Most Dangerous Cave Dives

dangerous cave dives

What would you do if you had no way out? What if, buried deep below the Earth or sea on a cave exploration, the next corner you turned led to nowhere?

You might remain calm at first, telling yourself to breath and concentrate, vowing to find your way back to the surface, but what if the next corner you turned didn’t lead anywhere either? Nor the next!

This scenario is a daunting reality, the life-threatening downside of a fervent passion. No matter how skilled you are at cave diving, you must remain wary of the risk of getting stranded or trapped.

Here are five of the world’s most dangerous caves.

Eagle’s Nest – Chassahowitzka Wildlife Management Area, Florida

If you were to take a trip to Florida’s Chassahowitzka Wildlife Management Area, you probably wouldn’t think that the Eagle’s Nest looks like much more than a scummy pond.

You would be mistaken, however, as this site is actually a notoriously compartmentalized cave system that has claimed the lives of numerous divers.

Those brave enough to take the dive hundreds of feet down are rewarded with mammoth chambers of crystal clear splendor and access to a large cavern called “The Main Ballroom.”

Once that far, a complex system of tunnels leads divers to further discoveries. Making it back the way you came is the tough part and the reason this trip is recommended for expert divers only.

Gufr-Berger – Vercors, French Alps

Though the French Alps’ 4,340 foot-deep Gufr-Berger cave is no longer regarded as the world’s deepest, it’s fall from ranking’s grace is no reason to underestimate it.

Not only does Berger descend so far beneath the earth that it takes explorers between 15 and 30 hours to reach the cave’s surface from its lowest point (and that’s without breaks), but its Pavodkoopasna chamber is also notorious for flash floods that have killed as many as five in recent years.

The only thing worse than being trapped in a cave is being trapped in a cave under water.

Krubera Cave – Western Caucuses, Abkhazia

Located in the eastern European region of Abkhazia in the Western Caucuses, the Krubera Cave is currently regarded as the world’s deepest at 7,021 feet, or about 1.3 miles.

Even as Ukranian speleogolists (cave researchers) traversed down to Krubera Cave’s lowest point, they continued to discover various species of animal life, including spiders and scorpions – both of which scientists had ample time to study during the 14 days it took them to find daylight.

If the prospect of getting lost or trapped in the world’s deepest cave doesn’t get your blood pumping, the thought of spending two weeks trapped in the dark with scorpions and spiders surely must.

Orda Cave System – Perm Region, Russia

When diving deep below the surface of Russian waters in the region’s Orda Cave system, one need not be worried about finding scorpions. In fact, one need not be worried about finding much of anything, because few species can survive in water temperatures just a notch above freezing.

Those who’ve explored the region praise its wonder and majesty. Beauty aside, any expedition to Orda is inherently one of the world’s riskiest and intended only for veteran divers.

As underwater photographer, journalist and Orda journeyman, Victor Lyagushkin, told the DailyMail

We do control our risks – before each dive we discuss each moment, to find a solution to any situation we are faced with. If it is too risky, we do not dive. We must be aware of each step, or you will die.

Victor Lyagushkin – Underwater photographer & journalist

The Blood Grotto – Port of Palinuro, Italy

With a name like The Blood Grotto, one might think Italy’s submerged cave system in the tourist port of Palinuro is another spot intended for cave diving experts. It’s actually a popular amateur locale where beginners are encouraged to try their hand at the sport.

That doesn’t sound too extreme, so why include it on our list? Because in July 2012, four divers got lost in the Grotto’s underwater caverns and drowned.

One survivor told CNN…

We suddenly found ourselves in a blind tunnel. We couldn’t see anything. At that point it was panic. The agitation of the least experienced took hold. Mud and sand came up from the bottom of the cave and visibility was gone.

Blood Grotto Survivor

Pro-grade or not, any cave dive can go from recreational to deadly in a matter of seconds. It all comes down to which way you turn.

There’s an incredible rush of adrenaline that goes through our bodies when we first try cave scuba diving. It’s so strong that it triggers a fight or flight reflex, so we either run away — or never want to leave. Those who enjoy it tend to keep seeking that same thrill on every trip.

