After years of pondering and posturing the idea of getting my scuba diving qualification, largely out of the fear of putting my head underwater, I decided to book myself into an Open Water course in September 2015.
I chose Pro Dive Cairns and spent $990 for the entire 5 day course. Part of the course was spent “living” on the boat. I kid you not… it was the best experience of my life because not only did I meet an incredible bunch of people from all around the world — I also broke through one of the biggest fears of my life.
Here is a photo with one of my high school best friends that also decided to do the Open Water course with me.
One month later
After finishing the Open Water course with Pro Dive, I decided to book my flight to Mexico to explore some of the best diving the world has to offer.
I had read so much about the cave systems, cenotes, and the challenges the diving conditions present to many divers over there.
After only 11 total dives of experience under my belt… I decided it was time to take things to a whole new level and try and get into some of these cave systems. And apparently Tulum is the place where the action is.
Cenote: “Temple Of Doom”
One of the cenotes that I signed up for is called Temple Of Doom!
This is a cenote which is literally a hole in someone’s backyard. We drove to someone’s house who “owns” this cenote, walked down his driveway, and walked up to this hole-in-the-ground which is literally in his backyard.
If you are a scuba diver reading this, you’ll be familiar with the “giant stride” method of entry. Well, with a 3 metre clearance between the edge of the hole and the water — it takes the giant stride to a whole new level.
Once you descend down and look up at the entrance, this is the view you will see.
How cool is that? The boat you see in the photo belongs to the man who owns the cenote!
From there on, we passed the infamous underwater stop sign which warns divers to not swim past it unless “cave trained.” Of course, we swam right past that sign and proceeded to follow the line which leads into the most beautiful cave systems in the world.
There were moments where I approached very narrow openings in the cave system where I was barely able to squeeze my body through with all of my gear on.
There were times where we passed through halocline layers. It’s hard to describe but just imagine that everything you see is crystal clear. Then suddenly, everything becomes a blur! It’s no different to putting on your grandma’s reading glasses and saying WTF just happened! 🙂
Well, imagine that same phenomena happening when you are deep inside a cave system where your vision becomes so blurry, you can barely see the flippers of the Dive Master in front of you — who may only be 2 metres ahead of you.
Here is a photo where I’ve tried to demonstrate the narrowness of the cave system.
My BCD Failed
It was on this dive that my Buoyancy Control Device (BCD) failed and I was pinned to the ceiling of the cave system.
Essentially a BCD is the jacket that a scuba diver wears to assist with underwater buoyancy. Your lungs are a form of BCD! When you breathe underwater, the inhalation causes your lungs to expand which creates positive buoyancy (or a slight ascension.)
Your BCD is like an external lung where it can be inflated and deflated using buttons, release valves and so forth.
It’s not terribly difficult to understand. After your first few dives, you will get a pretty good handle of how to use it to create neutral buoyancy and then use your breath to ascend and descend. It’s pretty cool!
Well, for some reason, my BCD was over-inflating! Creating too much positive buoyancy. It meant ascending into the overhanging stalactites that litter the entire roof of the cave system.
Below is a photo of what stalactites look like! This photo was taken from Google Images 🙂
This was the moment I got a little scared because I didn’t really know what to do. Remember, I only had 11 dives of total experience.
My first thought was that perhaps my weight belt had fallen off.
A weight belt is a belt that usually has a number of smaller weights on it to allow a diver to be negatively buoyant (to sink!) It is usually necessary to allow the initial descent to occur. Once the diver reaches the level they want to be at, say 18 metres, the diver will use their BCD to arrest their descent to become neutrally buoyant (to “float”)
When I checked, my weight belt was still attached! My jacket was bleeding alot of air from the overflow valves. For some reason, air was being pumped into my jacket and causing it to over-inflate. The excess air was being pushed out of the overflow valves.
I was holding onto the overhanging stalactites waiting for my Dive Master to return. Because he was in front of me, he wasn’t immediately aware of the problems I had.
He eventually returned to try and diagnose the problem. After what seemed like an eternity, I finally “sank” to the floor of the cave and away from the stalactites which I was holding on to for dear life.
I was a little bit scared. Let’s be honest.
After surfacing from that dive, I debriefed with the Dive Master who proceeded to tell me that he has never had that happen before. Of course… it has to happen to me!
And boy wasn’t I happy to see the surface again!
Get more diving experience before exploring the cave systems! Every year, people die in these caves because they get lost and cannot find their way out.
It is very easy to become disorientated. Especially when you are swimming through a halocline.
Because of my adventurous nature, these kinds of high risk adventures really appeal to me and I couldn’t wait to build up the experience. So if you are like me, go right ahead.
It will be some of the best diving you will ever do! The water is calm. There are no currents or sharks.
If you are interested, I created a 2–3 minute video of my experience diving Temple Of Doom, over at my YouTube channel. You can watch it here. Let me know what you think!
Thanks for reading 🙂