Höhlentauchen in der Dominikanischen Republik / Cave dive the Dominican Republic

Merkwürdig wie die Dinge manchmal so laufen.

Man schreibt was über´s Höhlentauchen in Cuba und kommt mit einem Taucher in Kontakt, der ebenfalls an dem Land interessiert ist.

Nach ein paar emails, Telefonaten und umfangreichen Datenaustausch ist klar, wir sind auf einer Wellenlänge.

Zufällig ergibt sich dass Phillip Lehman, der in der Dominikanischen Republik lebt, dort als Mitglied der Dominican Republic Speleological Society umfangreiche Höhlensysteme erkundet und auch kartographiert.

Leider fehlt in seinem Team bis jetzt noch ein Unterwasserfotograf, um die ganze Schönheit der Höhlen zu dokumentieren. Naja, ich hab so das Gefühl, es bahnt sich eine fruchtbare Zusammenrbeit an, für Cuba und für die Dom Rep….

Hier ein kurzer Bericht von Phillip über welche Zufälle man eine neue Höhle entdecken kann.

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Funny how things sometimes work out.

You write something about cavediving in Cuba and by this get in contact with another diver who´s interested in the country too.

A couple of emails and phonecalls later you find out that you´re talking the same language. Sharing is the word, not hiding informations and keeping them to yourself. That´s what we did and it turned out that Phillip Lehman, who is living in the Dominican Republic, is a member of the Dominican Republic Speleolocical Society and by this is exploring the Dom Rep´s extensive cave systems.

All they need for some future projects is an underwater photographer to get pics for a better documentation of the beautiful cave systems they are exploring.

Somehow I have the feeling, this is the beginning of a very productive coorparation, concerning Cuba and the Dominican Republic.

This is a short story from Phillip about funny things leading to find a new cave.

Cueva El Arbol the discovery
Dominican Republic 8/11/2008
by Phillip Lehman

We were hanging out at Playa Diamante after a fine day of cave diving at El Dudu and we meet a few Christian missionaries on the beach.They talk to me about Jesus I talk to them about caves.
Funny how coincidences work, had I not talked about caves they would have never have told me that it so happens they were in a really cool water filled cave an hour earlier. After a flurry of questions they explain to us were it is and what it looked like, Thomas and I are tripping out as we have never heard of this cave and incredibly it’s only a kilometer or so on the road just before El Dudu, a cave we have dove numerous times.
We shake hands and thank them profusely for the information, cool guys, get in the car and drive to the cave in question.
They had told us that there is a small group of houses on the right side, there is an old man who sells lemons in the front yard and that the cave is in the field directly in front. After driving past the old man a few times we finally understand where to stop.

The sink is below this tree

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I ask him if there’s a cave here, he asks me if I have rum, I tell him show me the cave I will bring you a bottle next time, he agrees.
At this point a few really funny looking locals come out of the bushes, the old man signals them to take us to the cave they seem to have no concept of volume and they grunt and scream at me to follow them across the field, I realize they are deaf.
One of the guys has a cotton cap and pair of ski goggles on his forehead he looks like a Dominican version of Luke Skywalker in the empire strikes back, the situations you get into looking for caves.
I get in my surf shorts grab a mask and light and follow Luke across the field to a really big tree with a very large sinkhole underneath, I cannot believe we drove in front of this sink so many times and never even noticed it.

The Tree-Cave Crew from Left to Right

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Luke’s assistant, the kid who later shows us the swamp cave, me green shirt, landowner who wants rum, kneeling man who also wants rum, far right from the back Luke Skywalker.

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photos Bettina Balmer
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As I start to climb down Luke Skywalker starts screaming at me, at first I have no idea why, so I stop, he makes various hand signals and illustrates them with various sound effects, I still have no idea what he means and then I see it, directly in front of me there is a huge wasp nest and I was going to walk right into it. His hand signals now make sense, this guy is cool, I give him the international holly shit hand signal and continue down.

At the bottom of the sink there is a beautiful pool of crystal clear water, I put on my mask and jump in, i swim around the sink and notice a tunnel that goes straight down along the far end of the sink. It looks like it goes and I try to free dive as deep as possible to see more, I swim down to where the tunnel appears to level off at about 6-8 meters and I see a breakdown room with what looks like tight but going cave.
I am super psyched, I swim around and i see a few side tunnels but I cannot safely free dive those.

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zee entrance photo Bettina Balmer
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I get out of the water and using only hand signals and useless sound effects attempt to describe what I saw and that I need to go back to the car and get the tanks.