Scuba diving isn’t for everyone, but those who are open to it have access to beauty that is beyond their wildest dreams. Moreover, the ecosystems that exist within caves are unlike anything most of us have ever seen.

Still, we should learn more about these caves before we even consider visiting them. So, here’s what we have to gain, as well as what we risk by visiting the most dangerous cave scuba diving spots.

Jacob’s Well – Wimberley Texas, USA

Jacob’s Well in Wimberley, Texas might seem like any run-of-the-mill swimming hole to the average observer. However, there’s a world of wonders waiting patiently for those brave enough to explore its depths.

The location consists of three cave chambers, only two of which are suitable for most divers.

When you get to the third chamber, the pathways get incredibly narrow and nearly impossible to move through.

The cave is full of silt and gravel, which can be extremely dangerous for divers. If something disturbs the particles, the water can get so murky that you won’t even be able to see your hand in front of your face.

The key to scuba diving in Jacob’s Well is to remain calm so you don’t lose air and put yourself in a dangerous situation. By controlling your breathing, you’ll be able to enjoy the beauty of the cave — without risking your life.

Blue Hole – Dahab, Egypt

The Blue Hole is located in Dahab, Egypt, and is one of the most dangerous scuba diving spots known to mankind. The underwater ocean tunnel is notorious — it’s also known as the “Diver’s Cemetery.”

The Blue Hole is mostly famous for its passageway (the arch) that connects it to open waters.

The arch is located around 183 feet under the surface, but the recommended safe diving depth is 100 feet. If you choose to go over the limitation, you risk disorientation and potential drowning caused by nitrogen narcosis.

Sadly, many divers fall victim to this condition while trying to reach the arch. So the cave and surrounding beaches are basically ominous graveyards.

Cenote Esqueleto (Temple of Doom) – Tulum, Mexico

Located in sunny Tulum, Mexico, the Cenote Esqueleto is also known as The Temple of Doom.

This is a Cenote sinkhole, and as such, it’s filled with water and consists of limestone. Cenote is perfect for cooling down on a hot day and has very few suspended particles — making the diving conditions nearly perfect.

However, Cenote Esqueleto is one of the most dangerous scuba diving spots in the world for a good reason.

The cave is infamous for featuring a combination of intricate tunnels and dark passageways. The tight corners can easily disorient even the most experienced divers. So, it’s best to stay close to the sunlight and steer clear of any dark ravines at all times.

The cave is also quite slippery and tends to break off easily, which might put divers at risk of getting hit by the debris.

Additionally, because the cave is deep and narrow, it’s easy for divers to get lost and ultimately run out of air. Still, if you stay in areas where you can see clearly – Cenote Esqueleto could offer an amazing scuba diving experience.

Samaesan Hole – Samae San Islands, Thailand

Thailand’s Samae San Islands are one of the most popular tourist spots and offer great fun in the sun for the whole family. However, this Samaesan Bay open ocean cave is 280 feet deep and is infamous amongst scuba divers.

Of course, there are some tours in Samaesan Bay that are even open for novice divers — but the Samaesan Hole isn’t one of them.

Divers who visit this location are quite the risk-takers, and the area truly offers a one-of-a-kind, adrenaline-filled experience.

Even for those who already have years of valuable diving experience, visiting this cave is a gamble. In all honesty, it’s best to avoid diving there altogether, as the currents are incredibly strong and can easily pull us to the bottom of the ocean.

And if all that weren’t bad enough, the Samaesan Hole was a dumping spot for Thailand’s military and is full of unexploded bombs.

Devil’s Cave System – Ginnie Springs Florida, USA

The Devil’s Cave system is located in Ginnie Springs, Florida, and produces nearly 80 million gallons of water per day. The system offers amazing scenery for those brave enough to dive into it, and it consists of three caves:

  • Devil’s Ear
  • Devil’s Eye
  • Devil’s Spring (Little Devil)

Probably the most treacherous one of them all is the 50 feet long and deep Devil’s Spring, but, all three caves have incredibly strong currents that can catch even the best divers off guard.

