Planning full cave training in Mexico - any recommendations?

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ginti

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First and foremost I will say that Brian Kakuk is one of the most liked and respected cave divers, explorers, and cave instructors in the world. He does teach students what u guys call “zero to hero.”
I hope that teaching "zero to hero" isn't standard practice for him - if it is, it would be a VERY negative point.
I highly recommend you talk on the phone or skype (or whatever) with the instructor and see if you guys "gel." Instructors who consider themselves hotshots, who are "social media sensations", and charge almost DOUBLE as other people charge (so they can be Dora the Explorer traveling the world) are a no-no to me. I learned this the hard way.
Curious about your experience now :) even via pm if you don't want to speak in public
 

GLightcap

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You will need to take intro to tech (sidemount or doubles), cavern, intro to cave, and full cave. Any legit school will require you to reach a certain level of proficiency in each of those certifications before letting you move to the next class. This doesn't just mean passing the class. For example most people pass sidemount class in a few days and then spend 100+ dives in sidemount before they are really solid with buyancy and trim. I had the same goal as you but I gave myself 3 weeks January of 2021 and I attended Under the Jungle in Talum (I highly reccomend them). I'm a former U.S. Marine infantryman and have been a firefighter in a large city for 25 years and those three weeks were the most challenging of my life. I spent 10 hours every day diving, and training on land and in the classroom. I studied every evening. I planned on going out there and enjoying the nightlife a bit too, but I did not, not even once. I was so exhausted i pretty much fell asleep while studying each evening. With all that said, I was barely able to complete intro to cave. Knowing the level of skill I will need for full cave, I have been training for the last year just practicing by buyancy control while performing skills and running line. I probably won't be ready for full cave course until the end of 2022 or early 2023. I'm not trying to discourage you but you should go into this with expectations of working very hard, learning a huge amount, vastly increasing your skills as a diver, and attaining whatever certifications you can in that time (with the certs being the least important). Firefighters spend four months training to be firefighters. You don't want to rush your training or attend a school that is willing to just let you do the minimum and move on. Enjoy the challenge. It is very rewarding! Hope that information helps.
 

GLightcap

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I highly recommend Under the Jungle.

Nat and Vince, the co-owners, are both truly excellent cave instructors and the whole shop has a fantastic culture. The shop is near the entrance to the Tajma Ha cenote, which is very convenient for training. (Taj is a popular training cave) You can stay nearby in Puerto Aventuras, which is a large mixed-use community with condos, B&Bs, restaurants, etc. By next year Nat will have some rooms for rent in Puerto specifically for people training and/or diving with the shop.

I can tell you that 2 weeks is not enough time to complete full cave training if you have never done any technical diving, or are used to diving with manifolded doubles or sidemount. If an instructor tells you otherwise, I would be a bit skeptical.

Basically, if you are currently a single tank open water diver, even an excellent one, you would have to take cavern, intro to cave, and full cave, and in addition to that (prior to any cave training) demonstrate excellent control of buoyancy, trim, propulsion, and simple task loading in doubles or sidemount. If you are not already very good with doubles, I would suggest just moving straight into sidemount training before taking any cave classes. That's because sidemount is overall a better system for the caves in Mexico and probably 80% or more of experienced cave divers there use sidemount. It has to do with the geology of the caves there and it's also much nicer for entry-exit from the cenotes. If you are already good with BM doubles you can use those for the classes, (that's what I did) but keep in mind that most people (myself included) end up diving sidemount down there sooner or later.

The best way to approach this type of training is to go slowly, making sure that you develop the best possible habits and skills, and then add on the more complex things after some good experience in the simpler environments. In two weeks, you might be able to get a good sidemount course done (there's a lot to learn if you want to do it well) and cavern, then maybe start intro to cave. Or if you wanted to skip the SM, you could spend fewer days getting trained in BM doubles and maybe have time to do more in intro. Either way would allow you to do some training dives with an instructor on the mainlines to 1/6 penetration. You can get to some very nice places in Mexico that way and you could begin to internalize the various skills and awareness you need to become an excellent cave diver. It's a lengthy learning process that requires quite a bit of repetitive practice.

Anyhow, send Nat an email and ask her about it, I suspect she will give you all sorts of helpful information.
I second this!!! Focus on learning and mastering skills and the certifications will come when you get there. They will let you complete a portion of a course and come back another time to pick up where you left off too, so you don't have to feel time stressed. Under the Jungle has an extremely good reputation and having a certification from them means a lot!!
 

InWay2Deep

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I hope that teaching "zero to hero" isn't standard practice for him - if it is, it would be a VERY negative point.

