Safe Cavern Diving in The Cenotes

Cavern diving in the cenotes is considered to be quite a safe activity.   However, this is because we have so many different rules that dictate how we conduct the dives in such places.

Cenote Chikin Ha

Cavern diving can be considered the cornerstone of the diving industry in the Riviera Maya.  “Why is this?”, you may ask yourselves, well, the answer is quite simple.  Because it is awesome.

Unfortunately, over the years, there have been a few incidents that have resulted in fatalities. These incidents (I refuse to use the term accident, as it implies that nobody was at fault), were the result of breaking standards and rules by the guides entrusted to lead the dives.  Fortunately, the number of incidents that have occurred is quite small when in take into consideration the number of divers that come to our area on a yearly basis to enjoy these dives.

Cavern Diving Playa del Carmen

I am not going to go into details as to what happened. If you look hard enough, you can find the information yourselves.   I will, however, go into details as to what the rules for safe cavern diving in the Riviera Maya are.

  • Your guide must be a certified FULL CAVE DIVER as well as a Divemaster or Instructor.  The agency is irrelevant, as long as it is a recognized agency.
  • Your guide should have enough experience leading these dives.
  • Your guide must be using full cave equipment. This includes double tanks (whether backmount or sidemount), primary torch, 2 backup torches, etc.
  • Guides should give a thorough briefing of how the dive will be conducted, including showing a map (if available) of the route to be taken, communications and emergency procedures among other things.
  • The maximum ratio is 4 guests per guide.
  • The dives have to be conducted within the NATURAL LIGHT ZONE. This is one of the factors that defines a cavern. Natural light should be present throughout the dives, and the maximum distance for penetration is 60meters/200 feet from an exit.
  • The caverns in the cenotes all have gold line. If you suddenly find yourself in an area with a thin white line, or even worse, without any line at all, then your guide has taken you out of the predetermined route, and is risking your life.  Immediately end the dive!
  • You should never be taken through a restriction. A restriction is an area small enough where 2 divers cannot go through side by side.
  • If you see a sign with a grim reaper, skull and crossbones, or anything like that, don’t cross it. Those signs are there to tell you that only properly trained and equipped cave divers have any business being beyond that point.
  • No gloves, no knives, no snorkels, no danglies.  This should be pretty self explanatory.
  • Rule of thirds must always be followed.  This relates to gas management.  You use one third of your gas supply to enter, one third to exit, and your last third is for emergencies.  Under normal circumstances you should exit the water with no less than 1000PSI/70Bar in your tank.
  • This will be a controversial point, but these dives are not adequate for brand new divers.  I don’t care what they tell you to try to sell you on these dives.  Taking a brand new diver into an overhead environment can be extremely overwhelming, which can lead to simply not enjoying the dives in the best of cases to full blown panic.  So brand new divers, please stick to open water dives.
  • Enjoy!  Diving should be a fun activity.  While there is no guarantee for 100% safety in SCUBA Diving (except for not doing it at all), following all rules help us make sure that your dives will be enjoyable.

Cave DIving Sign - DO NOT CROSS