave diving; thus, they do not know why it is important to avoid these crucial errors or how to do so.
Q: What organizations offer Cavern and Cave Diver training?
A: Because of the theoretical ability to make Emergency Swimming Ascents, many experts consider cavern diving to be an extension of recreational diving. As such, it is possible to obtain Cavern Diver certification through organizations such as PADI and NAUI. Cave diving, in contrast, is what experts consider to be a form of technical diving.
By far the most popular and widely respected Cavern and Cave Diver certifications are those offered by the two non-profit organizations that specialize solely in cavern and cave diving. These are the National Speleological Society Cave Diving Section (NSS-CDS) and the National Association for Cave Diving (NACD). All of Ginnie Springs Outdoors’ cave diving educators are members of the NSS-CDS. Most certify through NACD as well. Many can also offer PADI Cavern Diver certifications.
Q: How is Cavern and Cave Diver training structured?
A: Most training agencies that offer some form of Cavern/Cave Diver certification structure their courses to parallel those of the NSS-CDS. The CDS divides the path leading to full Cave Diver certification into four steps, each consisting of two days and four or more dives. These steps are:
- Cavern Diver
- Intro to Cave Diver
- Apprentice Cave Diver
- Full Cave Diver
Read more about dive training.
Q: Why should I choose Ginnie Springs Outdoors for Cavern or Cave Diver training?
A: For the following reasons:
- Ginnie Springs Outdoors is centrally located in the heart of north-central Florida’s spring and cave-diving country. Virtually all of Florida’s other popular cavern- and cave-diving sites are within a 30- to 75-minute drive. Many cave diving educators feel that Ginnie Springs’s three caverns (Ginnie, Devil’s Eye and Devil’s Ear) are the best possible places to begin Cavern or Cave Diver training. In fact, it’s not unusual for instructors from outside our area to bring students to begin their training here.
- The Devil’s Eye/Ear cave system is among the most popular cave dives on Earth. Many believe that more cave dives are logged here than at any other site. The Devil’s Eye/Ear system also has the potential to expose students to the widest possible array of conditions, including high and low flow, large and small passageways, and silty and silt-free bottoms. Ginnie Springs Outdoors generally remains open and diveable, even when seasonal flooding restricts access to other sites.
- Ginnie Springs Outdoors employs more qualified NSS-CDS and NACD Instructors than any other facility on earth. More importantly, these are individuals who have gained the respect of their fellow cave diving educators for their knowledge, experience and commitment to quality.