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Best cave diving trip? Plan safely with a Navy SEAL

Would you like to explore the bone-filled subaquatic limestone tunnels in Florida? Or perhaps rappelling 236 feet to reach a submerged cave in Brazil is on your bucket list? Maybe you want to behold the stalactites, stalagmites and fossilised conch shells in the underwater caves of the Bahamas? 


Whether you’re looking to combine an extreme sport with travel or discover some of nature’s marvels few others have seen, cave diving is an exciting option with lots of opportunities – if you’re willing to prepare and plan for it. 


Most open-water diving skills – like the ability to use a Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus (a scuba set) – are needed for cave diving. Additional skills, like buoyancy, navigating in darkness, and using guidelines are essential. Cave divers also need emergency competencies for recovering from air supply (gas) problems while in tight spaces with limited visibility.



The unique procedures of cave diving mainly emphasise navigation, gas (air supply) management, and performing in restricted areas. Underwater caves and tunnels physically hold divers back from direct ascent to the surface during much of the dive, making exiting a dive more challenging and dangerous. 


Cave diving is taught in successively complex stages with each segment reinforced with cave diving experience to hone skills and manage panic. Divers use a distance line or guideline as a means to return to safety, especially when conditions include low visibility, water currents or difficult navigation.


Divers should also always consider the proximity of a recompression chamber and the quality of local emergency services while planning a dive. 



Cave diving opportunities are all over the world. Here are a few to consider as you think about and prepare for a cave diving adventure. In all cases, you’ll need certifications specific to the cave dive site, available from conventional diving education certifying organisations such as PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors). 


  • Wes Skiles Peacock Springs State Park, Florida, US It's been more than half a century since the first divers entered the water and began mapping more than 30,000 feet of the cave system, limestone passages and rooms. There are several major subaquatic landmarks. The Breakdown Room features large rocks that have broken off the ceiling to form a pile on the floor. The Crypt is an area of collapsed tunnel holding the skeletal remains of a large turtle. The Olsen Sink is known for the karst window that formed when a sinkhole collapsed and light streams through from the surface. 
  • Ben’s Cave - Lucayan National Park, Grand Bahama Lucayan National Park near Freeport, Grand Bahama is home to the longest freshwater cave system in the world. Measuring at 6 miles (9.5 kilometers), the system is home to mosquitofish, shrimp, freshwater eels and an endemic species of crustacean. In addition to the fascinating mix of fresh and saltwater, you’ll also see stalactites, stalagmites and fossilized conch shells in the cave. Ben’s Cave is ideal for novice divers wanting to try out the world of cave diving. 
  • Anhumas Abyss - Bonito, Brazil The Anhumas Abyss is an exhilarating experience. Each day up to 25 people are permitted to rappel than 236 feet/72 meters through a tiny opening at the top of the Anhumas Abyss to an underground lake below. Sunlight only penetrates this lake for a short period each day, yet the water is filled with huge schools of fish. The crystal clear water invites divers to explore the most beautiful portion of the lake, found between 50 and 80 feet (15 and 25 meters). 
  • El Cenote - Playa Giron, Cuba Located in the Zapata Marshes near Playa Giron, El Cenote is a limestone formation connected to the sea with a big lake. El Cenote has not yet been thoroughly explored, but it is known that its side fissures travel down to at least 230 feet (70 meters). There are lots of coral reef fish living in the cave as well as interesting rock formations to view. 


Whether you’re cave diving, open water scuba diving, snorkelling or free diving, remember to prepare for what you plan to do and for the unexpected. Not all travel insurance or medical evacuation providers will deliver services if you get sick or injured while taking part in adventure activities like cave diving, skydiving, BASE jumping, heli-skiing or if your trip is interrupted due to COVID-19. Do your homework so you can enjoy your trip with peace of mind. 


Harding Bush is a former Navy SEAL and associate manager operations for Global Rescue, the leading provider of medical, security, evacuation and travel risk management services. 


Images supplied by Global Rescue.


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Published: 11 October 2021

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