Category — Training

A Cave Instructor’s Journey

Sidemount Cave Diving in Halocline, Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Everyone’s journey is different, this is mine to date.

I started diving at the age of 23. Knowing what I know now, it was later in life than I would have liked but at least I did! I tried it, I loved it, I worked hard and sold everything in order to move to a tropical island to pursue my new love of diving.

Soon after I started diving, my interest swung toward wrecks, “swim throughs’, and anything technical. I proceeded to begin my Divemaster course which included diving at least twice a day, nearly every day for the next 4 years on the island.

Thousands of divers came and went, of all levels of experience and backgrounds. Like anything you have a passion for, your awareness grows and influences change.

For almost a year, I assisted multiple different courses as a Divemaster candidate. This allowed me to become confident enough in my skills and knowledge to move to the next step – Open Water Scuba Instructor.

Some say it is a fast process. I agree, however due to this process you are able to fully immerse yourself in activities where you can rapidly progress your skills. You learn the importance of being aware of your own abilities, how to critique yourself, and to know the areas in which you need to improve.

During this time, I completed many technical courses which included becoming a Full Cave Diver. This was the course that piqued my interest in proficiency, overall diving skills, and solution thinking. I absolutely love diving in the ocean and miss the marine life after some time in caves. That being said, my curiosity to learn new skills, enhance my knowledge and to see ‘history frozen in time’ are all reasons that have brought me to the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico 5 years later.

Over 7 years have passed since I took my first breath under water.

I have been lucky enough to have dived and worked in many places around the world. I have dived caves in many places that have enabled me to build my cave experience, knowledge, skills and have now lead to my eventual goal of becoming a cave instructor.

For me, it is most important to dive and teach with an open mind built upon previous experiences.

I have now commenced my journey to becoming a Cave Instructor, 2 years diving almost everyday in the beautiful, delicate cenotes of the Yucatan, Mexico.

For me, it is important to dive and teach with an open mind and to build upon previous experiences. I have commenced my journey to becoming a Cave Instructor by diving two years everyday in the beautiful and delicate cenotes of the Yucatan Peninsula.

Cave Diving Training Land Drills, Playa del Carmen, Mexico

As importantly, I am able to dive, assist, and surround myself with the best in the world. These influential cave divers who are highly skilled, experienced and best of all humble.

This pushed me every dive to be aware of my abilities, critique my own diving techniques and to acknowledge where I need to improve.

There is no way to move through this process rapidly and safely. With time comes good and bad experiences that I will learn from and which will then be passed down to my future cave students – that is what I look for in my Instructors and mentors.

In due time the next phase will be examinations and ‘A Cave Instructor Journey – Part Two’.

This amazing journey of practise and development continues.

Tamara May – Cave Guide and Instructor at ProTec Dive Centers

September 6, 2017   No Comments

Cave Survey and Cartography: The Key to a Deeper Connection

In December 2016, I managed to squeeze in a few days of Underwater Cave Survey and Cartography training with Kim Davidsson (ProTec manager, instructor, explorer) and Tamara (colleague, amazing diver, Melburnian). It was a great course (we expect nothing less from ProTec instructors), we learned about an aspect of cave diving that I had heard people talk about, but had never given too much thought to. We had a really interesting classroom session then made our survey slates before doing some dry surveying practice.

Custom Made Cave Survey Slate

One of the key things that came from the classroom session was the requirement to survey exploration lines (something I hope to do one day), because without the survey data, there is no point laying line. As Kim says, “if you don’t know where you’ve been, you have not been there…” As cave divers and cave explorers we have a responsibility to the rest of the community to share our discoveries and lay the path for future explorers and cave divers.  I am looking forward to continuing the “exploration” part of the workshop and I am excited to one day lay my own line in virgin passage and survey it.

The next day we went off to Cenote Carwash to practice surveying lines, before learning how to plug the data into a computer program (in this case Arianne’s Line). With the data in the program we were able to see the lines we had surveyed, and check how far off our errors were. It was a very cool experience and that really makes you appreciate the many hours of hard work that go into exploring and surveying caves!

Surveyors gear is specialized and redundent

After completing the survey workshop I wanted to put the new skills to practice. After some discussion with the guru, Kim, I decided my project would be to resurvey Mayan Blue. It has been an interesting experience to resurvey the lines in Mayan Blue for a number of reasons. Most importantly, it has been a great excuse to go down many of the lines that I had previously overlooked! I always knew it was a big cave, but diving and surveying gives a picture to this reality. I love to see the “big picture” growing together and knowing each section of cave intimately is very rewarding. Many times we dive caves a few times and then move onto other sites, but so many of the caves here are so big that each dive you can go somewhere new. After exhausting the options close to the entrances on back-gas (or side-gas), I then started to add stage tanks to my dives to get further back into the cave. Going down lines that don’t get frequently dived, where the guideline is covered in a layer of silt, is an exciting experience and shows how once you get off the beaten path there are many areas of busy caves that very few people dive.

Surveying during dives has been both a challenge and a reward. Practicing surveying has made my skills improve as my work flow and abilities with the survey slate get better. Developing these skills will continue to reward, already I have been able to survey faster and with greater accuracy. This is a clear case of what Protec teaches and believes – that courses give people an opportunity to learn and practice skills in a safe environment, but divers need to continue to practice these skills to improve them (and prevent their deterioration). From the perspective of developing new skills the course was a good start and every dive I have surveyed on since has continued to build on those skills.

Accurate collection and storage of cave survey data is essential to success.

Another reward is seeing the survey data once it has been entered into the computer (and doing many dives in the same cave) has really helped me to learn the cave and it’s lines. This is invaluable for guiding clients and being able to explain where a certain jump is, or drawing accurate stick maps of the lines, where arrows are and how long it takes to reach them. As it is, there is still much cave to resurvey so the project will continue! There is something cool about seeing the in water work you do turn into an accurate stick map.

For those cave divers who are interested in a new challenge, and would like to learn new skills I highly recommend the Underwater Cave Survey and Cartography course Protec teaches. It is great to gain an understanding of the survey process and all the work that goes into surveying cave passages.

May 9, 2017   No Comments