Aktun Koh Cave Dive
It was time for my first "real" Cave Dive, so we loaded up the tanks and drove off to Aktun Koh. We bumped down the access road to one of the most beautiful cenotes that I have ever seen. The land owners have a very nice house overlooking the cenote, and we were fortunate to be the only divers at the site. We suited up and waddled down to the cenote with our gear and then jumped in and went over our dive plan. To get more practice, I was going to lead and run all the reels. Mike said we’d be doing a lot of restrictions and there was a lot of up and down depth changes involved. Maximum penetration for my first real cave dive was set at 45 minutes.
We swam to the far end of the cenote, submerged and I ran my primary reel to the Gold Cave line. We proceeded upstream on the gold line a few hundred feet and then jumped left to the Dreamland line (see map), and began a series of tight, up and down passages and restrictions that frequently opened into stunning vistas of white decorated caves. I was having an entertaining time with the restrictions, being ever-so-careful not to damage any of the decorations, and probably over-managing my buoyancy during all of the depth changes. The wow factor was incredible, and several times I had to pause and just drink in the beauty I was seeing. Near the end of the line, you swim up a very tight slope and then drop down the back side to spot the end of the dreamland line and you can see the main line a short distance away. I checked my gas and time and asked Mike if he wanted to jump back to the line and go left. He was good to go, so we jumped and headed off to the left. As we reached the Bear’s den cenote, we hit our time limit, so we turned and swam back to the Aktun Koh cenote. We surfaced after 86 minutes underwater, and all I could say about my first real cave dive was WOW, that was incredible! (View Graph of Dive 1).
We hauled our gear back up to the truck, changed tanks and had a bite to eat. Then we discussed dive two. We would head downstream, where there was bit more flow than usual due to the recent rain. We decided to set up and dive the downstream circuit, and then on the way back, we would re-calculate thirds and explore the many side lines heading off from the circuit. Mike described it as a “playground” of lines for jumps and said we’d spend most of our time on the “Wonderland” line.
Once back in the cenote, I ran the primary reel in, and secure it to the main line. I was surprised at how dark and different the downstream section of the cave looked when compared with the upstream section we had just completed. About half way around the circuit, we ran into the “catfish hotel”, where there were dozens of black catfish hanging around a large room with a black gravel bottom. I was wondering what they ate and where they came from when we swam through a cloud of insect larvae and then soon spotted a faint green glow coming from a slit in the ceiling.
We completed the circuit and on the way back began jumping to side lines to see the sites. We jumped over to the “overpass” cenote and marveled at the emerald green shafts of sunlight illuminating the cave. Then we made additional jumps off to the “teen” line and several others that we had spotted on the way in. Coming back to the circuit from one of these side lines, we spotted another line that was well hidden and running off through a restriction to the side. We jumped off near the end of our first jump reel to the new line and I proceeded down through a twisting and turning restriction that seemed to be getting tighter and tighter. As the ceiling came down to about 3 feet from the floor, the line took a sharp left and the restriction closed in to a point where I could no longer proceed with back mount tanks. I tried a couple of times (newbie that I was), and I could hear Mike laughing at the soft “clunk” as my manifold hit the roof while I tried to squeeze through. As I turned to tell Mike we needed to turn around I realized that no one had been here in a long time. The percolation from our exhaust bubbles had us completely silted out with fine white clay, which was raining down from the ceiling and brightly glowing due to our HID lights, but I couldn’t see a darn thing.
All of those days of training kicked in as I found the line, and then Mike’s hand and signaled we should turn around. We worked our way out of the silt cloud and back through the restriction to our jump reels and then went on to the main line. We jumped to the wonderland line (which was difficult to find, as someone had “moved it”), and I really had to admire how beautiful the cave was in this section. There was a lot of percolation on many of the side lines we jumped to, but I had lots of practice recalculating thirds, and deploying jump reels. I think I counted a total of 8 jumps made and retrieved before we headed back for the entrance.
On the way out I could feel the flow slowing us down as we dropped down to the deeper section right before the exit. We stopped to do our safety stop in a nice tight space at 15’, and then swam out to the cenote to end our 96 glorious minutes underwater for my second real cave dive. I was just floored. So this is what all the fuss was about!!! (View a Graph of Dive 2)