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

A Cave Diving Odyssey – Team ProTec Crushes the Florida Cave Diving Scene

Four of ProTec Dive Centers’ team members embarked on a 10 day cave diving odyssey to Florida. What could possibly go wrong? Nothing, actually.

Our team consisted of two Aussies (Tamara & Skanda), a Californian (John) and the Spaniard (Jaime). We checked in at 7.30am at Cancun Airport with a combined weight of approximately 120kgs for our flight to Orlando, Florida.


Florida traffic is a buzz kill, but we over came.

Upon arrival in Orlando, we load up our super swankyrental Dodge van and drove toward Odessa, Tampa to meet our good friends and returning ProTec Dive Centers’ clients, Mark Dobson and his wife Pat.

In Odessa, we were greeted with the warmest of welcomes, a bed, food, a pile of fluffy waging tails, and a garage full of cylinders and tools waiting for us to set up our gear our dive the next morning.


Day 1 (8AM): More good friends and fellow ProTec clients, Roy Reynaud, wife Marie, and Ken Plunkett arrive to join us for our first day of diving. We finished setting up our equipment, loaded the trucks, topped up gases, and got some tasty treats and post dive beer.

Filling SCUBA Tanks for Cave Diving
Filling the Truck to Go Cave Diving
Filling a Cart for Eating and Drinking After Cave Diving
Driving to the Cave for Some Cave Diving


Dive 1: Eagles Nest Sink – Max Depth: 200ft/61m / Duration: 92mins

We felt slightly spoilt to dive in world renowned state park with locals. We were feeling very grateful for beautiful steps down into the water, a map, a visitors log, a marque, bench tables, and not to mention trimix.

Eagles Nest Log
Entrance to Eagle Nest Sink
Preparing to cave dive at Eagle Nest Sink

Mark and Roy gave us a nice introduction to the Floridian caves as they briefed us with their map. Unfortunately, Roy wasn’t able to join us on the dive but was the best surface support a diver could ask for!

We donned our gear and Ken led the way, single file down the ‘chute’ until it opens out into a large chamber at 20m, our light beams struggle to hit the walls.

We descended to a T and swan downstream through a ‘restriction’. After the restriction we encountered a sloping tunnel, the floor covered with dark brown sediment.

The Restriction at Eagles Nest Cave
Eagles Nest Cave - 61 meters on Trimix
Eagles Nest Cave - Jaime Smashing Through the Dark

Like many of the caves we dived on the trip, the walls are beautifully sculpted, and light in colour.

Left-to-Right: Roy, Tamara, John, Mark, Skanda, Jaime, & Ken

We enjoyed an epic first dive, post dive beers, and great company.

DAY 2: Another early morning and a 3-hour drive to Live Oak to check into Cave Excursions.

Cave Excusions Dive Shop, Florida
Cave Excursions SCUBA Gas Filling Bank
Home Sweet Home for Now

Cave Excursions is like looking back down the timeline of side mount cave diving. Most mornings we had the pleasure of sitting with the original owner Bill Rennaker to chat about the caves in the area, development of cave diving, and his shop.

John and Tamara Filling Scuba Tanks
Target Practice with Scuba Tanks!

We especially enjoyed discussing his experiences in Florida and Tulum many years ago and of course his gallery of side mount units hanging out the back.

Straight away we topped up our cylinders and headed off to Peacock Springs State Park to dive Orange Grove, one of its many sink holes.

Dive 2: Orange Grove – Max Depth: 117ft/35m Duration: 146mins

Orange Grove Sink - John Cafaro
Orange Grove Sink Underwater


Duck weed covered the surface but beneath was crystal clear. Here we dived up to ‘Challenge Sink’, the ‘Distance Tunnel’, and the deep section.

Dive 3: Telford Springs – Max Depth: 67ft/22m Duration: 123mins

All the way to the T

Telford Cave Map
Telford Sink Spring Surface
Telford Cave Entrance

DAY 3: We headed off to Ginnie Springs and met up with ProTec client and local instructor Marissa Waltman. Ginnie Springs has a beautiful open water area, parking, shaded table, and chairs. The high light at Ginnie was the beer drinking local with a giant unicorn floaty.

Dive 4: Ginnie Springs – Max Depth: 100ft/30m Duration: 134mins
‘Bone line’, ‘Roller Coaster’, and the ‘Bats!’