Additionally, there are small passageways prone to falling apart in each of them.

It’s also important to note that Ginnie Springs forbids any artificial lights in all areas of the cave. The reason behind this is that they can blind other divers and cause a deadly accident.

Blue Hole – Lighthouse Reef, Belize

This cave is located in Lighthouse Reef, Belize, and is by far one of the most beautiful places all of us can hope to visit. Blue Hole offers incredible scenery, but tourists should also beware of the dangers it poses — before it’s too late.

The cave was formed 153,000 years ago and is around 1,000 feet long and 400 feet deep.

Most tourists climb down a 100-foot drop that consists of shear walls that turn to limestone stalactite formations. The descent can make even the most experienced divers dizzy and disoriented — which causes them to go down at a faster rate.

So, you must proceed with the utmost caution and precision if you plan on diving in this dangerous cave.

The Shaft Sinkhole – Mount Gambier, Australia

The Shaft Sinkhole is a cave system located in Mount Gambier, Australia. The destination is not for the faint of heart, as the terrain is treacherous, and the sinkhole is one of the most dangerous places on Earth.

It also takes some work to actually enter the cave and start diving.

First, you must climb down a manhole without your diving equipment, and wait for someone else to pass it down. When you get your equipment, you’ll have to go through a series of dark caves to continue our trek.

Then, you must keep your breathing to a minimum in order to save enough air in your tanks to make it back to the surface safely.

The greatest danger that divers face in the Shaft Sinkhole is air consumption, as the cave is deep and steep.

Moreover, if you start breathing too heavily, you risk losing consciousness. Sadly, this is how many divers die in this cave every year.

Diepolder II – Brooksville Florida, USA

Diepolder II is a part of the Diepolder cave system located in Brooksville, Florida, on the property of the Sand Hill Boy Scout Camp.

The Diepolder caves consist of Diepolder II & III. Both resemble an average pond from the outside but hide a world of adventure and danger beneath the surface.

Diepolder II became famous back in 1999 when it appeared on the cover of National Geographic Magazine’s March issue.

The cave is quite narrow, and the water tends to get quite murky, which makes for extremely difficult diving conditions. The reason behind most accidents in the cave system is improper air consumption and the disorientation it carries with it.

Divers are able to embark on the incredibly dangerous journey through Diepolder II – but only in the presence of a guide.

Also, there are some requirements you must fulfill before getting anywhere near the cave. For example, before entering, a diver must prove they’ve been on at least 100 cave dives in five different systems.

Black Hole of Andros – South Andros, Bahamas

Located in the gorgeous Bahamas, Black Hole of Andros truly is the most dangerous and scariest place for scuba diving. The perfectly round lake has a diameter of up to 1,000 feet, and its depths reach down to 150 feet.

The cave has three layers of water — upper, bacterial, and bottom. The upper layer is relatively safe (when compared to others). Still, it’s around 60 feet deep and has an average temperature of -15 degrees Fahrenheit.

The biggest potential for harm to all divers comes from the bacterial layer. The bacteria that live here can cause temperatures to spike up uncontrollably, which may even cause death. Even if you reach the bottom layer, you’ll run into complete darkness, as the bacteria here constantly absorbs the light.

Because of its sensitive ecosystem, the Black Hole of Andros can only be accessed with special permission and for scientific purposes.

Also, if you only want to see the cave — you’ll need to be helicoptered into the area. So, suffice it to say, this dangerous hole should be left alone by all except the most experienced and motivated cave divers.

About the Author

CM Burns
CM Burns
CM Burns has been a music video director, a cameraman for Nat Geo, has recorded ancient Tibetan chants in India and swum with whales in Baja, California. Currently living in the Philippines you will find him anywhere Adventure happens.
CM Burns
CM Burns
CM Burns has been a music video director, a cameraman for Nat Geo, has recorded ancient Tibetan chants in India and swum with whales in Baja, California. Currently living in the Philippines you will find him anywhere Adventure happens.
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