By: Bruce Konefe

Since the end of the Deep Cave Exploration in Thailand and Yamashiro project I have spent my time looking for new caves that will help in teaching courses.. Deep caves and deep wrecks are also exciting for the readers but what we need in Asia are more caves suitable for training. With out descent training caves none of us would survive the deeper caves. My goal is to help expand the cave diving around Asia, not just Thailand but some of its surrounding countries.

Cave Diving in AsiaThe most recent of explorations we visited the southern parts of the Philippines. The southern parts of the Philippines has always had a bad reputation of being a unsafe place. I think this is highly over stated. Where we were at the people were so friendly I never felt uncomfortable. The people where very kind and helpful in all of are needs.

On 16 April Thomas Bodis, Roger Smith and myself met up in Manila to fly to are next destination. We were only on the plane for about one hour. Upon arrival to the airport we met up with are two Philippino guides. We where thinking of taking a bus but it was a good thing we rented a mini van. This probable saved us about 3 hours of travel time. I think the mini van driver even set record breaking time by one half hour.

We arrived safely to are destination around 3 pm. Before the trip I had booked two rooms for only three people since that is all they had available at the time. Good thing when we got there that they did have a extra room available. Rooms were descent even considering how far we where from real civilization. After we all had settled into are rooms I wanted to start getting everything set up for the following day. With patience things went real smooth. I was able to arrange the dive tanks and a driver for the following week of exploring.

Cave Diving in AsiaFirst day of the expedition after breakfast we decided to check out the caves before lugging all the equipment out there. Our guides were only available for the one day so we had to take the opportunity of locating the cave systems. We all hopped on a couple of sidecar motorcycles. We arrived at the first cave in about 20 minutes. About 25 meters from the road was the first cave to be explored.

At the base of a mountain there was a large opening, our guides had led the way to the spot we would be doing are diving. The room was quite large with crystal clear water at the very bottom. From the surface we could see some spots that looked excellent for checking out. After snooping around for a half a hour we decided to go to the next location. Again we all hopped into are trikes and where at the next cave in 20 minutes.

This next cave was probable 30 minutes back into the jungle. After the first 15 minutes it was already decided we would need some people to hump the equipment and tanks. Walking back into the jungle you had to be extremely careful where you placed your foot. The ground was all limestone similar to the ground in Mexico. This whole area was solid limestone with water all around. This makes for some real good possibilities of some descent caves. Once we arrived at the cave I followed one of the guides into the entrance. After going back only 5 meters I could not go back any farther. I had taken a large stick and could not reach the bottom or reach the back. The cave had disappeared beneath the surface. Everybody was quite excited about the two caves we would be exploring the following days.

Cave Diving in AsiaThe second day of the expedition we were all happy just to get into the water. So far what we seen of the caves was clear water and looked really promising. We got up and ate breakfast, loaded up the truck and headed to the first cave. I think we picked this cave since it seemed like the easiest to get to. It took only about 30 minutes to get everything into the cave down by the water.

The hardest part was trying to kit up in the near dark situation. After we kitted up and got into the water we all did are equipment checks before taking off. Getting into the water was a big relieve since the water was nice and cool. The primary and secondary tie offs where put in place as we set off.

The plan was to take a look around the cave and look for possible other passages that could lead to another chamber then surface and regroup. There where about 3 places we noticed with possibilities of leading to other chambers. We recalculated are rule of thirds and descended again. As we got to the entrances they were a bit small so I signaled to Thomas to lead the way since he was wearing his new Dive Rite side mount unit. Thomas tried all the holes only to find they got to small or walled out. There was one place I noticed were there was a big hole but had a large boulder fallen on the entrance that could have gone on. After a thorough search we surfaced, loaded up the equipment and headed back to the hotel.

Cave Diving in AsiaDay three we were going to check out a cave that we have not seen before. The cave was quite a way back into the jungle so we decided to hire some people to help carry the tanks and equipment. These guys were a blessing in disguise. These guys feet must have been made of steel walking on the limestone with only sandals on.

We walked back to the cave to find there was good news and bad news. There was a cave there with water but we needed repelling rope to get to and to lower the equipment down to. A few minutes of discussion and one of the Philippinos we hired said that there was another cave and it was on the way back. We started to head back and take a look at the other cave. This cave was diveable but we decided it would be safer to bring some rope to help lower us to the water.

