A typical beginner’s cave diving course develops basic cave diving skills with limited penetrations of the cave environment and is the second level of progression to the full cave diver certificate directly building upon the cavern course. It is a recreational cave diving course. The course develops and establishes minimum skills, knowledge, dive planning and preparation, problem solving procedures, swimming techniques, emergency procedures and the basic abilities necessary to safely cave dive within limited penetrations, using single tanks. Mastering buoyancy control, working with a reel, a light, and awareness in the cave is necessary to safely enjoy another dimension in cave diving. (Double cylinders are not to be used unless the student is planning to enroll in the Apprentice/Full Cave Diver training program).
As with all aspects of advanced diving, the right training is essential. Here is our overview of the cave diving courses available:
This course is designed to develop the minimum skills and knowledge for cavern and overhead environment diving within the limits of light penetration; in addition outlines specific hazards associated with cave diving. The cavern course is not intended to provide instruction for cave diving environments.
This course is the third stage of training in the series of TDI’s cave diver development program. Advanced cave dive planning the practical execution of different types of cave systems and scenarios divers encounter are presented.
Cave diving, like wreck diving, is a more complex and dangerous discipline than standard open water diving. As well as paying for an accredited course you will find that the equipment needed gets pretty complex and expensive. Below is a list of the equipment that you would typically need to embark on an Introduction to Cave Diving course.
- Mask & Fins with straps taped
- Tank (minimum of 71.2 cu.ft or greater
- Dual Orifice (Y) Valve
- Two first stages and two second stage regulators.
- 7′ Octopus hose
- Double cylinders with dual valve manifold are OK if approved in advance
- 3 line arrows per diver
- Exposure Suit (wet or dry)
- (3) battery powered diving lights, one with at least 30-50 watt power
- Safety reel with min. of 75′ of line
- Watch (bottom timer), depth gauge
- Slate & pencil
- Submersible dive tables
- One primary cave diving reel with approximately 350′ line
- Mandatory Text: Usually the NSS/CDS Cavern Diving Manual
As far as cave diving tuition goes, you can’t do better than the NSS-CDS and NACD courses. They are comprehensive, thorough, and are known for teaching excellence. Below is an overview of their four-step programme.
Cavern Diver Course
The NSS-CDS and NACD Cavern Diver course offers the certified open water diver a first glimpse into the truly amazing and beautiful world of underwater caves. As the first of four steps toward the Full Cave Diver certification, this course allows the diver to explore that portion of the cave system within the daylight zone. You have the opportunity to experience the overhead environment in a controlled setting to determine if cave diving is of interest to you.
Since the Cavern Diver course serves as an extension of open water diving and your first introduction to the cave environment, most open water dive gear can be adequately modified for this course. In addition to standard open water gear, additional required equipment inclu des two lights (one should be of a tubular body des ign- not pistol or lantern grip) and a safety reel. Double tanks may be used at this level after consultation with your instructor.
Of key importance as the diver progresses from open water to the overhead environment is above-average buoyancy control and a high degree of comfort in the water. In-water skills include a no-mask swim along a guideline and air-share while under simulated zero visibility conditions.
The Cavern course requires two (full) days, four dives for completion. Curriculum consists of class sessions, gear review and modification, surface guideline drills and underwater skills.
Whether you decide to pursue additional cave training or not, the knowledge and experience gained in a Cavern course will serve to greatly improve your open water dive skills and awareness.
- Open Water Diver certification and a sufficient number of logged dives for the experience necessary to execute the skills required at this level of training. Please contact your instructor to discuss dive experience when considering this level of training.
- NSS-CDS, NACD and PADI.
Intro to Cave Diver Course
The second level in the overhead diver’s progression towards Full Cave Diver is the Intro to Cave Diver course. It is at this point that the diver first departs the daylight zone of the cave system and conducts limited, linear explorations (main line only) of popular cave systems.
The purpose of the Intro to Cave course is to allow you to refine the basic overhead skills introduced at the Cavern level, perform various emergency procedures within the cave zone and begin to develop the awareness (“The line, the light, the cave”) necessary to safe and enjoyable limited penetration cave diving. Upon successful completion of this course, you have the opportunity to perfect, by diving, the skills and comfort necessary to take the next step toward Full Cave Diver.
