Cave diving is definitely not for the faint hearted. Special training is always required along with a good dose of caution and a strong sense of adventure. Cave diving and/or technical diving skills and experience is of utmost importance on dives where cave penetration is conducted. Caves have a trance-like allure to most divers, but due to the difficulty and, often, non-direct line back to the surface divers conducting cave dives need to ensure that they are adequately prepared in skills, equipment, physical and mental health. While there are many kilometres of underwater caves still waiting to be explored, here we have listed a few caves that are sure to make for some amazing diving.
- Kilsby’s Sinkhole and The Shaft
Where: South Australia.
About the cave: Divers enter The Shaft by being lowered through a small manhole in the ground via a metal tripod. Inside the manhole divers are suspended about 8m above the surface and are required to drop to the surface from this height. The cave’s entrance is about 20m in diameter. The cave is extremely dark and likened to being in outer space.
The water the limestone cavity of Kilsby’s Sinkhole is crystal clear. In the past Kilby’s Sinkhole was used by the police for deep dive training and weapons testing by the government.
Maximum depth: The Shaft – 120m; Kilsby’s Sinkhole – 65m.
- Elephant’s cave
Where: Chania, Greece.
About the cave: The 9m wide entrance to the cavern is located at a depth of between 7.5 and 12m. A 40m swim takes divers to a cave filled with red and white stalagmites and stalactites. There are fossilized elephant vertebra, teeth and a tusk as well normal and dwarf deer bones.
Maximum depth: 16m
- Blue cave
Where: Agia Pelagia, Greece.
About the cave: The reef around the entrance of the cave is spectacular, inhabited by jack fish, white bream and snappers. Lobsters can also be seen here in April-June. The cave’s entrance is at a depth of 12m. The cave is 11m wide and 15m long with a ceiling that breaks the ocean’s surface, enabling divers to observe waves crashing overhead. The back of the cave narrows down to accommodate only one diver at a time. Here salt water from the ocean mixes with freshwater that enters the cave. Divers can see magnificent stalagmites and stalactites when looking up through the halocline.
More experienced divers can explore a secondary cavern, large enough to accommodate 4 divers, leading off of the main cavern via a shaft located on the right side of the main cavern. The wall of this secondary cavern has peep-holes, enabling divers to peer through and out into the open ocean.
Maximum depth: 31m
- Sra Keow Cave 1, 2 and 3
Where: Krabi/ Ao Nang, Thailand.
About the cave: Sra Keow caves are entered by two small ponds. Sra Keow 1 and 2 are connected at the depths of 80 and 200 meters. There is speculation that Sra Keow 3 is connected to 1 and 2 but this connection has not yet been found.
Maximum depth: Cave 1 – 239m; Cave 2 – 200m; Cave 3 – Max depth is unknown.
- First Cathedral
Where: Lanai, Hawaii
About the cave: Through the entrance archway divers will find an underwater tunnel leading to a large cavern. Once a volcanic lava tube, this cavern has a number of passages and tunnels to explore. In the cave there is an area called the Altar, an area where a section of the roof collapsed, allowing sunrays to shine down. There is also a number of small holes in the back of the cave, where the sun shining through a stained glass effect. Turtles, sharks and lobsters can often be seen inside the cave.
Divers exit the cave through a small opening at the back of the cave. This area is nicknamed ‘Torpedo’ or ‘Shotgun tube’ as the surge expels divers from the cave through this passage.
Maximum depth: 15.2m
- Nereo Cave (Grotta di Nereo)
About the cave: Nero cave is thought to be one of the biggest marine caves in the Mediterranean Sea and has numerous passages, air chambers and archways to explore. There are about 10 different entrances to the cave. Divers can see barracudas, red snappers, lobsters, moray eels and a variety of coral.
Maximum depth: 35m
- Chinhoyi Caves (The Pool of the Fallen)
About the cave: The Chinhoyi caves are rich with native history. It is said that the local tribe was surprised and killed by the Angoni in the 1830’s. Tribe by being thrown over the cliffs into the pool below. Nyamakwere, an outlaw also disposed of a number of his victims in the pool. Later Nyamakwere was defeated by Chinoia who used the caves to hide from raiding tribes and to store grain.
It is unclear where the water in Chinhoyi comes from, but it has a similar mineral content to Lake Victoria. The water temperature consistently stays at 22°C, even at 110m depth, suggesting that the caves are linked to a larger body of water.
The Chinhoyi caves are made up of a system of caves including The Wonder Hole, Sleeping Pool, Dark Cave, Slots, Moon Walk and Wallace’s Wallet amongst some of the known cavities. There is still a lot of the Chinhoyi cave system that has not been explored yet.
Many of the caves have natural light penetrating the water while Dark Cave is an artificially lit tunnel system.
Goldfish were released into the system in an attempt to minimise the mosquito population. Bones, animal remains and even some coins can be found in the cave system. There are also some ‘Manmade Stalagmites’, created over time by divers on their decompressions stops.
Maximum depth: Much of the cave systems is still unexplored, making the maximum depth unknown. It is said that Sleeping Pool is around 172m deep.
- Riwaka Caves
Where: Nelson, New Zealand.
About the cave: The Entrance is between 4-12 m deep. You can surface in two caverns after a short swim. In the further cavern you can remove your gear and explore the cavern on foot. .There are large boulders, stalactites and stalagmites and even a waterfall rushing over pink limestone.
Maximum depth: Unknown. The average depth is between 9-12m.
- Jesser Canyon.
Where: Sodwana Bay, South Africa.
About the cave: The entrance of the Canyon can be found at 95m, there are a number of caves to explore, but the highlight of this area is a cave that lays at 116m. Although there are beautiful, volcanic-like rocks and an abundance of fish life and coral, the main attraction here are the Coelacanths. Only a handful of people have ever dived Jesser Canyon and seen these elusive creatures.
Coelacanths were discovered in the area in 2000, after a 12 year search for them. Until fairly recently Coelacanths were thought to be extinct, having died out along with the dinosaurs. They are now considered a ‘living fossil’ as the only knowledge of other individuals in the same taxonomy come from fossils. It is said that there has been little to no change in the evolution of Coelacanths in around 400 million years.
Maximum depth: about 300m. The Coelacanths are found in a cave that is 116m deep.
Where: Northern Cape, South Africa.
About the cave: This cave is famous due to video footage of Dave Shaw’s fatal dive there in 2005. Dave had gone to retrieve the body of Deon Dreyer who passed away in the cave 10 years prior. In 1996 Nuno Gomes set the cave depth record of 282.6m- the record still stands today.
The entrance to the cave is via a small pond. From the pond there is a 1.5m wide, 3m long tunnel that gradually widens. At 50m the walls and floor disappears and divers find themselves in the vast cavern of Boesmansgat. The cavern is 120m long and 100m wide and counted as one of the largest fresh water caverns in the world.
Due to its vast size, very little of Boesmansgat has been explored.
Maximum depth: Just under 300m
Cave diving is an amazing experience, filled with spectacular sites. Although some caves and caverns are relatively shallow, proper certifications, qualifications and experience is required to enter these places where few people, or even no one has ever been before.
* A version of this article first appeared at www.scubadiverlife.com