Caving

I was not sure what to expect when Martijn led Maddie and I onto a dirt road, inland and away from the ocean. I had been told we were going to an underwater cave, which I expected to mean a short cliff jump into the ocean and free diving down along the coastline to peer into an ocean cave before returning to the surface. I did not expect to leave my bicycle locked to an inland gate and hike through the shrubbery down to the mouth of a cave.

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Martijn and Maddie Emms at the mouth of the cave

The descent into the cave required a bit of rock climbing. We lowered our bags, turned on our flashlights and carefully climbed down, finally reaching the water. Freshwater. This dark inland cave seemed narrow and small but as we donned our masks and snorkels for a swim one room led to another. Most of the water was shallow enough to stand but some pools were much deeper.

“Don’t pee,” Martijn instructed. This was a significantly challenging task. As a scuba diver, peeing in my wetsuit is usually my first step to getting warm when I hit the cold water. (Don’t worry the pee diffuses away. If this sounds gross you are clearly not a scuba diver. The longer you dive the more unavoidable it becomes.) Additionally, cold water actually increases your urge to pee. Your blood vessels constrict in cold water, which increases blood pressure. An easy way for the body to lower this pressure is by peeing. The official term for this phenomenon is cold immersion diuresis. Despite this increased urge, I did my best to refrain. The freshwater pool received only periodic circulation after intense rainfalls so I heeded Martijn’s advice.

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Swimming further into the next room the water was deep enough for free diving.

“There is an underwater tunnel here. I will check it.” Martijn stated.

“Martijn!!!” Maddie and I exclaimed in protest. “Are you sure it’s here?” I asked.

The underwater tunnel was a 15-20 second breath hold and swim into another separate cavern of the cave. Martijn had done it before, but agreed to swim a practice dive down and back just to look for the exit to ensure his memory was correct. I followed him in a quick dive down and we shined our flashlights deeper into the tunnel.

“I’m going for it.” Martijn announced once we returned to the surface. Seconds later he dove again and kicked through the tunnel and out of view. ‘Did he make it?!’ I wondered. Only a few seconds after he left I saw his light shining back, confirming his success.

With a deep breath, I dove down and followed. Kick, kick, kick. I could see the walls of the tunnel all around me. As I cleared the midpoint I could see the shimmery surface of water with air above it. Martijn’s feet were also visible standing in the water. Made it!

Maddie opted to stay behind and shine her light to mark the proper way back. In the next cavern I was in for another surprise. This room had deep free diving well too. Diving down I couldn’t tell where the cave let out but it clearly connected to the ocean, because we could see the blurry swirls of salt water meeting freshwater once we dropped down past 10ft. After a few more dives to explore we swam back through the tunnel where Maddie was waiting.

“You have to try it!!!” I exclaimed as soon as I surfaced back on the other side. After a detailed recap of the tunnel swim and salt water well Maddie was convinced. This time I stayed behind as the light to mark the way.

It was entirely silent waiting there by myself. But I was not the only living creature in this cave. Shortly after they left, I started to feel little nips from cleaner shrimp or small fish on my toes. As the fish continued my pedicure, I closed my eyes and tried to imprint the tunnel passageway into my memory in case I returned again with another group of friends. When Maddie and Martijn swam back, we made our way to the exit.

“I have to pee so badly,” I admitted. My urge had grown increasingly noticeable while I was standing by myself and waiting.

With a guilty smile Martijn confessed, “I already did.”

“Martijn!!!” I admonished.

“I did too.” Maddie divulged.

“You guys! I’ve been waiting so long and you both just went ahead and did it,” I said. Perhaps the cave should have a warning sign that says, ‘Scuba Divers Not Welcome,’ because it seems we just can’t help it. My bladder was also significantly less full by the time we climbed back out. There will be more rain and all in all this adventure was a big success.

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A few weeks later I went on another caving adventure. No water involved this time, but I ended up saving the day by rescuing our car keys that were dropped into a smaller hole.
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2 thoughts on “Caving”

  1. Hello Sarah, miss you. I heard you will be marching the aisle with your life partner. You’re having a nice adventure. here in Odiongan, there is a place also like you went into. caving, with water . I dont the place I know its here because I have seen picture of Bambam inside the cave. Just take care.. Regards Nanay Rita

    1. I was able to visit the cave in Ferrol which was very nice! I have heard there is an underwater cave in tuburan but I was never able to reach that place. I visited the waterfall only. But the Philippines has so many beautiful caves!! I miss you. Also I helped with coral gardening recently and learned a lot about the methods. A nursery requires weekly monitoring to remove algal and corallivores. Are you still working to start a coral garden in Romblon?

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