Cave divers need to be able to carry all this equipment and know even more.

Photo courtesy Darren Tedder

Cave Diving Training and Certification

So how does someone become a cave diver? Can anyone do it, or does it require a great deal of training and expertise? Because cave diving is technical in nature, the activity isn't something anyone can jump into and do well or safely.

Darren Tedder, a cave photographer and professional cave diver with over 20 years of experience, explains: "More often than not, you need an established open-water history that you can document. You should have a minimum of 50 open-water dives before you even consider cavern or cave diving. From there, once you start cavern diving, you should have close to a week of actual class time."

During classes, divers learn about equipment they'll use, go over in-depth studies of gas laws and how those gas laws affect a person's body, learn how to navigate through the cave on a guideline and find the line if it gets lost or you take your eye off it and become disoriented. Although it's possible to jump straight from cavern diving into cave diving, Tedder recommends diving as cavern diver for at least two years before heading into more dangerous waters inside a cave.

Although there are several organizations that give classes and train future cave divers, some of the most popular groups that offer cave diving certification and training are the National Speleological Society Cave Diving Section (NSS-CDS), the National Association for Cave Diving (NACD), the International Association of Nitrox and Technical Divers (IANTD) and Global Underwater Explorers (GUE).

Regulations

Although there aren't any laws that regulate what a person can do on a dive, people are generally taught "to not to disturb the environment any more than you have to and to never, ever remove fossils or artifacts from a cave, unless it's under the direction of a museum or a university or something that's going to preserve what you're doing."

Do you need a special permit or permission to cave dive? Says Tedder: "Once you're a certified cave diver, you pretty much have carte blanche to cave dive. More often than not, the restrictions come from the location. Some of the state parks will require you to show certification -- tell them when you're going to be in the water and back out of the water -- and they'll only allow so many people in or out of the cave in a day. There are a lot of generic, 'let's go cave diving' places that charge an admission fee, and you can go into their area and just dive all you want -- nobody monitors what you're doing. Once you're a certified cave diver, it's up to you at that point to make your own dive plans, make determinations about your decompression schedules and the gas mixtures you'll use, et cetera."

For lots more information on exploration, discovery and adventure travel, see the next page.

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