Exploration Time

Over the last month or so, Patrick Widmann and myself have been working on exploring a relatively (for Mexico) deep section of cave.  It has been challenging, rewarding and a lot of fun. I have made mistakes, learnt a ton, and ran into some less than ideal situations.

A year and a half ago, Patrick asked me to check a lead he had noticed while diving. I took my Sidekick out and went to check it and found nothing more than a small passage that looped back on itself. Then a few months ago, asked me to check another. This time I found another passage that ended in a major restriction that I wasn’t willing to pass in my Sidekick as it meant leaving one of my bailout behind. It was also 30m deep, and about a kilometer from the exit. Swimming that distance at that depth meant deco was going to be at least an hour aswell. Later, we went back with the Sidewinders and quickly emptied the half empty reel I had brought. First lesson, just because you don’t expect to find much doesn’t mean a half empty reel is acceptable. It opened into a huge passage with leads everywhere. As soon as we could, we headed back and tied into the end of line which ended in a small room just past a tank off restriction at 37m. Unfortunately, our work schedules didn’t allow a return visit for awhile…



Over the next month we have added 1300m of line to the system, with an avg depth of 33m and max depth of 37m. During this, I have learnt quite a few valuable lessons. First, having a more experienced explorer with you who can help point you in the right direction is a great way to learn to read the cave (ie. what will likely be a dead end vs the way on). The biggest passage isn’t always the correct one!

Secondly, just how quickly things could turn really bad. I thought I had spent my fair share of time in small, zero visibility spaces and have since had a complete shift in my attitude towards these situations. While checking a low bedding plane, I went in too quickly and didn’t put enough tie offs in. When i finally found a small space that i could turn myself around in, I was face to face with a thick, white cloud of zero vis coming towards me. In the second I had i tried to take in as much as i could and prepare myself. Zero vis was not new to me, should be no problem! I started exiting and very quickly realized that was not the case. My line went through a space the size of a fist, with a wall on one side and a no apparent increase in size on the other side. I had created a line trap due to a lack of sufficient tie offs. I was well over a kilometer from the exit, 23m deep, and in this situation… I was very happy to be on a rebreather. After 5-10 minutes of really searching and thinking about what I was going to do, I had two options. First, sit as still as possible and wait for my teammate to come get me. I knew that if i chose this path, I would never forgive myself. However, I am glad that it WAS an option in case I really needed it. Second, there was a small space way to the right of my line. It was big enough that I could fit through it, but would require committing to it. Hopefully it didn’t pinch off! I racked my brain to remember what I had passed on the way in, and it seemed to fit the bill. I went for it and popped out into a slightly better than zero vis space with a tie off right in front of me. I exited without problem at that point and ran into Patrick who had just started to make his way in to get me as I had been in there for about 15 minutes. We took a minute to let me shake it off, and then continued on our way surveying out and checking leads as we went. Since then, I have been much more careful, and added a lot more tie offs in small spaces. It has made my life WAY easier during exits in subsequent dives in smaller, and deeper lines in that cave.



On one dive I headed back to push the end of one of the lines that I felt could go further. It is 36m deep, at the back of the new section, fairly small and silty. I ended up adding a couple hundred feet to it and popped out into a familiar tunnel with line it already. I instantly realized where I was, this was the same tunnel that Patrick had asked me to check a year and a half ago! I remember checking this area and finding nothing but small nasty passages, and here I was coming from the other side without too much trouble. I guess even just a year and a half of cave diving all the time can make quite a difference in what looks diveable and what doesn’t!



As of now, we have exhausted most of the leads and are left with 2 promising ones. All dives have been between 5 and 8.5 hours. I have ripped holes in my drysuit so big I can put a finger through it and had to do 2 hours of deco completely flooded… twice. Beyond that, I am much more comfortable with the basic process/flow of exploring a cave, and have both pushed my limits and gained more respect for them. I have also really grown to love my Sidewinder. This could not have been done without it as there are multiple sidemount only restrictions and at least 1 totally vertical restriction that would be very uncomfortable on any other sidemount rebreather.

I look forward to the day that I can take others diving into this amazing cave.


