Student # 1 - 2008
I decided to take Cavern and Basic cave because I wanted to experience some of the most demanding and in depth training available to advanced scuba divers. Both Cavern and Intro to Cave are exceptional courses and they exceeded all of my expectations. I cannot explain in words the experience I gained from each of these courses, but I can say that I feel that my skill and competence as a diver has increased exponentially.
I enjoyed my experience in cave country so much that I decided I want to continue my training and take both apprentice and full cave courses in the near future. Many divers after taking Basic Cave decide that diving in caves is simply not for them. However, no one that has taken these courses, whether they pass or fail, can say that the experience they gained did not substantially improve their diving abilities. Whether you are a warm water recreational diver or a hardcore NE wreck diver there is something to be gained by participating in cave training.
I want to thank Craig Morris and Jim V. for providing me with the preliminary training and preparation necessary to be successful in my Cave and Basic Cavern Course. By practicing the skills I learned in the Tiedemann's Intro to Tech course, I became comfortable with many of the skills that are required to pass Cavern and Basic Cave. Training and practice are absolutely necessary before any level of cave training and the Tiedemann's staff has proved too me that they have the expertise and experience to provide this training.
Thank you everyone at Tiedemann's and thank you everyone who took the Intro to Tech, Cavern, and Basic Caves courses with me, you made these courses a truly enjoyable experience.
Student # 1 - 2007
I decided to take the combined Cavern and Basic Cave courses to help me become a better diver. At the time I signed up I really wasn’t sure if I would be able to pass the courses, or if I had any real interest in cave diving.
After switching to a substantially larger, heavier tank than I am used to, changing my gear configuration, and shelling out hundreds of dollars to prepare for and take these courses, I can say that all the effort was well worth it.
The best way to sum up Cavern and Basic Cave is “diving boot camp.” We were exposed to situations and conditions that could be extremely uncomfortable at times. The main point of these courses (for me personally) was to increase comfort level in zero visibility conditions and overhead environments. The last-resort solution for many open water diving problems is some type of emergency ascent. No such thing exists in the cave diving world. Every problem must be solved below the surface—sometimes hundreds of (linear) feet Open Water.
Although cave diving may sound intimidating to some and the training is definitely challenging, I think this has been my most exciting and fun dive adventure so far. The Instructor (Johnny Richards) has a great sense of humor, but also takes the training very seriously. He ambushes you to test your skills, sometimes when you least expect it. The most important thing is to take your time, do things right, and don’t psych yourself out. You have to truly believe that not being able to see under water is not so bad…as long as you’re breathing, you’re ok. I also learned that it is important to train yourself to make good decisions and trust those decisions. There isn’t room for self-doubt in cave diving.
During these two classes I probably learned at least as much as I have in all my open water training combined. You learn as much from listening to Johnny as you do observing his technique (he’s like Batman) and watching the good technique (and mistakes!) of the other people in the class.
I never expected to become seriously interested in cave diving, but after getting my first glimpse of the cave, I knew I had to pass the classes. Now that I have, I hope to take my cave training to the next level. Underwater caves are a part of nature that most people will never get to see. To be a part of the group that does get to see them is an amazing privilege, one that is difficult to earn. At the end of the trip, even after 18 dives, I wasn’t ready to leave Central Florida.
To anyone who is thinking about taking Cavern and/or Basic Cave—
Go to the pool! Perfect your buoyancy and perform skills while maintaining good buoyancy. Run a reel with your eyes closed. Air share with your eyes closed. Get used to solving problems with your hands, not your eyes. And don’t forget that no matter how many dives you have you may not be ready for this course. You could hate it, but you might really love it.
Student # 2 - 2007
I wanted to take the opportunity to express my thanks to Jim Vafeas, Craig Morris and my fellow students that took the course with me, each one in some way was a contributing factor in my being able to pass the course.
Prior to taking the course as I was going through the cave diving workbook my apprehension was growing I wondered if I would do something stupid or unpredictable to cause me not to pass or complete the course. After meeting Johnny Richards who has excellent teaching skills and knows how to get a student into the frame of mind he or she needs to be in to start the class.
