Have you ever grabbed your favorite blankets and pillows and built yourself a cave? You wait excitedly until night falls. Then, with your flashlight and favorite stuffed animal in tow, you crawl on your hands and knees deep into the darkness. It’s so dark you begin to wonder if your eyes are even open.
Switching on your flashlight, light floods the tiny space, only now it appears much larger. You can see every nook and cranny and, at every turn, you make a new discovery—a rabbit hopping along the wall or a timid bird perched on a rocky ledge. You venture deeper into the cave when you suddenly hear the gentle splash of water; then you realize your feet are submerged in water. As your eyes follow the water’s edge, you discover this is no ordinary cave. You have stumbled upon a giant underground pool, buried deep inside this magnificent hideaway. How can this be?
While many caves are dry and rocky, others are filled with pools of water. Over thousands of years, this water eats away at the rock, creating giant caverns and narrow passageways. These underground caves are often hidden right beneath our feet. They can be found all over the globe—deep in the heart of the jungle or buried beneath a mountain of snow. Divers come from all over to explore these caves in hopes of making the next great discovery, but they must be careful not to get lost in the endless maze of tunnels. Cave diving may require special training, but sometimes all you need is a snorkel and some courage.
Are you ready to dive deep? Here are five cave dives you won’t want to miss!
Poço Azul (Brazil)
To gear up for our first swim, you might want to strengthen your stair climbing muscles. Poço Azul (or Blue Well, in English) can only be reached by climbing down a giant wooden staircase. Miners searching for diamonds found this cave in Brazil in the 1920s. There were no diamonds, but they did unearth fossils that were thousands of years old. The most famous is the fossil of an enormous sloth, as big as an elephant!
While the sloth is now extinct, the cave still has stories to tell. High rocky walls surround a sparkling pool, with water so clear you can see straight down to the bottom of the cave. When the sunlight strikes the water at the perfect angle, the cave gives off a deep blue glow, perhaps reminding one of a diamond after all.
Cenote Dos Ojos (Mexico)
Heading farther north into Mexico, we reach our next cave hidden in the Yucatán peninsula on the Riviera Maya. Hundreds of years ago, the Mayan civilization thrived here in the midst of the jungle. Among their sacred places were the cenotes—naturally formed sinkholes that expose the groundwater hidden beneath. These caves can be found all over the Mexican Riviera, but today we’re visiting the Cenote Dos Ojos cave.
The Cenote Dos Ojos lies hidden in the lush green forest of the Yucatán. Green vines dangle from its gaping mouth, drawing you deeper and deeper into the cave. On the ceiling rocks melt like icicles forming stalactites. As the water slowly erodes the rock, it leaves behind tiny minerals that create the pointy “teeth” of the cave. You can follow the dripping water down from the stalactites and into the turquoise pool that make up this network of twists and turns beneath the water.
Grotta di Nereo (Italy)
Now let’s hop across the pond to Europe. Found on an island off the coast of Italy, Grotta di Nereo might just inspire your next visit to the local aquarium. This cave is home to many special saltwater species and its walls are plastered in living, breathing wallpaper—red and yellow corals! These tiny sea creatures cling to the rock, creating a safe haven for so many other sea dwellers.
Lobsters shuffle along the cave walls and floor, searching for a tasty morsel to eat. Fish join the dinner rush. Even eels slither about, though they typically spend much of the day snoozing in the cave’s many crevices. Spending time in this special place, you’re bound to make a new friend!
Shark’s Cove (Hawaii, USA)
Many caves are formed when water erodes rock, but some caves have more explosive pasts. We’ve now reached the Hawaiian islands. Hawaii was created by a volcanic hotspot that spewed out lava to form this chain of islands. Lava tubes helped carry the lava from the hotspot to the volcano’s surface. When the tubes emptied, they filled with seawater and became underwater caves.
Shark’s Cove on the island of Oahu is home to these lava tube caves. Just like Grotta di Nereo, Shark’s Cove is a great place for divers seeking playtime with aquatic creatures. Sea turtles glide gracefully through the water alongside schools of colorful fish. It’s hard to imagine a more tropical diving paradise!
Orda Cave (Russia)
By now you’re probably thinking that caves can only be found in warm, sunny places. Well, grab your snow boots and get ready to head west to chilly Russia. Orda Cave is part of the Ural Mountain chain. If you can brave the cold water, you’ll be rewarded with a dive in one of the most unique caves on our list.
Many caves are made from rock, but Orda Cave is made out of gypsum crystals that sparkle in the water. Diving through these giant crystals, you’ll feel like you’re flying through a blue canyon of sparkling jewels. Orda is truly the most magical cave on our list but, as the longest underwater cave in the world, be careful not to get lost. Explorers have already uncovered miles of underwater passageways, but there are many still to be discovered, that have never been seen by human eyes.
Think you’ve got what it takes to explore the vast depths of this underground world? You never know. You could be the next great cave diver!