The cave we could have gotten to but thought it would have been much safer to have a safety line to hold onto. There was still two more days left on the trip were we could come back and check it out. The water in both these caves was crystal clear.

Cave Diving in AsiaDay four we decided to head back to one of the caves we looked on earlier. This cave was easier to get to and not that far back in the woods plus had a lot of good possibilities. Again we hired the same guys to lug are equipment back to the cave. I think they even made two trips to my one getting out there.

Once kitting up and getting into the water we headed over to the entrance of the cave. At the entrance of the cave we had to pull ourselves over some boulders to go any further. I put the primary and secondary off in place with Roger and Thomas right behind me. The water was crystal clear but if you were not careful could stir up the silt. We spent around 30 minutes on the dive looking around in the cave.

The cave was real beautiful but not all that large. I think the max depth we reached was around 15 meters in depth. We looked all over but there was just not much to this cave. Nice to get in the water but not quite what I was looking for. I think after diving in Mexico you have a tendancy to get a bit spoiled.

Sitting around dinner that evening a gentleman had told us that he knew of a cave that his friend was telling him about. What we decided was to get a early start in the morning to check out this cave first and if that was not good we had time to go to the second cave.

Cave Diving in AsiaFirst thing in the morning of day 5 we got up and hit the road around 8:00 a.m. We drove down this long road and showed up to were the cave was located. There was a nice paved walk made down to the water and to a small building with a table and chairs.

Before unloading all of are equipment for nothing we First went in with masks and fins just to see if it was worth checking out. There were a couple of nice entrances so we all kitted up and got into the water. Again, going through all of the proper procedures we started to head down to the very bottom of the small pool of water were there was a hole.

After we all got through the entrance we could see that this cave was quite large. There was a few different passage ways in the shallower parts but we decided to head near the bottom. After we had descended a while there was a bit of a misunderstanding as far as communicating. I started to descend and swim around the chamber which was between 30 and 45 meters. As I was swimming around I could see the other two lights not to far above me maybe 15 meters away or so.

Thinking that they seen some interesting places I just looked around but stayed in view of there lights. There where a lot of stalactites and stalagmites all over. The water was absolutely crystal clear and very large. The depth got to around 45 meters but could have gone deeper and farther. Since we where only diving on air we did not have all that much time to spend. I was using my Cochran EMC20H computers to follow in case I had any decompression.

Cave Diving in Asia

As I ascended I caught up to the other two and looked at the puzzled look on there faces. We slowly ascended and where able to swim around in a huge room with what looks like a few other passages to explore next time. When we where getting near the surface it did not look like the same entrance we had gone down.

It was something of beauty when you could see the light shining through and even see other entrances to the cave. As we reached the surface I found out what the confused looks where on there faces. Somehow they thought I wanted them to stay in place instead of following me down. I felt absolute lousy about that so let them use my tanks I had not used and go down and do another dive by themselves to see the beautiful cave I seen. It is to bad we did not find this cave on the very first day.

We probable could have spent the whole trip just looking around this one cave.
After loading up are equipment we were told of two more caves to check out. These cave entrances where actually two holes in a small shallow lake where the bottom was all lime stone. There are plans to go back in a month or two to check out all the possibilities of the other caves. I already have someone lined up that has all of the repelling ropes and gear to reach the cave entrances. There is always room for more people if you are interested in joining please drop me a line.

Roger and myself used mostly OMS harness/bladder, 10 W HID lights and RL229 Primary reels which worked great throughout the whole trip. Even after being dropped on the limestone while being carried through the jungle all the equipment worked great.


Special thanks to John Griffith of OMS and to Cochran computers for there support in helping to expand the cave diving in Asia. Thomas was using his New Dive Rite sidemount unit which was quite impressive especially when we had to go through the smaller holes.


Bruce Konefe works for American Nitrox Divers International, and has lived in Thailand for more than 14 years. He is an instructor trainer who now teaches at only the highest levels of technical diving, and has helped design both cave diving courses and hyperbaric chamber medical courses for the agency. His career has taken him around the world, including to Australia, Canada, Dubai and the United States. He has trained military divers in both the Thailand and the Philippines, and was on the team which first dived on the IJN Yamashiro, a 39,000-ton Japanese battleship sunk on 25 October 1944 in the Second World War battle of Surigao Strait.