Additional equipment required for this level of training include a seven-foot primary regulator hose, two first and second stage regulator systems, dual outlet valve (Y, H or dual outlet manifold with isolator bar), primary dive light with two backup lights, primary reel, line cutter and line markers. Double tanks may be used at this level after consultation with your instructor.
Of key importance as the diver progresses from Cavern Diver to the cave environment is above-average buoyancy control, a high degree of comfort in the water and a developing awareness of the cave environment. In-water skills include a low light exit, air-share exit, no-lights exit, no lights and air-share exit and lost diver drill.
The Intro to Cave course requires two days, five dives at two different cave locations. Curriculum consists of class sessions, gear review and as-necessary modification, surface lost diver and lost line drills and in-water skills and emergency procedures.
The Cavern and Intro to Cave course may, under appropriate circumstances, be combined over a four day, nine dive course.
- NSS-CDS, NACD or equivalent Cavern Diver certification.
- NSS-CDS and NACD.
Apprentice Cave Diver Course
This is the third in the NSS-CDS/NACD series of cave diver development training courses. Emphasis is on dive planning and skill perfection through actual cave dives. Techniques learned through the earlier Cavern and Intro to Cave course are critiqued and expanded. Exposure to different cave diving scenarios is the foundation of this training.
The Apprentice Cave Diver course represents the first half of the training required to complete the NSS-CDS/NACD Full Cave Diver level and will result, upon successful completion, in the issuance of a one year time-limited training card. While you are introduced to the more complex navigation techniques refined at the Full Cave Diver level, students are required to complete the next level of training before attempting to plan and execute complex cave dives.
Additional equipment required for this level of training include dual cylinders capable of at least 142 cubic feet of volume, dual outlet manifold with isolator bar, gap reel with 50 feet of guideline, primary light with appropriate intensity and burn time for the dives planned and an in-water decompression cylinder (40 cubic foot aluminum cylinder is acceptable) with first and second stage regulator.
Of key importance as the diver progresses from Intro Diver to further within the cave environment is above-average buoyancy control, trim control and propulsion technique, a high degree of comfort in the water and a high degree of awareness of the environment. In-water skills include a low light exit, air-share exit, no-lights exit, no lights and air-share exit, lost line drill and fundamentals of complex navigation.
The Apprentice Cave Diver course requires two days, four dives with at least one dive site being different from those utilized for previous training. Curriculum consists of decompression procedures, additional gas planning and management, dive planning and execution and in-water skills and emergency procedures.
The Apprentice Cave Diver course is quite easily combined with Full Cave Diver over four days, eight dives.
- NSS-CDS or NACD Intro to Cave, GUE Cave I or equivalent certification.
- NSS-CDS and NACD.
Full Cave Diver Course
The final step in the progression from Open Water Diver to Full Cave Diver comes with this course. During your training, you are exposed to more sophisticated cave diving scenarios in more complex cave environments. Techniques learned during the previous levels of training are further refined and complex navigation skills are emphasized. Basics of underwater cave surveys are introduced at this level.
A primary focus of the Full Cave Diver course is establishing proper procedures for completing traverses and circuits, both simple and complex. In the scenarios presented, you are responsible for dive planning, gas management and dive execution. At this level, your basic skills are expected to be of a high level and that is the principal criteria in determining your successful completion of this course.
No additional equipment beyond that required for Apprentice Cave Diver is required.
Of key importance as the diver progresses through Full Cave Diver to the cave environment is excellent buoyancy control, a high degree of comfort in the water and a keen awareness of the environment. In-water skills include all those which have been performed at previous levels on an “unannounced” basis and complex navigation skills.
If you hold an NSS-CDS or NACD Apprentice Cave Diver card, the Full Cave Diver course requires two days, four dives with at least one site being different from those utilized for previous training. In the event you wish to proceed from Intro to Cave certification to Full Cave Diver, a total of four days, eight dives will be required.
- NSS-CDS or NACD Intro to Cave Diver if a four day course is des ired and NSS-CDS or NACD Apprentice Cave Diver or equivalent certification for the two day course.
- NSS-CDS and NACD.
NSS-CDS and NACD would like to stress that enrollment on one of their cave diving courses, at any level, does not assure certification. Due to the risks involved in diving an overhead environment, only those students who meet specific performance criteria will earn their certification.