Dive 5: Ginnie Springs – Max Depth: 99ft/29m Duration: 90mins
‘Hill 400 Line’ and ‘Double Lines’

An insanely beautiful and typical Ginnie dive experienced fossilized shells and sand dollars covering the floor and then an amazing flight back on the flow to our deco stop. As we returned after sunset, the flood lights were on to light up the open water.

We had the pleasure on deco to watch some awesome lighting effects, some deco dancing by Jaime and Skanda, and nocturnal animals on the return swim.

DAY 4: As we have all discovered our love for flow, Marissa showed us some cool dives at Little River, and Cow Springs.

Dive 6: Little River – Max Depth: 103ft/31m Duration: 123mins

T left, T left, almost made it to the well! Here we encountered what must be the largest T ever.

Dive 7: Cow Springs – Max Depth: 103ft/31m Duration: 131mins

We got our fair share of flow on this dive! We used the anchoring rope to pull and glide our way to the end of line which took us 75 minutes. Our exit was an exciting 30minute ride on the flow.

Starting with a tricky restriction entrance progressing into a darker cave with beautifully layered clay banks in sections.

DAY 5 – Ginnie Springs: Back to Ginnie for a double dive day. We were fortunate to be joined by another ProTec client, Joe Seda. Joe came to light it up for a dive with a handful of Big Blue lights !!

In between dives we popped over to Cave Country to top up our cylinders.

Dive 8: Ginnie Springs – Max Depth: 90ft/27m Duration: 82mins

‘Bone Line’, ‘White Room’ and ‘Wonder Tunnel’. An insane dive with 60,000+ lumens!

Dive 9: Ginnie – Max Depth: 96ft/29m Duration: 130mins
‘Hill 400’, ‘Double Lines’, ‘Ice Room’!

DAY 6: Mark Dobson and Ken Plunkett drove up from Odessa to show us a couple good dives at Madison Blue. We were lucky enough to have Mark shoot some photos of the team on an epic dive. We topped the night off with a BBQ and beers around an open fire back at the cabin!

Dive 10: Madison Blue – Max Depth: 94ft/28m Duration: 76mins
‘Godzilla Circuit’

Dive 11: Madison Blue – Max Depth: 92ft/27m Duration: 119mins
‘Rocky Horror’, through the well and turned just before ‘Pressure Gauge’

At Madison Blue, there is a passage so ‘small’ only one team at a time is allowed in. Teams are required move a slate from in to out so that other teams know the status.

DAY 7: Good friend and returning ProTec Dive Centers’ client Sandy Robinson met us at Cave Excursions and did a morning dive with the entire crew. Finally, we got to dive the famous ‘Peacock Springs’ and what better way to do it than with a great group of friends from the area.

We arrived to see what had been crystal clear water was now as milky as a nice cup of tea. Fortunately, just inside the entrance to the cave, the water was crystal clear.

Dive 12: Peacock I – Max Depth: 53ft/16m Duration: 170mins

‘Peanut Tunnel’ up to ‘Challenge Sink’ and jumped to ‘Woody’s Room’

Dive 13: Peacock I – Max Depth: 77ft/23m Duration: 137mins
‘Holson Line’ all the way to the ‘Crypt’ and checked the ‘Well’ on the way out.

Finally, we packed the van and set off to Mark’s and Pat’s house in Odessa. Upon arrival, the drying and packing began in preparation for our flight the following morning.

We would like to thank Mark and Pat Dobson for your incredible hospitality, help with equipment, navigating the supermarket (Pat), you really made this trip an unforgettable one!

Marissa, Roy, and Ken for sharing your time with us, your help, and great dives , let it not be our last!

Thank you Sandy for your wealth of information. Thank you Tom from Cave Excursions for looking after us as well as a few great nights by the bon fire.

Finally, a big thank you to all that were able to join us on the trip, either diving or just catching up. We appreciate it and hope to see you back at ProTec Dive Centers or… back in Florida next year!

Join Us On Your Next Adventure!

ProTec Dive Centers in Playa del Carmen, Mexico and Tulum, Mexico offers Cavern, Cave, Sidemount, CCR, Trimix, Technical, and Instructor Training.  We also offer Guided Diving, Equipment Storage/Servicing/Rentals, Nitrox/O2/Helium Fills, and Retail.

Book your next trip with us: info@protecdivecenters.com.


June 3, 2017   No Comments