Caving might just be one of the most adventurous things to do when it comes to exploring the wilderness. And just like anything else that you might encounter on the surface, jumping in headfirst without any experience will definitely get you into trouble. Caving accidents are not uncommon, and while most make it out with bruises and scratches, there are still people that are carried out with serious injuries; and in rare cases, some never make it out. There are numerous things to keep in mind before setting out on your caving adventure, and the most important thing is to understand the basics of being in a new environment and doing nothing that you’re unsure of. If a path scares you or tests your limits, be very alert and keep the stupidity to a minimum.
Yes, it might seem cool, pretending that you’re Lara Croft and walking into a cave all by yourself, holding a flashlight in one hand while trying to scale a cave wall. Trust me when I tell you that it is VERY UNCOOL to do that in a cave. Caving is about finding yourself, not just finding another instagram picture.
You must respect the formations around you, the cave owners and make sure to cause no damage to your surroundings. All that you take in with you must leave with you.
Sort out the permissions
Before caving, you must contact the owners and sit with them for a chat. Let them know that you’re experienced or that you’re led by an experienced explorer. The best way to secure permissions is by letting them trust you. Once they believe that you won’t be damaging property or stealing cave formations, they’ll let you explore. Very few cave owners explore caves on their property and showing them pictures after your adventure will probably make them happy. Don’t bother the owners at night time and ask them which path you should take to get to the cave. Leave the cave gates the way they were.
Stock up on supplies
Keep a good stock of high energy food like candy and granola bars, not just for the group but for yourself, just in case you get seperated. Carry a liter or so of water per person, at least three different light sources, extra sets of batteries, candles and waterproof matches. You’ll also need a first aid kit, ropes, an extra set of clothes, trash bags, a whistle and duct tape to secure your flashlight to your helmet in case it isn’t inbuilt.
Wear long trousers and warm clothes. A good pair of woollen socks will keep you warm. Wear sturdy hiking boots, a helmet with a well secured chin strap. Helmets are a must. You’ll be walking under rock formations that are hundreds of years old and it only makes sense to protect your head while you’re at it. Gloves are really important, not just to protect yourself but also the cave formations. Greasy, muddy hands might leave unsightly marks on the cave formations and disturb growth. So be a nice human being and don’t do it.
Emergency numbers, help, etc
At least one person on the surface should know where you are. Call them as soon as you’re out to prevent an unnecessary rescue mission. If you’re in trouble, call the emergency number in the country that you live in and tell them that you’re lost or trapped. Give important details such as the cave location and how deep you think you’ve ventured.
What you should do
Always check the weather before you set out on your adventure. Caves get flooded easily during rainstorms and you’d do well to know if you should go or not.
Always check the cave entrance for snakes or scorpions.
Always watch where you’re stepping. Caves don’t offer the most stable ground under your feet. Lightly place your foot over an area that seems unstable and slowly increase pressure. Once you have established that it’s safe, you can tread on it.
Stack rocks as you delve deeper to help find your way out. The cave doesn’t look the same on your way in and on your way out.
If you dislodge rocks on your way up, shout, “ROCKS!” and if you hear someone shout “ROCKS!”, don’t look up, try to get out of the way.
There are a few things you shouldn’t do while you’re caving:
Don’t shine flashlights in anyone’s eyes. It could cause accidents.
Don’t scream, shout or fool around.
Don’t inscribe names on the cave walls or stick your hand into tiny crevices.
Don’t use abandoned ladders and ropes. You will never know what condition they are in and why they have been left there.
Don’t discard ropes and other things in the caves. Remember that your stuff leaves with you.
Don’t disturb any animals in the cave. Most of them are blind and albino and only exist in caves. Don’t disrupt their food chain. Don’t pick any fishes out of the water or kill anything.
Don’t break cave formations, don’t smoke, drink, or urinate.
Stay with the group and don’t wander off.
Never leave an inexperienced person in the group alone.
Do not share the location on social media or with people you don’t trust. Not everyone understands the no vandalism rule and it’s best to keep such people away. It is your job to protect what you explore.
Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but carefully placed footprints, kill nothing but time. (NSS Motto)
It is recommended that you train under experienced people before you go caving. Read more about the do’s and don’ts on caving websites.