Cavern and Cave Diving Classes
These courses are designed to provide the diver with the fundamental skills and knowledge for cavern and cavediving, and instructs ways to avoid the dangers involved with cave diving. Cavern and Cave instructors are hired on a course by course basis and include some of the most proficient cave instructors in the world. The course is taught either to the standards of the Cave Diving Section of the National Speleological Society (NSS-CDS) or the National Association for Cave Diving (NACD).
Becoming a Certified Cave Diver
The NSS-CDS breaks the process of becoming a fully-certified cave diver down into four steps. These steps can be taken as individual courses, or combined into four-, six- or eight-day programs. With each step, students’ knowledge, abilities and experience grow. So, too, do the limitations imposed on them, as the following chart shows:
|Level||Days||Dives||Max Depth||Max Penetration||Other Limits|
|Cavern Diver||2||4||30 m/100 ft||60 m/200 ft||Daylight Zone;
|2||4||30 m/100 ft||1/6rd of Doubles||No Decompression|
|2||4||40 m/130 ft||1/3rd of Doubles||Limited Deco; No
Circuits or Traverses
|Cave Diver||2||4||40 m/130 ft||1/3rd of Doubles||No Staging
As originally conceived, the Cavern Diver course was a recreational diving course, taught to recreational divers using basic recreational diving equipment. It was assumed most participants had little interest in penetrating caves beyond sight of the entrance.
Today the need for that sort of a program has diminished. With readily available cavern diving sites in north Florida, such as Ginnie Spring and Blue Grotto, and the system of guided cenote tours in Mexico, recreational divers don’t necessarily need to take a complete, two-day course in order to enjoy a safe cavern experience.
What is more common now is to use the Cavern Diver program as the first step in the complete eight-day Cave Diver curriculum. It is where we introduce students to basic cave diving skills, such as equipment configuration, guideline and reel use, and specialized buoyancy control, body position and propulsion techniques. It is also a way to screen students to make sure they possess the necessary abilities before allowing them in the fragile cave environment.
Basic Cave Diver
This is where students begin making actual cave dives — under some fairly strict limitations. By limiting penetration gas to roughly 40 cubic feet, avoiding decompression and prohibiting any sort of jumps, gaps or complex navigation, we allow students to focus on things like basic dive planning, communication and emergency skills.
Students who want to gain limited cave diving experience on their own, at the completion of this program, may do so — provided they understand that the cave community will be keeping them on a fairly short leash.
Apprentice Cave Diver
By the time students complete the Apprentice level, we will have covered most or all of the academic knowledge and emergency skills required for full Cave Diver certification. Students may receive a limited introduction to decompression diving procedures, as they pertain to cave diving, and will make some simple explorations off the main line.
It is at this point that students are ready to gain some more realistic cave diving experience on their own, if desired. Nevertheless, they are expected to keep all dives well within the limitations of their overall experience.
(Full) Cave Diver
The final step in the process, the focus here is on gaining additional practice of all fundamental and emergency skills, under more challenging conditions. Students are expected to demonstrate their readiness to be full-fledged members of the cave diving community.
Although a total of 16 training dives is required to reach this point, it is not unusual for students to have made many more practice dives on their own before full Cave Diver certification.
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