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From Mexico




Your first cavern dive will be unlike any open water dive you've ever done.  If you are a competent open water diver, the cavern dive will be well within your abilities.

Cavern and cave divers use many different techniques than open water divers, including team organization, swimming and finning style, and communication techniques. The overhead environment and fragile cave system demand a higher level of awareness from the diver. Safety protocols and procedures have been developed over many years to ensure that your experience in the cenote will be safe and enjoyable.

Your guide will give you an extensive briefing onsite the day of the dive, and answer any questions you may have.


Before the Dive


Your regular open water SCUBA gear is also used for the cavern dive, with a few modifications.  Your guide will be using full cave diving equipment, which includes two of just about everything - two tanks, two regulators, and other backup gear and specialized items. All of this gear adds an extra level of security in case of a problem on the dive.


It is important that you streamline your gear as much as possible - no dangling gauges to tangle in the line or drag on the bottom.

Mask, fins, BCD, regulator - standard recreational equipment is fine.
Snorkel - remove your snorkel completely.
Wetsuit - cenotes are colder than the ocean, usually around 25°C  Full length suit is recommended, at least 5 - 7 mm, or a full 3 mm and shorty.
Gauges/computers - all of your gauges need to be clipped or secured close to your body in some fashion - and your octopus as well.
Gloves - no gloves are allowed.
Lights - will be provided at the start of the dive.


You will be assembling your equipment at the dive site before walking down to the cenote entrance. Check everything after you have assembled your gear - it's much easier to deal with an equipment issue in the parking lot than after you´ve gotten in the water. Once in the water, we will perform these checks:

Properly weighted - you will likely use less weight than in the ocean.
Regulators - ensure both second stages are functioning properly by taking a few breaths with each of them underwater.
Bubbles - each diver  will be checked visually front and back for air leaks.


The Dive Plan


Gas (air) management during a cavern or cave dive is done differently than in open water. Here, we use the "Rule of Thirds". One third of your available air supply is used going in, one third coming out, and one third remains as reserve. Your guide will not be asking you how much air you have during the dive - it is your responsibility to notify your guide when you have used 1/3 of your air using the 2/3 hand signal (see communication). 

When any diver in the group reaches 2/3, the dive will be either turned around, or continued to the end of the line in the case of a circuit dive where the team is past the halfway point.


In the overhead environment, the team will usually be following a permanent cavern line that starts and ends in open water. The  line designates the route you will follow. You may see other lines departing from your line - these are usually cave lines that may be permanent, or temporary personal lines in place for a cave team deeper into the system.    DO NOT tamper with any line inside the cavern or depart from the route your guide is leading you on.


During a cavern dive, the "buddy system" used in open water does not apply. In these more restricted spaces, the team is organized one after the other, in a line. Your guide is at the front, and the team members will placed in order of experience - 1-2-3-4 - with the most experienced diver at the back in position 4.




Cavern diving requires more communication than open water. By using your light and hand signals, it is easy to clearly understand each other. These signals and techniques will be demonstrated during your pre-dive briefing. When using hand signals, point your light directly at your hand - not at the person you are communicating with.

Attention - To get someone's attention, point your light at a spot in front of them, and move it slowly side to side, or up and down. When they look at you, follow it with the appropriate signal you need to communicate.

Emergency - Point your light in front of the person, moving it rapidly and erratically. Remember that in an out-of-air situation, the guide will be giving you their primary regulator from their mouth.

OK - There are two OK signs - move your light in a controlled circle, or point your light at the standard OK hand signal.  The OK signal must be responded to."OK"

 Stop - If your guide uses the stop signal, a closed fist held upright, hold your position until you receive an OK signal to proceed.


Air Consumption - When you reach two thirds of your air supply, get your guide´s attention (with the attention sign) and point your light at your hand with two fingers held upright.  One third - one finger.

Problem - Signal Attention, then the standard problem signal followed by an indication of what the problem is - equalization, cold, etc."Problem"

Turn the Dive - One finger, pointed up, moving in a circle.

Sediment - Two fingers rubbing together. This means you are stirring up the bottom and affecting the visibility.

CALL THE DIVE - the most important signal. Any diver can call the dive at any time, for any reason. The guide will take you to the nearest exit."Call the Dive"


The Dive


Position and buoyancy control are key to cenote diving. Your position should be perfectly horizontal, preventing your legs from dropping and stirring up sediment from the floor of the cavern.

 Good buoyancy control will make all the difference to enjoying your cenote experience. The cavern route will rise and fall, with constant depth changes. Anticipate these changes, and adjust accordingly. Try to avoid runaway ascents and hitting the ceiling - you can cause damage to the cavern. Always point your light forward so the guide can see you.


Cavern finning techniques are all about avoiding stirring up sediment and reducing the visibility. Use either a frog kick, or modified flutter kick, which your guide will demonstrate.


The cavern line is there for your safety. Stay in your position (1,2,3, or 4) in the team, and swim within an arm's length of the line. Most importantly, NEVER cross under the line - that's the best way to become entangled in it.


The halocline, the layer where two different types of water meet, produces beautiful visual effects, but also reduces visibility, particularly if you are behind another diver whose fins are mixing up the water.

When the team enters a halocline, your guide will indicate that the team should switch to a side-by-side configuration. The guide will give you your halocline position during the briefing before the dive. When you exit the halocline, the team will return to their sequential positions. Halocline also means a buoyancy change - anticipate and adjust.




The cenotes of the Yucatan are an incredible natural gift. The beautiful formations - stalactites and stalagmites - were originally formed at the rate of 100 years for an inch of growth. Now that they are submerged, they do not grow any more. Any damage that we cause as visitors to this underground world is permanent and irreparable.

The archaeological sites that are found in these systems have been studied and dated between 10,000 and 50,000 years old.

It is our responsibility and privilege as divers to preserve this natural and cultural history.

Your part is this preservation includes diving to the best of your abilities (buoyancy control, swimming techniques) to avoid breaking the delicate formations.

It is forbidden to touch, move, or remove any natural formation or archaeological site from the cavern, even if it is already broken.

Please use biodegradable sunscreens and insect repellents.