The first phase of the class gives the instructor the opportunity to look over your equipment that you will be diving with and provides you with simple suggestions to streamline or adjust your gear to make it through the next four days of in water sessions, he knows what he is talking about and the wise choice is to make those changes even if it means making small adjustments to the way you dove in the past. Any necessary purchases can be made at the dive shop at Ginnie Springs. For those thinking of taking this course bring extra money for the changes you might have to make as well as any repairs to equipment you might have to make throughout the rest of the course.
I think the biggest concern of the instructor is to identify each person’s weakness and to be on the lookout for panic points. For those thinking of taking this course you should seriously evaluate your comfort zone in tight places and in zero visibility conditions. That being said our instructor started out slowly in open water not more than ten feet deep running through line drills in two person teams. It would be very helpful to those considering this course to do so with a fellow diver whom you have already dove with. Good communications skills a very important and sometimes these have to be done through touch contact.
After the line drills are completed divers will proceed into Ginnie cavern here the instructor will have the opportunity to see your buoyancy skills and kick patterns as well as to see how dependent you are on the use of your hands affectionately know by cave divers as “fairy fanning”.
Day two will be your first day to actually penetrate into a cave system and get a feel for the basic cave course to follow. Being prepared for air sharing drills would be a good piece of advice as well as learning to dive in a high flow cave systems like the “Devils Eye” at Ginnie Springs. After safely completing these drills and doing so to the instructor’s satisfaction including the course exam, you will be a certified cavern diver.
On day three the course becomes a bit more intense bringing into play your communication skills, buoyancy, and ability to react quickly and safely to situations presented by the instructor. Also you will have to practice laying your own primary line to the main line with in the cave system. By day four you should see a noticeable difference in you diving skills you should have greatly reduced the use of your hands to turn around remaining horizontal should be almost second nature. Even if you were not able to complete this course for any reason you at this point will be a much better diver than you were a week ago. If anyone has had the opportunity to dive with Jim or Craig you will notice their impressive ability to remain horizontal at all times and almost never use their hands to turn or orient themselves. These skills were developed from taking this very class. Anyone considering taking this class will only improve any type of diving they intend to do in the future, even simple drift diving in open water in the Caribbean.
Seriously consider the type of environment you will be diving in with this course your are in an overhead environment and there is no quick exit to open air, if you are comfortable with that and having your skills developed through over tasking drills. Then I would highly recommend this course to you. The rewards are immense the skills are long lasting for you and the corral you won’t be destroying, or cave formations that have existed for hundreds of thousands of years. You will learn to expand your perception well beyond the length of your arm or fin which is what most divers consider the know universe when they dive. You will become aware of other divers and their dependence upon the air in your tanks should they have a problem. You will learn to be there for them as they will be there for you, and that can form some of the deepest and strongest bonds of friendship you may ever experience in life.
Student # 2 - 2007
The NSS-CDS Cavern Course is an excellent course any serious diver should take. It is primarily focused on buoyancy control while task loading. Of course it provides an introduction and defines limits for safe cavern diving (which is diving in an overhead environment with unobstructed view of ambient light). The course is challenging but a few focused pool sessions can be used to practice basic skills in preparation. Those wishing to take the course should practice deploying and redeploying a line reel without touching the bottom as well as following a line with both a blacked out mask and no mask. The challenge is buoyancy control. The skills learned in this course transcend all types of diving and will ultimately make you a better and safer diver.
NSS-CDS Basic Cave Course:
The NSS-CDS Basic Cave Course is an excellent course but it is not for all divers. The skills learned in this course build upon those from the prerequisite Cavern Course and will absolutely make you a better if not different diver. If you are a wreck diver and plan on any type of penetration this course is for you. If you are bothered by confined spaces this course is not for you. In this course students learn to penetrate an overhead cave environment to a limit of 1/6th volume of air on doubles and 1/3rd volume of air on singles. Safety is of paramount importance and is stressed, trained and practiced throughout the entire curriculum. Students practice out of air drills, lost line drills, lost buddy drills and emergency reaction drills both on dry land and in the overhead environment. Again this is an excellent course and will train buoyancy control, safety awareness, and gear configuration that will improve any type of diving you take part in.