Why do I cave dive? Is it just wet rocks?

by | Feb 19, 2024 | Environment, Training, Travel

My fascination for diving started with sharks as a young boy. The elegant predators, moving effortlessly through the deep blue water, were always my favorite animals even though I had not seen one yet.

To increase the possibility of an encounter, I wanted to learn how to dive. Throughout my first SCUBA experience in the Lake of Zurich (Switzerland), during the summer holidays of 2001, the likelihood of a shark encounter was obviously not too high! However, being submerged, and cruising around the rocks and seagrass areas, made me feel one step closer to them and I was hooked.

Living in a landlocked country did not make my endeavor easier, but I spent as much time as possible snorkeling and swimming in the beautiful lakes of Switzerland. In 2003 my mother offered to extend our trip to Thailand and go to Koh Samui for a week. I did not want to miss this opportunity. After seeing the temples around Chiang Mai and visiting the vibrant city of Bangkok, I couldn’t wait to get into the sea and finally achieve my Open Water Diver Certification. A dream come true. 

The start of a dive career in the Lake of Zurich.

After that, I continued diving occasionally. Whenever I found a day while on vacation, I booked a dive, but I wasn’t very selective with the areas or dive shops. This changed drastically in 2017. My sister asked me spontaneously to join her on a dive trip to French Polynesia, and I never looked back. Spending three weeks on Fakarava, Rangiora and Moorea changed my life forever. Each dive was spectacular and even though I had seen sharks before, being surrounded by hundreds of them – Reef Sharks, Silky Sharks, Hammerheads, Lemon sharks and Tiger sharks – only confirmed what I had always known as a small boy: I love sharks and being in the water with them! 

The three weeks passed by way too fast and we were heading back to Switzerland with all these beautiful memories in our heads and photos on our laptops. From that moment on I knew that I wanted to experience this more often, not only the shark encounters, but also the feeling of weightlessness gliding through the underwater landscapes and exploring a new world. 

After that, all my vacations were dive trips and I started to dive on a regular basis in the lakes around my hometown, Zurich. The rest is history: Not much later I quit my job, left everything behind (except my bags full of diving equipment) and became a dive professional. But what drew me under this spell? The sharks? The traveling? Blowing bubbles? 

Over the last few years, I have changed my focus on diving a couple of times. My main goal of seeing sharks was not the priority anymore. I just loved being in the water, seeing deep drop-offs, exploring mystical shipwrecks and enjoying the breathtaking atmosphere in and around the lakes of Switzerland. When asked about what we see on our dives in Switzerland, I always tried to do my best advertising: “There’s more fish than you could imagine!”, “The underwater landscape is as amazing as above the surface.” and “It just feels like an adventure!”. However, a lot of people (and other divers) could not fully grasp my fascination for the cold water and low visibility lakes. They pictured diving as a vacation activity in a warm environment, surrounded by colorful wildlife and ending the day with a cocktail at the beach bar. 

And this is what I enjoy about diving: There are so many different types of diving, different niches to specialize in and endless things to try and learn. And everyone can find the “specialty” they enjoy and focus on. 

Diving in Switzerland can be very different…  

There are endless environments to dive in and measureless things to learn. There’s ice diving in the mountains of Switzerland, wreck diving in Truk Lagoon, learning about the fast amount of wildlife around the islands of Indonesia, deep technical diving and many other disciplines and areas to be explored. I love being in exchange with other divers, hearing about their specific passion and realizing how much else there is to learn.  

In 2021 when, my girlfriend and I decided to get trained by ProTec Dive Centers in Playa del Carmen, aiming to become much better divers and thus be able to explore a whole new underwater world. None of us exactly knew what to expect from our training and if we would like cave diving and so we decided to take the training day by day. I will never forget my thoughts after descending the first time and looking at our instructor Jake: “Wow, I did not even know that a diver can look that good and move that smoothly and precisely through the water!” And this feeling was a big driver for me to become a resident instructor at ProTec and to move to the Mecca of Cave Diving in Quintana Roo. I have found my niche in the world of diving. 

So, what does Cave Diving mean to me? 

In the first place, I have experienced a different level of diving here, being inspired by some of the best divers in the world. The foundations of diving, buoyancy – trim – position, are essential to be safe in any kind of overhead environment. However, they make every dive experience, be it on a reef or in a cave, safer and more enjoyable. I keep practicing my stability and basic skills, to make my diving as effortless and easy as possible. Every dive is an opportunity to work on buoyancy, trim and fin kicking techniques. Having a good foundation is key and it can always be improved. 

Second, I love learning new things and mastering them. Cave diving and the community here in Playa del Carmen introduced me to so many new skills and expanded my knowledge about diving in every way possible. Not only knowing “how”, but also “why” is important to me. What are ways to navigate in a cave and make sure we always find our way to our exit? Which things do we need to consider when installing a primary reel? What considerations can make my dive easier and thus safer before I even descend? I fully enjoy this daily challenge of working on “mastery” of these skills and seeing my progress over the weeks and months of training. Everything, including diving, becomes  more enjoyable when you are good at it. Needless to say, it also adds safety in case of diving. This is why we practice with our team regularly, enjoy the journey of improving together and keep taking classes ourselves to increase our dive levels and knowledge. 

And lastly: The diversity in underwater caves is unbelievable. Some of the passages are covered with dark silt, tree roots add to the spooky atmosphere and all of a sudden the cave changes into white, majestic passages. And who knows? Once you have taken all the effort of training and practicing, you may even get to explore new cave passages never seen by any human being before. It’s more than just wet rocks, it’s discovering a whole new world!

Living in this area and diving in caves every day  is an ongoing journey of improving, learning and enjoying. It’s a lifelong fascination – just like sharks…  

Click on the icon to follow Marc on IG!