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My experience in becoming a Cave Diver...
I started diving in 1998 and since then I've actively been diving all round the world. I have been involved in Technical scuba diving since qualifying as a TDI advanced trimix diver in 2003 and three years later worked my way to become a DSAT technical diving instructor. Now as a PADI Course Director and DSAT Instructor Trainer, I am always looking at expand my knowledge and dive skills once I have become proficient with what I have learned over time...
I have always viewed cave diving as the most extreme type of diving with the highest skills set to master. So have always delayed learning to cave dive due to thinking that you needed to be a highly trained and skilled technical diver with years of experience before committing to learn this unique type of scuba diving. I now believe after becoming a IANTD Technical Cave Diver (details below) that you do need good diving skills but what is really important is you pick the right cave instructor to guide you.
I finally taken the time out early in 2008 to train with a leading Cave Explorer and Cave Diving Instructor Steve Bogaerts who owns a company called Aztec Diving (http://www.aztecdiving.com/) in The Riviera Maya, South of Cancun on the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico.
Steve Bogaerts is from the UK and moved to Mexico over 10 years ago, to pursue his passion for exploring submerged cave systems (more information found by clicking his name).
I was in Mexico for one month and opted for an intensive 8 day cave course to start with. I enjoyed it so much I went onto gain more experience just cave diving for 2 weeks then went on to do further training in technical cave diving with stage and DPV courses. Lets just say it was an eye opener even for someone with my diving experience, only wish I started this type of diving with Steve a few years ago. I consider myself very lucky and privileged to receive training by someone with his amount of experience and ability, not just in instructing cave training courses but because he actively lives and breathes cave diving and commits his life to cave exploration.
What was continually reassuring and amazing to see was how highly respected Steve is by everyone including his competitors. I could go on and on about how good the actual training was I received, instead believe me when I say that Steve is one of the best instructors I have ever had the chance of working with and anyone thinking of taking cave training at any level should without a doubt go over and see Steve Bogaerts (aztec diving) and the cenotes of Mexico, you will not regret making that choice - just plan some extra time to do more.
Steve Bogaerts Cave Diving Explorer and Instructor Video Selection (click on title to view video)
I left Mexico a IANTD Technical Cave Diver and since have been practicing and passing on many of the techniques and skills I learned, this training is helping me greatly when I teach all levels of diver courses (recreational to technical). I am going back across to re visit Steve towards the end of 2008 to do some more training, I will be learning how to sidemount dive and sidemount cave dive with Steve using a new sidemount harness (called the Razor) he is currently designing and testing (see back here soon for more details). I cannot wait ;)
My final thoughts for anyone with the slightest interest in cave diving are; do not wait to long like I did, try cavern diving as soon as possible. If you really enjoy cavern diving all you need is to be a PADI advanced open water diver (or equivalent) with good general diving skills especially buoyancy control and you could start into cave diver training, which is in my opinion the best form of technical diving you can do. Again its all about choosing the right person to guide you...
If you would like to ask me any detailed questions about the training I received or join me next time I visit Mexico, I would be happy to speak to you in more depth (click here) for my contact details page. If you want to email Steve Bogaerts directly then use firstname.lastname@example.org
See below for more useful information about cave diving...
Cavern vs Cave diving..?
Cavern diving is the exploration of permanent, naturally occurring overhead environments while remaining within sight of their entrances. It differs from cave diving in that, while cave divers may penetrate thousands of yards, cavern divers generally go no further than 130 feet from the surface. Additionally, cavern divers keep the entrance clearly in sight at all times, and use a guideline so that, should sight of the entrance be accidentally lost, divers can immediately regain it.
Because the risks that cavern divers must manage are not significantly greater than they experience in open water, cavern divers are able to use much the same equipment as they use in open water. Being in underwater caverns requires that divers make a few modifications to their equipment; however, most divers say that these modifications make their open-water diving easier and more enjoyable. Cave divers, on the other hand, use highly specialized equipment to reduce the risks they encounter to an acceptable level.
The benefits of Cave Diver training are not limited solely to the ability to safely explore underwater caverns and caves.
Most students say that they learn more practical information about diving in just the first few days of Cave Diver training than in any other course they have taken — including instructor courses! The specialized buoyancy control, body position and propulsion techniques taught in Cave Diver courses create very environmentally sound divers. One seldom sees cave divers banging into or dragging equipment across coral reefs.
Ever thought about trying Cavern and Cave diving..?
My advise to you, if you are a diver interested in diving this environment, then like when you learnt scuba for the first time with a try dive, try Cavern diving first to see if its for you. If you are a experienced diver already or a technical scuba diver and want to really advance your diving skill set then without a doubt taking a Cave training course is an excellent way to do it and certainly one I will never forget.