Article written by Jake Bulman


December 15, 2019   No Comments

Euro Cave Trip

This year I was lucky enough to be able to take some time off “work” and Mexico to go on an epic cave diving trip around Europe. This is a small article about the adventures that followed. Part of the reason behind the idea of the trip was that Patrick had been invited to run a series of X-Deep and sidemount workshops in Cala Gonone. I have never been to Italy, and the idea of being there with other friends was too good to pass up! It also happened that Jaime was going to be in Europe at the same time, Simon (fellow Aussie) and another cave diver from Tulum, Jean-Charles.




The caves that we dove in Sardinia are all accessed by boat, which for us Mexican cave divers was a novel experience. The boat trip to the caves varied in length, but with good company on the boat and amazing scenery, the journey to the furthest caves was just a more fun time! We dove five different caves which happened to be the most interesting and largest of the systems in the area. 

We were hosted by Bluforia Diving who did a fantastic job. Danielle and his team were super accommodating for our diving needs, great boat set up with tank racks and plenty of space, and the transfers from the dive center to the harbour went smoothly every day with the crew dropping tanks at the boat before taking us down. Super hospitable guys also, we were invited for home cooked lunches a couple of the days. 

Cala Luna was the first cave we dove and what an introduction to Sardinian caves! The entry from the open water to the cave was a very different experience to lay a guideline. No abundant tie-offs like we are used to in Mexico and wave action to contend with! The caves of Sardinia are different from Mexico in many ways. Generally bigger tunnels, darker walls, and interesting depth changes. It was great to share the diving there with such a fun crew.



A couple of days after we arrived the others flew in. Patrick joined us, as did an old friend and legend Jeff ‘Chopper’ Glenn alongside Mikko Paasi of Koh Tao and Thai Cave rescue fame. What a fun crew to dive with! There was singing and dancing on the boat, singing on surfacing in a dry cave – Queen – and a whole lot of fun had diving the other caves. We managed to get into BeI Torrente, Grotta Del Fico, Bue Marino, and Utopia. While each of the caves were cool, Utopia was the definite highlight for me, the entry – dropping into the cave tunnel through a chimney in the seafloor into massive power cave was pretty mind-blowing!

Of course, no trip to Italy would be complete without feasting on great food and we made sure we did just that. For the final evening, we all headed to a ‘agriturismo’ restaurant where the fantastic food just kept coming. One evening Mikko gave the diving community a presentation about the Thai cave rescue and his impressions as a rescue diver on the front line. Super interesting to hear about it and his  experiences and perspectives on one of the great rescues of our times.



After departing Calla Gonone at a far too early hour, we drove across Sardinia and embarked onto the ferry. The ferry took us back to France where we dropped Jaime off at a convenient train station then the remaining three of us began the drive across France to Gramat. Gramát is in the heart of French cave county and home to the Cave To Be where we were renting tanks and getting fills. It’s a super impressive fill station and Olivier is a top bloke! Also, they have a great little board updated with the visibility conditions of the nearby cave systems.

As we arrived sometime close to 1 am in the morning it was a bit of a slow start. But after coffee and pain au chocolat we got organised, visited the cave to be for tanks and headed over to Cabouy for our first dive. Unfortunately one of the party had forgotten their primary light. So while they went back to pick that up me and the other teammate enjoyed a much-deserved post baguette and cheese nap. Once we got diving it was great! Totally different from Mexico’s caves, and cold! Despite the double base layers, the medium weight, the vest and then the heavier layer of undergarment I still got cold. I’ll have to go back for another dive with heated undergarments!

We had time for three diving days in France so made the most of it heading to the Ressel, St Georges, Marchepied and Font de Troufe  For two of the days we were joined by a local friend Ben, who took us to some of the above water sights as well, like the amazing ice creamery. The highlight for me was diving the Ressel. Such an iconic cave and one I had heard a lot about. Amazing sculptured rock, the size of the blocks and the ‘puis’ made for an epic dive!


With the diving in France wrapped up, we had to head back south so that we could attend Jaime’s wedding. An amazing event and I was very lucky to be there. But that was the end of my diving in Europe for this summer. Jaime will continue with an article about Mallorca.

For those interested Patrick and Kim will be returning to Sardinia in 2020 for the CaveForia event. Contact info@protecdivecenters.com for more information.

Article written by Skanda Coffield-Feith


December 1, 2019   No Comments