Don't wish it was easier, Wish you were better – Jim Rohn— Jeffrey Glenn (@goproasia) May 14, 2020
TDI Full Cave Diver program is back in full swing. We are now running this program once a month and on request if needed. We visit the Karst region of Krabi and Nakhon Si Thammerent to complete the training in the caves and sinkholes there in Southern Thailand. To enter the TDI Full Cave program, the pre requisites you need would be a Rescue diver, 18 years old plus a minimum of the PADI Tec 45 or TDI Decompression procedures certification, as a couple of the training dives, we enter a couple of the deeper cave systems which will require decompression. The course is conducted over an 8 day period with an extra day scheduled if the students require any remedial work. If time is a factor, we can also run the 4 day TDI Cavern and Intro to cave program with the same pre requisites required.
Here are the links to follow to read more about the pre requisites to enter each of the programs.
TDI Full Cave Package price is 90,000THB inclusive of transfers / food and accomodation whilst on the mainland during the course. Equipment rentals do apply so please enquire about our daily rates for the required equipment for the training.
We recently completed Ryan Harding’s TDI Full Cave Diver program here at Bans Technical and Go Pro Asia. Ryan completed a daily journal of his thoughts and feelings after each day of training he did with us and I’d like to share that with you via this blogpost.
TDI Full Cave Diver Course Day 1 – Learnt the basics of running and tying off my lines, navigation with, and then blind, without a mask using my cookies and line arrows to get home safely, and a few surprise drills thrown in along the way to keep me on my toes!
TDI Full Cave Diver Course Day 2 – What looks like an innocent and beautiful but shallow place to jump in to cool off from the Thai heat, holds a sinister secret down below! We did two dives in this cave system focusing mainly on proper line laying and retrieval as well as communicating only by touch contact with my instructor. My mask was flooded for the majority of both dives to simulate a low visibility silt out… a little uncomfortable at times but it’s what the training’s for. Lesson learned today was NEVER take your eyes or your hands off that fucking line! Unfortunately I did for even just a split second and my instructor, Jeff, immediately seized the opportunity to teach me that lesson the hard way, pushed me away from the line and deflated my BCD… I sank down into a thick layer of silt and rolled around for a while until I eventually felt my way up to the surface – idiot! A good day all in all! Buzzing for day 3!
TDI Full Cave Diver Course Day 3 – We started off the day removing an old line that goes down 120m into the cave as it was unnecessary to have two permanent lines, potentially causing confusion. We were limited to removing it down to a depth of 30m as we were on a Nitrox blend of EANx32, we’ll return tomorrow on air to retrieve more of the line that is deeper down. I was drilled on how to exit safely with multiple light failures, we simulated my primary torch and both backups failing and exited safely. For the second dive I did my first lost line drill. Por took me off the line, spun me round and round and upside down so I had no idea where the line was. He then pulled my mask up and flooded it so I couldn’t see anything. Nothing. Zero. Zilch. The skill to find your lost line involves deploying your safety spool and performing a strategic and disciplined search. After 27 minutes I managed to snag the permanently line and I tied off. Not knowing whether taking a left or right turn was towards the exit I had to feel for directional arrow markers and rely on them to make a safe exit. A mistaken wrong turn at that point and I’d be swimming towards my own grave for sure. Probably the most enjoyable skills so far and as always, looking forward to tomorrow’s chaos!
TDI Full Cave Diver Course Day 4 – Today was a tough one. The toughest so far. We started off dive one by going down deeper into the cave to retrieve more of the hazardous line that we started to retrieve yesterday, turning the dive when our NDL window was closing in on us. On the ascent I practiced a lost team member drill, effectively deploying a spare reel and laying lines in a zig zag pattern in the hope that my lost team member would snag one of the lines whilst trying to find their way out, feel a directional marker, and make a safe exit. After laying the lines, I was swiftly pulled off of them and forced into the role of lost team member… as always, my mask was pulled off so I couldn’t see anything, sweeping high and low to find a line to the exit, it took a few minutes but I eventually caught one of the lines that I had laid on the back of my fin and then determined the direction of exit using the directional arrows I had deployed onto the line, and got out alive. Happy days! For the second dive I practiced being severely entangled in a cave line. It was wrapped around me so that I couldn’t just untangle it myself, and with a limited gas supply, it’s a race against the clock to get out alive, or suffocate in a place where nobody can hear you scream. Grim. The technique involved marking my exit, cutting the line, freeing myself, tying a spare spool to the exit side of the cut line, searching for the other end of the cut line and then using various techniques and knots to tie both ends back together, with the precision of a surgeon. With my mask on it was challenging enough, but when we practiced with my mask off, it was ten times as hard. The key was to keep calm, slow my breathing, prolong my gas supply and remain methodical and pragmatic throughout. A tough day but all the more rewarding. Hopefully doing my first decompression cave dive tomorrow so very excited for that!
