Every month Davy Jones Tech organises a cave diving trip to the Beautiful Khao Sok national park which is 4 hours south of Chumpon. We run these trips to explore the stunning underwater cave systems there. This month we headed off with 3 freshly certified Tec 40 divers, Carly (USA), Hannah (USA) and Aude (FRA). All of them wanting to go explore the unknown and get some real overhead training. The girls signed up for both cavern and TDI Intro to Cave. The difference between the courses is that Cavern divers are not allowed more than 60m into the cave and must remain in the light zone at all times. Intro to cave divers however, can enter the full cave environment and start to learn more about cave diving and handling serious problems.
We all met on day one at DJL to prepare our gear and most importantly check it was functioning properly. There is nothing worse that turning up to dive and finding a reg isn’t working!!!. We also checked nothing was leaking and our planning logistics. Then we packed up the truck and headed to the night ferry after having “the last supper” with friends and family before leaving for a week. In the early morning we arrived at Surat Thani, had a quick breakfast and headed for the park. Only an hour and a half drive later and we were entering the stunning park, with huge limestone peaks and unusual formations towering out of the lake. The easiest way to describe it is like something you would see in Jurassic Park!
After settling in the floating village it was time to go diving, but not before the girls learnt how to reel first on land. So we had a few “dry runs” around the resort. After a bit of practise it was time to head to the first cave. Our first cave was called Red Cave where we did 2 dives. Something you should know is that none of the girls had ever done fresh water diving. So as we descended it was interesting to see them try and adjust their buoyancy correctly as you are FAR more negative in fresh water. It didn’t take them long though as they are all dive pro’s. When they had done all their safety checks it was time to head in. The first one to lead was Carly.
All the girls have previous wreck training. However recreational wreck diving is very different to technical cave diving. They did very well though, making the first few tie offs as we headed into the darkness with only a green glow and our torch lights illuminating the way. As we headed deeper and deeper into the cavern following Carly and her tie offs it was time to turn around and head back to the green glow that was our exit.
Our second dive was at Red Cave but this time it was Hannah’s turn to lead. As the girls were getting a bit more comfortable in the cave environment they started taking note of the beauty of the cave. Huge stalactites and stalagmites, smooth walls and even some aquatic life. Giant Mekong Catfish, Knife Fish, Snake Head Fish and even some small white shrimp in there. Two great dives down and it was time to go back and get some food and rest up for the night. One of the great things about Khao Sok is that there is no power after 11pm. This means it’s just you and the jungle. Early nights and early starts are not a problem and it feels great to be so refreshed in the morning.
As we started the next day we had some breakfast and then had a few more dry runs. This time the runs were about emergencies such being out of air and what to do if equipment fails on us. Then off to dive some more caves! The first dive was Chang Cave. This is an interesting one, it feels like open water however we were a good 40M into the cavern. Tie offs were on huge hanging rocks and trees that come out of the hidden jungle below. This time Aude was leading the dive. By now the girls are starting to look like pros in the water (well maybe not pros but they are getting good!).
After this dive we headed to my favourite cave, Temple cave. I love this cave as it’s not too deep, 20m at most but a 10m dive is just as good. It also has other exits into the forest which feels like dropping into space! Now the girls were getting good it was time to start dropping them problems such as being out of gas, mask failure or even light failure. Everyone did very well with only a few minor issues to resolve. And after that just a fun dive in the cave to celebrate that the guys had all passed Cavern and were ready to go on to Intro to Cave. On the way back a huge electrical storm gave us a visual treat from only a few miles away. The sky lit up and cast amazing shadows all over the park.
Day 4 and it was time to really start chucking the guys some problems. So our dry run today consisted of what happens if you lose the line, how to search for a lost buddy and what to do if you get entangled. A fun way to spend a couple of hours, watching the girls crawl around searching for a line (but mostly just going in circles as they cannot see and don’t want to go too far into our simulated cave). Then a quick bite to head and off to Temple Cave again where we did another 3 dives.
Problem after problem were being thrown at the girls and as a team they had to deal with them. This is not just for the amusement of the instructor, but shows how much stress they can cope with and how to separate real problems from perceived problems. They all did great again and now they were looking like a real cave diving team. Proper signals, line awareness and watching each other as closely as they were watching them selves. Team work mastered, then tomorrow it’s time to see how they work alone!
Day 5 was our last day at the park and todays drills were lost line and missing buddy. As the guys had already practised on land we headed out in the morning. This time to Peter Cave which has many entrances and exits all over the wall. Some are very small and some large enough for many divers to enter together (although we always go through single file).
As we headed further in it was then problem time! Masks off, spin them around and set them loose. Everyone dropped right to the bottom as training dictates (only about 3m below the line) and started looking for a tie off. This is especially funny to watch as they are protecting their heads and kicking up a lot of silt!
After finding a tie off, then find a wall. Head up it, along the ceiling and suddenly the line snags, got it! Reel back to the main line and then you face another dilemma….. Left…. Or right?? 2 out of 3 got the right direction right away and made it back to the team. However one headed the wrong way but realised when she came to a tie off “hey, I havn’t been here yet!” Cave diving takes a lot of thinking too, as well as good physical control.
Next dive, the missing diver skill. This involves leaving the mainline to search, however we never free swim off into the cave. Instead we have to use our emergency reel in order to jump off the line but mark it well with an arrow so we don’t get confused which way is out. We then make an elaborate spider web across the cave to try and “Catch” the missing diver. Marking it with arrows in case they find your line, so they know which way to go.
All skills completed, we headed back into the cave for a celebratory fun dive. Now the guys look like they have been doing it for years. They are now ready for release into the unknown world of subterranean SCUBA diving. Great trip, great diving, good people and 3 new candidates for Full Cave course. Although now, just a few tec fun dives on Koh Tao and tec 45! Great job guys!