I don't know the instructor they are talking about but in MX most of what I've seen are 'zero to hero'. The 'Intro' concept is pretty foreign to them. The mindset is take the class, get all the information, then take your time in the caves building up experience. You wouldn't go to a multi-jump cave with complex nav on day 11 for example. Now of course you want to be familiar with your kit before jumping into cave class otherwise you are going to spend several days getting that sorted which is probably not the best idea.

Part of this might be because they only let Full Cave divers onto the sites w/o a guide, but that's the mindset I picked up since going down there the past few years.
 

kierentec

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I don't know the instructor they are talking about but in MX most of what I've seen are 'zero to hero'. The 'Intro' concept is pretty foreign to them. The mindset is take the class, get all the information, then take your time in the caves building up experience. You wouldn't go to a multi-jump cave with complex nav on day 11 for example. Now of course you want to be familiar with your kit before jumping into cave class otherwise you are going to spend several days getting that sorted which is probably not the best idea.

Part of this might be because they only let Full Cave divers onto the sites w/o a guide, but that's the mindset I picked up since going down there the past few years.

Very few reputable instructors will teach “zero to hero” anymore. And there’s more caves here that allow intro divers than you could get tired of if you dove every day for a month.
 

rjack321

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I don't know the instructor they are talking about but in MX most of what I've seen are 'zero to hero'. The 'Intro' concept is pretty foreign to them. The mindset is take the class, get all the information, then take your time in the caves building up experience. You wouldn't go to a multi-jump cave with complex nav on day 11 for example. Now of course you want to be familiar with your kit before jumping into cave class otherwise you are going to spend several days getting that sorted which is probably not the best idea.

Part of this might be because they only let Full Cave divers onto the sites w/o a guide, but that's the mindset I picked up since going down there the past few years.
Maybe that's a reflection of the shop(s) you're using...

This is absolutely not the case with Zero Gravity and GUE cave1 students. The vast majority of those students take Cave1 then spend the next few days doing more C1 dives before flying home from their ~10 day holiday. 1 practice/weight check day, then 5-6 course days, then 2-3 fun days. Minimum requirement is 25 C1 dives before you can take C2.

The other 3 non-GUE instructors I know in MX basically won't do a zero-to-hero either. @oya posted the reasons why earlier. Personally, zero-to-hero graduates are immediately suspect to many longtime cave divers like myself. If you are so impatient that you can't do 25-50 basic cave dives (ala progressive penetration of your capacity) that reflects poorly on your caving motivations and temperament.

Besides why would you sign up for a 2 week course when you have never been in a cave at all? You might hate it, in theory the risk of failing the course is higher than smaller building blocks, there's no post class time to practice on your own, it's a big chunk of money all at once, 12 to 14 days is no vacation, etc.
 

ginti

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I don't know the instructor they are talking about but in MX most of what I've seen are 'zero to hero'. The 'Intro' concept is pretty foreign to them. The mindset is take the class, get all the information, then take your time in the caves building up experience.
A pretty bad and dangerous approach

You wouldn't go to a multi-jump cave with complex nav on day 11 for example.
Then what's the purpose of getting a full cave? Just go for the intro...

Part of this might be because they only let Full Cave divers onto the sites w/o a guide, but that's the mindset I picked up since going down there the past few years.
If that's the reason, the institutions should start thinking about a different approach. But that doesn't justify the stupidity of the zero to hero approach.
 

flymolo

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Very few reputable instructors will teach “zero to hero” anymore. And there’s more caves here that allow intro divers than you could get tired of if you dove every day for a month.

Mexico is great in that respect. There's a lot of great diving to do at the intro level, giving you plenty of time to gain experience, and you won't feel limited by your certification level at all.
 

TeeSpeed

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Hello all. I'm going to be in Tulum in April and was interested in diving some Cenotes and found this thread. Do you have to have specific training to dive them? I've never done any kind of cave diving at all but am advanced open water certified. I've been recently to Cozumel and around Cancun but since I was going to be in Tulum thought I would try something different. Thanks!
 

rddvet

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I don't know the instructor they are talking about but in MX most of what I've seen are 'zero to hero'. The 'Intro' concept is pretty foreign to them. The mindset is take the class, get all the information, then take your time in the caves building up experience. You wouldn't go to a multi-jump cave with complex nav on day 11 for example. Now of course you want to be familiar with your kit before jumping into cave class otherwise you are going to spend several days getting that sorted which is probably not the best idea.

Part of this might be because they only let Full Cave divers onto the sites w/o a guide, but that's the mindset I picked up since going down there the past few years.
I agree with Rjack. It seems like you're hanging around the wrong shop or people. I know or know of/about alot of instructors down there and most are against zero to hero. I rarely see it happening when I go down there.
 
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