I climb back out go back to the car and I let Thomas know what I saw, we feel lazy and by now it has been the end of a full day of diving, we are both tired our tanks are empty so we decide to come back the
next day. We say goodbye in hand signals and try to explain that we will be back tomorrow.

Cueva El Arbole
8/11/2008 first dive

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Phillip Lehman

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Thomas Riffaud

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By now it’s already the afternoon and we have been power snorkeling the cave and see potential so we plan a proper dive. We get the gear ready on the side of the road, Luke helps us carry our stuff down and we kit up. Thomas ties in on a rock just above the surface and we swim down to where I saw the possible going cave, we get to the bottom and there is a really tight space between to collapsed boulders, Thomas goes in first and I follow, after a slight fight with some rocks and boulders I emerge on the other side, the cave gets a bit bigger and looks very different than other caves in the area.

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There are no decorations and the rock is a very sponge-like dark yellow color, very eroded and ancient looking. we swim further in and the tunnels stay kind of low but very wide, I see many side tunnels that have potential, the silt is dark brown and the water is so far crystal clear.

I turn around to see if the cave is percolating and it’s not that bad, cool. The cave so far seems to have one main tunnel with side tunnels branching off now and then, there is still no decorations and it is now becoming hard to make solid tie offs as the cave floor is now large silt banks with almost no rocks and the walls have very little rock protrusions. After a while the cave gets very wide but the ceiling starts to get lower, Thomas finds a good spot and makes a solid tie off.

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photo ©Lisa Roze

We swim further in and a few moments later the reel runs out, the ceiling is getting lower and it is starting to silt out a bit, Thomas ties in a new reel and the cave is now silting out even more, but we swim further in.
I am in the back and after a few more minutes I cannot see a thing, I know the celling is very low now I can feel the silt floor, I don’t really care, I figure Thomas can see and the cave keeps going, all is going well, and then I feel a pull and I am caught in the line.

I stop and slowly feel were the line goes and it’s caught under the light canister latch, I try to slowing get it out but it wont move. I can feel that the line is wedged in real tight and i am really concerned that if I pull it out too hard it might get cut, not an option, Thomas is somewhere out front laying line, this sucks! I try a few more times to get slowly get the line out and it finally does.

I start to swim in further and I pray the that cave keeps going, suddenly the viz clears up a bit and the ceiling gets a bit higher by a few feet, it’s a small upwards dip in the ceiling, after about ten meters the dip goes back down and the cave gets really low again, at that point Thomas emerges reeling in from an opaque red silt cloud, he makes a tie off on the only rock available under the slightly high ceiling and we turn.

The way out for the entire low bedding plane is zero viz, like I can’t see even my light, zero. I notice that the cave makes a lot of noise, I have always thought it’s a weird feature of caves, some section make a lot of noise other sections are quiet, the bubbles hit the celling in different ways. It’s something you really appreciate in silt outs, you can hear what the cave looks like, I love when that happens.

On the way out I explore a few side tunnels but they all choke out, I feel it’s enough for today and call the dive. We pause for a safety stop and poke around the edges of the entrance pool, I notice a way around the collapse pile that goes around the circumference of the sink. We both surface and Thomas gets out and goes back out to the car, i tie in a go for a quick look at.

The side passage, goes around the entire edge of the sink, there is really thick mung on the bottom and about 20 meters in it comes back out into another side of the sink on the opposite side of the debris slope, the ceiling is low about three feet and there are small cute furry bats everywhere, I like bats, bats are cool, I swim on the surface to the far end of the cavern to look for leads but it chokes out.
I pause at the far end to enjoy a few moments of bat watching, they remind me of my pitbull Jessica

Dive time: 56 minutes
Max depth: 14.2 meters
Fun factor: 8.3 (out of a possible 10)

I swim back to the entrance and climb out of the cave, Thomas is by the car smoking a cigarette. He spoke to a kid who knows of a cool possible cave and let’s me know the kid will be right back in ten Dominican minutes.

We wait ten Dominican minutes and eventualy the kid comes back and agrees to show us the cave.

What a coincidence it just so happens to be fifteen minutes or so past the tree cave, I confirm with the kid what kind of minutes these are, regular minutes he says, OK cool, I hope. I get changed and Thomas and I follow the kid into the field and past the tree cave

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6. August 2010 Höhlen (caves)

21 Comments to Höhlentauchen in der Dominikanischen Republik / Cave dive the Dominican Republic

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