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Cave – Training

Cavern Training

A cavern diving course is the first step towards a full cave certification. A cavern course allows you to explore the portion of the cave system that remains within sight of the entrance, takes place during daylight hours, and remains within no decompression limits. This course exposes you to diving in an overhead environment in a controlled setting, which allows you to determine if cave diving is really for you.

Photo: Steve Straatsma

Cavern courses are generally taught over a two-day period, which includes classroom lectures, field exercises, line drills, and a minimum of four cavern dives. The course teaches you dive planning, proper procedures, about the cave environment, propulsion techniques, buoyancy skills, and problem solving. It also shows you equipment modifications that are required to safely enter an overhead environment.

Cavern courses are extensions of open water certifications (advanced certification is generally required) and your first taste of diving in an overhead environment. Many times, your open water gear can be configured to safely dive in a cavern environment. However, there are specific gear requirements such as two battery powered lights and a safety reel that you must have to safely cavern dive.

The primary purpose of the cavern course is to teach you to safely operate in a cavern environment. The course focuses on the building the skills and problem solving procedures needed to safely dive in a cavern.

For the exact training requirements for your course, contact your instructor or training agency.

Cave Diving Training Introduction

Cavern and cave diving training involves taking a course or series of courses from a training agency such as TDI, NSSCDS, NACD, IANTD, or GUE. Each of these training organizations offer training that teaches you to safely dive in an overhead environment. Being underground, surrounded in a body of water can be intimidating to the faint at heart, but if the exploration side of you longs to see what few have seen before and go places many only dream of, then cave diving might be for you.


Photo: Steve Straatsma

If you have an open water certification and are looking at getting into diving in a cave environment, you must first take a cavern course. If after successfully completing your cavern course, you feel that you want to pursue cave diving further, you then must enter a beginning cave diving course. The different training organizations offer basically the same training, but the names of the courses, prerequisites, amount of dives, classroom time, etc. may vary. Contact your instructor or training agency to find out exactly what they offer and what it takes to complete their courses.

Cave or cavern diving is extremely dangerous without the proper training. Cave and cavern diving requires special training, equipment, techniques, and procedures and should not be conducted unless you have the proper training. Don’t risk your life by thinking you should try cave diving to see if you like it before receiving the proper training. If you see the sign below and are not properly trained in cave diving, heed its warning.


Frequently Asked Questions

Cave Diving  Training Questions  

Where do I go for cave or cavern training?

A number of training organizations offer different types and levels of cave and cavern training. Training organizations such as NSSCDS, NACD, IANTD, and GUE all offer cave and cavern training. Finding a dive shop in your area with cave diving instructors may be difficult. Typically, only dive shops that categorize themselves as “technical” shops offer this type of training. You may have to travel out of your area to find a dive shop or instructor.


How long does my cave or cavern certification last?

Once you receive your cave and cavern training, your certification never expires. There are no requirements for continued education or retraining every year. It should be noted that if you received your certification a long time ago and have not done a cave or cavern dive since then, you may want to retake the class to make sure you are up to date with current procedures, etc.


How long is a cave and cavern course?

Cavern courses are generally taught over a two-day period, which includes classroom lectures, field exercises, line drills, and a minimum of four cavern dives.


Cave courses range from two to five days. There are different levels of cave courses such as intro to cave, apprentice cave, and full cave each that require several days to complete.


Do I have to be certified to dive in a cave?

Yes. Cave and cavern diving require very specialized training. Diving in an overhead environment can be extremely dangerous without the proper training. Never try to dive in a cavern or cave without seeking proper training first.


What level of certification do I need to get cavern or cave certified?

Generally, advanced open water is required to participate in a cavern course. To begin your cave training, you must have completed a cavern course. Other prerequisites may be required, so it’s important to check with your instructor or training agency to find out everything you need to begin your training.


How much does it cost to get cavern and cave certified?

Each training agency prices their courses differently, but cavern classes average around $200.00 or more. Cave required courses average around $400 or more for each level. Check with your instructor or contact a training agency for exact amounts.

Cave Training

There are three levels of training courses you must take before being fully certified to cave dive. Once you complete your cavern course, the next steps are an intro to cave diving course, an apprentice cave diving course, and finally a full cave diving course. Each of these courses provides different levels of training and requires different prerequisites.

An intro to cave diving course is the second level in your cave training after completing a cavern course. In this course, you depart the daylight zones of a cavern and enter cave tunnels using linear penetration on the main lines in a cave system. This course refines your basic overhead environment skills, teaches you various emergency procedures within the cave, enhances your propulsion techniques, and builds your mindset to safely dive in a cave system. Penetrations into the cave are limited and at a conservative pace. The course continues to build your skill level but does not prepare you for all levels of cave diving.

Additional equipment required is a primary reel with at least 400 feet of line, at least three battery powered lights, one being a primary light and two backup lights, a tank with a dual orifice such as an H-valve, an additional regulator with a minimum five foot hose, and line markers. All of your standard cavern course gear is also required.

The intro to cave diving course is generally taught over a two-day period and requires at least five dives.

An apprentice cave diving course is the third level in your full cave diving certification after a cavern course and intro to cave course. Training emphasizes expanded dive planning skills through conducting dives, provides an introduction to jump and gap procedures and continual improvement of the procedures, skills, and emergency drills previously presented at the cavern and intro to cave courses.

Gear requirements are double cylinders with a manifold, a seven-foot hose one of your regulators, compass, line arrows, and at least two secondary reels for gaps and jumps.

The apprentice cave diving course is generally taught over a two-day period and requires at least four dives.

A full cave diving course if the final training course in your pursuit of a full cave diver certification. This course exposes you to more sophisticated cave diving scenarios, expands upon the skills you learned in previous courses, builds your navigational skills, and introduces cave surveys. A primary focus of the course is to show you the proper procedures for completing traverses and circuits. When conducting these dives, you’re responsible for all dive planning, gas management, and the execution of the dive.

There are no additional gear requirements than that of the apprentice cave diving course.

The full cave diving course is generally taught over a four-day period and requires at least eight dives.