Sharks were the reason why I came to the island of Grand Bahama, caves became the reason why I was certain I had found my home.
There’s a landscape beneath the landscape. It was decorated during the ice age when the water level was almost 400 ft lower in the Bahamas. Nature created it with patience, there was no rush, step by step she sculpted this marvel of nature. Water trickled slowly down the then dry cave one droplet at the time, and deposited minerals, dominantly calcite, to form the incredible stalactites and stalagmites.
I started my cave training in 2018 with Cristina Zenato, an incredible instructor, cave diver, and explorer, with a true passion for teaching and sharing her knowledge. It was a challenging course for me, I was already an open water scuba instructor and thought I had good buoyancy, but good buoyancy in open water versus good buoyancy in cave diving are two very different things. I always love a challenge, a chance to become better and improve myself, and my skills. I’m not afraid of putting in hard work, it’s not always about the harvest you reap, sometimes it’s the seed that you plant.
We spent hours in the pool working on my buoyancy in my new sidemount configuration. Keeping my body in the correct cave diving position, discovering new muscles in my body I didn’t even know existed. It was hard work and I’m sure boring for Cristina to watch me swimming around in the pool for hours, but her passion for teaching was shining and she kept pushing me to where I needed to be. That’s where I planted the seed. The one that would grow to be the foundation of my cave diving.
Our first dive was in Ben’s cavern, I had seen pictures and was over the top with excitement, I could feel it growing inside me the closer we got. I couldn’t wait to see this amazing place with my own eyes. We carried the gear down the pathway of the Lucayan National Park, down the staircase to the edge of the water. The excitement and the nervousness grew. I had already fallen in love with the caves from pictures and videos I was desperate to do a good job. We went in the cool crystal clear water and geared up. We practiced drills and running the reel. I marveled at the amazing decorations in the cavern zone (within daylight) and I was hooked, I couldn’t wait to see the more decorated tunnels waiting for me at the end of the line or rather the beginning of the cave line.
The first cave dive was in Mermaid’s Lair. The adventure started on the drive there. With uneven terrain, over hilltops on a bumpy road, once in while checking if my kidneys were still in place. Getting out of the car in a secluded area with no one else in sight. Carrying our gear on a small path through the forest. It was all part of being a cave diver and I loved it. Going in the small entrance into this new world was exhilarating, leaving the daylight behind. Listening to the sound of our bubbles and the reel unwinding the small white line, our breadcrumbs back to the surface. Embracing the darkness that surrounded us. We went through the cavern zone and tied our primary reel to the main cave line.
Swimming through the labyrinth of stalagmites and stalactites one spectacular decoration after another, each one of them unique. Walls covered in flowstone, like a waterfall frozen in time. Stalagmites made of calcite crystal, when you shine your light through, it glows with deep orange color. Hypnotizing like staring into a fireplace. Every turn had a new enchanting look. I tried mimicking the way Cristina was gliding effortlessly through the water. Each fin-kick made with absolute precision, the fins were just an extension of her foot, they were part of her, not to hit and damage anything, and to avoid stirring up the silt on the bottom. It wasn’t as easy as she made it look. I sometimes felt I wasn’t good enough, that I was too clumsy in the cave. It didn’t have the absolute precision in my kicks. I had already fallen in love with this place, but I was afraid of damaging it. Cristina reminded me she was the instructor and if she didn’t think I could do it, she wouldn’t have brought me there. She also reminded me about the story I had shared about the tattoo on my leg. It symbolizes never giving up, always going after what you want, and I wanted to become a full cave diver. I was determined to keep working and get better.
Every dive after I was certified, I kept working on my skills, and collected experience. I started with simple dives, practicing running the reel, putting in jumps without losing buoyancy. My passion for the caves grew with every dive. I learned something new every time, analyzing and listening to the cave. As my love grew, I wanted others to see the beauty and the importance of the caves too. The caves are not just a marvel of nature, they are also large freshwater reservoirs, blue gold running beneath our feet.
It quickly became clear how our actions on the surface, affects the caves, and the water quality, and how far our pollution reaches as we discovered garbage deep inside some of the caves. I realized the caves needed protection.