TDI Full Cave Diver Course Day 5 – Its been a very long day training back over in Song Hong today so a shorter post than usual before bed. For the first dive I performed my first traverse, a more complicated form of navigating under water caves resulting in us exiting the cave at a different point to that of which we entered. To do this we needed to go fairly deep with a good supply of gases and cruised around the cave system at 40m for approximately 20 minutes so racked up some planned decompression obligations on the way up. I used a Nitrox blend of EANx50 and switched over to this from my back gas (Air) to start accelerating my decompression time down from 41 minutes to just 19 minutes, saving myself a 22 minute longer hang in the cave if I had remained on air. As we exited the cave from a different point to that of which we entered it, my lines and markers had to be left down there. As such, the objective for the second dive was to go back down and retrieve the lines so that the cave is left clean for future divers to enjoy. A very tiring day of training but amazing fun as always!
TDI Full Cave Diver Course Day 6 – So far this week I’ve been doing theory and land drills in the morning and then diving in the afternoon. Today, I was in for a surprise. As I was buttering my toast and drinking my coffee, Por smiled at me and said ‘go get ready, let’s go do something fun’ … still a little bleary eyed I was being driven into the jungle for my next challenge. Shortly after surrendering my fins and having my feet tied together, I found myself trying to dive upstream in a fast moving river without fins. When diving in caves with a fast flow of water, sometimes the best technique to move forward without kicking heavily, and therefore stirring up the silt and severely compromising visibility in the cave, is to stop kicking and ‘pull and glide’ forwards. Doing this in full kit (minus the fins), managing my lines, looking after my team mate, and fighting a fast flow was tough work but a lot of fun! For the second and third dives in the afternoon I was taught how to properly survey and map caves to build a profile of them to use in future dive planning. It was logistically challenging, collecting and logging all of the necessary data accurately against a constantly shortening NDL, and also technically challenging with the heavy task loading – but great fun and really interesting from a geological perspective too. Reunited with Jeff tonight to see out the rest of the course, so looking forward to diving with the dream team tomorrow morning!
TDI Full Cave Diver Course Day 7 – Today we prepped our tanks and kitted up at the resort before heading to the cave, which was literally a hole in the ground in the middle of the jungle… The importance of logistics when cave diving has been stressed heavily throughout the course and everything is planned according to Murphys Law – ‘whatever can go wrong, will go wrong.’ And it has done. When you’re more than an hours drive away from your base, local dive shop, hospital or recompression chamber, the importance of tight planning and logistics cannot be stressed enough. The briefing focused on the correct protocols of a team moving through restrictions too tight to enter as a single team, without losing communication and awareness of one another. I changed over to my long hose so that it could be donated easily in case of emergency before following Jeff through various restrictions. We turned the dive at 40m and Por simulated being out of gas through the restriction on the way out and me donating my long hose to him, with him exiting the cave first. We then practiced communication by touch contact during a complete silt out and proceeding to exit the cave, up safely into open water where we could make a direct ascent to the surface. For the second dive, we went back down through the restriction when my mask was pulled off so that I couldn’t see anything. We then employed a touch communication technique called bump and go to communicate without visibly seeing one other. When moving through the restriction, Por’s fin strap snapped off, which I assumed to be a genuine training drill. Naturally, he gave the signal to abort the dive and the team navigated safely out together. I only learned that the strap snapping was genuine when we made it to the surface. It just goes to show that the tough training I’ve been put through this week is held to such a high standard for a reason. Genuine issues do arise in caves, and when you have no direct access to the surface, you have to let your training kick in, keep a cool head and support your team mates to all get out alive. Final day tomorrow!
TDI Full Cave Diver Course Day 8 – Wow, not sure where to start with this one, it’s still not sunk in. Today was the most environmentally challenging dive of my life. The visibility in the cave was absolutely awful, it was genuinely like diving in a milky latte, but a latte laced with small nylon lines trying to kill you at every turn if you don’t observe them correctly and treat them with the utmost respect. Most of my recreational diver certifications were awarded to me. All of my technical diver certifications were earned by me. There’s a major difference there, and some may not understand the difference until they venture into technical diving.
My Full Cave certification was completed in 8 days, but it wasn’t earned in 8 days. It was earned over hundreds and hundreds of previous dives over the years, reading articles, subscribing to journals engaging with the community and drawing from my previous training such as my initial TDI Sidemount and Advance Nitrox / Decompression procedures and Extended Range programs. Cave diving isn’t for the half hearted diver or the half arsed diver. I was incredibly fortunate to have been trained by two phenomenal cave divers, so I have to give props to Jeffrey Glenn and Por Parasu Komaradat for pushing me so hard throughout the training. Although my course has only just finished, my training has only just begun, absolutely loved it from start to finish and am really looking forward to what the future holds!
If you’re interested in Overhead environment training, GoPro Asia and Bans Technical Diving offer both the TDI Full Cave Diver program and the TDI Advanced Wreck Diver Program. We are the only dive centre on Koh Tao that can offer both these programs. Please get in touch with Jeff at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com for more information about the courses.