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Cave Diving

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.

Exploration at Twin Dees Spring

Weeki Wachee Karst Project – Where Few Men Want to Go
by Jeff Petersen

The Beginning

What started as surveying and water sample collecting quickly turned into some of the most logistically demanding cave diving exploration in Florida. Initially, David Miner and I were hired by the South West Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) to generate an accurate survey of Twin Dees Spring and Weeki Wachee Springs for inclusion in their geophysical study of the area. Weeki Wachee and Twin Dees (which is approximately 3,000 feet SW of Weeki Wachee) are located in coastal Hernando County southeast of Eagle’s Nest and about 2-½ miles west of Diepolder.

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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.

Cavern Diving Deep in an Old Florida Swamp

Buford Spring/Siphon Tops the List of Cavern Dives Anywhere in the World!
by David Miner

Deep in the Chassahowitzka swamp lies the cavern diver’s dream. A semicircular pool, with a run flowing further into the swamp, sits quietly providing a home for alligators, fish, turtles, and snakes. For thousands of years this little gem has gone unnoticed, adjusting to the changing environmental conditions and only answering to the heartbeat of the swamp. Today, it’s a cavern dive that can be equated to few others. It’s big, deep, and beautiful. But diving it requires an effort that few are willing to undertake. As the saying goes, “you have to pay to play,” and this is certainly true if you want to dive Buford!.

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