This year I was lucky enough to be able to take some time off “work” and Mexico to go on an epic cave diving trip around Europe. This is a small article about the adventures that followed. Part of the reason behind the idea of the trip was that Patrick had been invited to run a series of X-Deep and sidemount workshops in Cala Gonone. I have never been to Italy, and the idea of being there with other friends was too good to pass up! It also happened that Jaime was going to be in Europe at the same time, Simon (fellow Aussie) and another cave diver from Tulum, Jean-Charles.
The caves that we dove in Sardinia are all accessed by boat, which for us Mexican cave divers was a novel experience. The boat trip to the caves varied in length, but with good company on the boat and amazing scenery, the journey to the furthest caves was just a more fun time! We dove five different caves which happened to be the most interesting and largest of the systems in the area.
We were hosted by Bluforia Diving who did a fantastic job. Danielle and his team were super accommodating for our diving needs, great boat set up with tank racks and plenty of space, and the transfers from the dive center to the harbour went smoothly every day with the crew dropping tanks at the boat before taking us down. Super hospitable guys also, we were invited for home cooked lunches a couple of the days.
Cala Luna was the first cave we dove and what an introduction to Sardinian caves! The entry from the open water to the cave was a very different experience to lay a guideline. No abundant tie-offs like we are used to in Mexico and wave action to contend with! The caves of Sardinia are different from Mexico in many ways. Generally bigger tunnels, darker walls, and interesting depth changes. It was great to share the diving there with such a fun crew.
A couple of days after we arrived the others flew in. Patrick joined us, as did an old friend and legend Jeff ‘Chopper’ Glenn alongside Mikko Paasi of Koh Tao and Thai Cave rescue fame. What a fun crew to dive with! There was singing and dancing on the boat, singing on surfacing in a dry cave – Queen – and a whole lot of fun had diving the other caves. We managed to get into BeI Torrente, Grotta Del Fico, Bue Marino, and Utopia. While each of the caves were cool, Utopia was the definite highlight for me, the entry – dropping into the cave tunnel through a chimney in the seafloor into massive power cave was pretty mind-blowing!
Of course, no trip to Italy would be complete without feasting on great food and we made sure we did just that. For the final evening, we all headed to a ‘agriturismo’ restaurant where the fantastic food just kept coming. One evening Mikko gave the diving community a presentation about the Thai cave rescue and his impressions as a rescue diver on the front line. Super interesting to hear about it and his experiences and perspectives on one of the great rescues of our times.
After departing Calla Gonone at a far too early hour, we drove across Sardinia and embarked onto the ferry. The ferry took us back to France where we dropped Jaime off at a convenient train station then the remaining three of us began the drive across France to Gramat. Gramát is in the heart of French cave county and home to the Cave To Be where we were renting tanks and getting fills. It’s a super impressive fill station and Olivier is a top bloke! Also, they have a great little board updated with the visibility conditions of the nearby cave systems.
As we arrived sometime close to 1 am in the morning it was a bit of a slow start. But after coffee and pain au chocolat we got organised, visited the cave to be for tanks and headed over to Cabouy for our first dive. Unfortunately one of the party had forgotten their primary light. So while they went back to pick that up me and the other teammate enjoyed a much-deserved post baguette and cheese nap. Once we got diving it was great! Totally different from Mexico’s caves, and cold! Despite the double base layers, the medium weight, the vest and then the heavier layer of undergarment I still got cold. I’ll have to go back for another dive with heated undergarments!
We had time for three diving days in France so made the most of it heading to the Ressel, St Georges, Marchepied and Font de Troufe For two of the days we were joined by a local friend Ben, who took us to some of the above water sights as well, like the amazing ice creamery. The highlight for me was diving the Ressel. Such an iconic cave and one I had heard a lot about. Amazing sculptured rock, the size of the blocks and the ‘puis’ made for an epic dive!
With the diving in France wrapped up, we had to head back south so that we could attend Jaime’s wedding. An amazing event and I was very lucky to be there. But that was the end of my diving in Europe for this summer. Jaime will continue with an article about Mallorca.
For those interested Patrick and Kim will be returning to Sardinia in 2020 for the CaveForia event. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Article written by Skanda Coffield-Feith