Exploration is a completely different sport, and in each area, and in each country, with every different environment and each different circumstances the tools and commitments needed are completely different. For example, in Florida, they mainly use back mounted doubles, and operate in  big groups. There they have the space to move such bulky equipment, but then they have huge depths. In the UK, they have near zero visibility and almost freezing temperatures. To the Brits,
its not cave diving, but sump diving. There, a dry caver learns to become a cave diver, and not the other way around, unlike here. Here in the Yucatan, our optimum piece of equipment is side mount.

The advantages with side mount are numerous. It is a little tricky to use at first, but with practice, and lots of it, it becomes the ideal set up. However, you must get instruction in using it. To the authors opinion, this is not something you learn to figure out on your own. Watching people do that is very comical. Also, it is well known that this is one area of diving where instructor cards are too numerous. Here, there are many with a card which is valid for instruction in side mount and no m
ount, but unfortunately they do not have the knowledge of using the rig to teach effectively. This does set up the question “How did they get a license to teach that?”, but thats another subject for a different day. This is one complicated piece of equipment, and you do not want to be paying someone good money for a course, when their knowledge of using it in the field is about as complete as yours. A course is 4 days, and there are about only 4 on the Riviera Maya who have the regular experience with the equipment to be able to teach effectively. Steve Bogaerts, Bil Phillips and Robbie Schmittner will professionally show you the way.

Side mount is the only system which utilizes two completely independent tanks, doing away with the need to rely on your buddies air for redundancy. It also allows for yoke fittings, actually on the possible grounds of safety.  With tanks at your side and not on your back, you obtain a very streamline position, allowing the diver to squeeze through smaller spaces with less impact to the environment protecting equipment and reducing silting. The tanks can also be removed and reattached in water very quickly, allowing a further reduction in profile size. Very often, a side mount configuration is seen with
scooters. With a low profile, the diver has less drag than conventional back mount. This can get the diver further in the cave in a shorter time frame, increasing the potential dangers rapidly. Helmets are always worn.

Cave God, Sheck Exley once said “Survey IS exploration”. Do not explore without surveying the lines you have laid, and for that you need a course. Crap data is useless to everyone, and relining a cave which has been badly laid by an amateur is very time consuming. If you have no data, you have not been. Get trained in doing it well.  Not surveying is destructive and amateurish. Do not be that person.

Exploration takes up a lot of time, and the reality is that to get anywhere, you need to live it. By far the majority of time is spent carrying equipment through a bug infested tropical jungle, and much work ends up unrewarded with cave that moves nowhere. It is for this reason as well that carrying aluminum tanks is more advantageous than steel and being able to carry the tanks individually is vital. To explore here, you need side mount.

Within the jungle are many Mayan archeological ruins. Also, there is no such thing as unowned land. Get all relevant perm
ission to do what you are doing, and make sure that INAH approve of your activities. The QRSS should be able to point you in the right direction if you need to gain permission, if this is what you want to do.

In the Yucatan, we have numerous deep sink holes, and in Quintana Roo, we have the world’s longest cave systems. Nohoch Nachich, and Sistema Sac Actun were recently connected to make the world’s longest submerged cave at over 500,000 feet of lined and surveyed passage way.  A few days later, Ox Bel Ha regained that accolade due to a chance conversation at a BBQ (Dan Lins).
To the North is Dos Ojos, and between Tulum and Playa there are many more holes in the ground waiting to be explored. The area is like a giant limestone sponge.   This is indeed the Mecca of cave diving.

Announcements as to the latest exploration news can be found on various web sites. However, much of the “solid” work goes unpublished until something ‘concrete’ has been established.


There are 10 different Grade 5 survey maps which have been produced by the QRSS and are available for sale at $30 each.


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