Mt Gambier Cave Diving

Mt Gambier cave diving trip

Mt Gambier Cave Diving

From September 29 to October 3 2017, some awesome Dive Spear and Sport regulars and technical divers Russ, Matthew, Julian, Ben and Nick headed to Mt Gambier, South Australia for an awesome Mt Gambier cave diving trip where they would complete a CDAA Deep Cavern course and explore Kilsby’s Sinkhole with Rob Main of Reef2Ridge.

On arrival on September 29, the group checked into their accommodation at The Barn, before heading to the local National Parks for CDAA registration followed by a tour of a few of the local sinkholes and sites including the famous Tank Cave. Later on in the evening the crew adjourned to the pub for a reconnaissance beer with Rob to chat about the coming days.

The next day saw an early start and the first three dives at Goulden’s Sinkhole, where the divers practised proper finning techniques on the surface before dropping into the murky freshwater. The divers were able to iron out buoyancy, balance and trim issues and were given opportunities to run line and practice primary and secondary tie-offs. Valve shutdowns, entanglement, out of air scenarios and blind exit practice came soon after in the semi-darkness of the cavern environment.

The following morning at One Tree found the divers plunging down a shot line to depth to investigate the dark, green-tinged waters under the thick algal bloom that had appeared in the sinkhole, creating an eerie twilight zone underneath. Despite the bloom the visibility was still exceptional with the glow of the cave torches. Inside the cave more lines were run and group dynamics were honed under the effects of mild narcosis.

After lunch the divers moved back to the uninviting Goulden’s to undertake their “stress test,” a challenging demonstration of their ability to maintain composure under strenuous conditions. In this case it meant an out-of-air situation in a sudden silt-out whilst running line and then another scenario where the divers attempted to exiting the cavern “blind” with masks off. To complicate things further, Rob laid line traps under overhanging rocks and re-ran loose line to entangle them as they exited. All divers performed well despite very cold hands and a few leg cramps in the 12-degree water!

The final day of the course meant the divers had to complete their last two dives at Little Blue Sinkhole. Little Blue however turned out to be Little Green – once again the algal bloom that had been plaguing several sites in the area provided a thick, zero-vis layer down to 10m depth. Narcosis in dark cold water was again a factor, but the group maintained great composure and completed assigned tasks before their return to the surface with relative ease. Upon surfacing, handshakes and big smiles were exchanged all around before posing on the pontoon for the obligatory photo (as you can see above).

On the last day of the trip, Kilsby’s Sinkhole famed for its 150m+ visibility and chasm-like underwater topography, would provide two fun dives and the start of Matt’s TDI Extended Range course. The group were beside themselves with excitement on arrival, and the walk down under the stone archway and onto the diving platform was nothing short of astounding. The clear blue 16 degree water looked incredibly inviting compared to the green murk of the previous days.

For the first dive Russ, Matt and Nick planned a max depth of 55m, while Ben and Julian planned a slightly shallower 40m as support divers. Prior to the dive Rob took the time to show the three divers the definitive way to assemble and label deco cylinders. Despite all three divers being experienced decompression divers, the logical processes Rob taught made a lot of sense and reinforced his extensive experience as an instructor and technical diver. Shortly after, the group hurriedly made their way back to the platform and leapt head first into the water, eager to get started.

For some of the divers, these two dives at Kilsby’s were the best of their lives. The sheer scale and clarity of the site, accompanied by the beautiful light shafts shining down like the inside of a cathedral, was absolutely astounding to view from depth with torches switched off. After a few minutes of gazing across the sinkhole, the group divided. Rob, diving Trimix on his JJ-CCR, took the three extended range divers down to the depth they needed, whilst the other two investigated the huge rockslides and sheer walls of the sinkhole. After regrouping and following a planned deco schedule with some skills and gas switches under scrutiny, the group could barely contain their amazement back on the surface.

A second fun dive came shortly after noodles and soup for lunch. The group found some small swimthroughs and rock piles to practice buoyancy in. Then more gas switches were honed on the ascent, while Rob took the opportunity with Nick to practice some CCR skills in the shallows on deco. After it was over, all the group wanted to do was get back in! A truly incredible experience.

Celebratory drinks were had that night accompanied by a banquet at the local pub. After a farewell breakfast with Rob the next day, the group resignedly jumped back in the car and headed back to Avalon for the flight home. All in all, the group left Mt Gambier proud of their achievements, emerging from the challenging diving as far better divers, with better habits and practices and improved diligence to be incorporated in their future technical diving as a result.

Huge thanks to Rob Main of Reef2Ridge Mt Gambier for his patience, excellent instruction and company during the course! Check out what other courses we have available here.

2 Comments
  • Julian (AKA Jellybeans)
    Posted at 16:26h, 11 October Reply

    This was easily the most best course I have ever undertaken and I cannot recommend it (or Rob) enough.

    The pre-dive skills are essential for any diver wanting to descend into tech, cave or wreck and Rob taught me more in the 2 days out of the water than i have ever learned from any other instructor ever (right down to the complete equipment setup and usage training (knots, ties and gear practice).

    In a very short period of time i came to know and love the team and know i have a great team to dive with for the future and simply cant thank Rob and Ben enough for the whole trip (i am a certified (PADI) DM with over 300 logged dives and Kilsby’s is easily the best, most beautiful, most exhilarating dive i have ever had with the best visibility i have ever seen in all of Australia and South East Asia).

    Ben was the perfect host and went way above and beyond to make sure everyone was satisfied and comfortable for the trip and Rob introduced us to many landowners and great people in the local watering holes in Mt Gambier – to which every person we seemed to see know his name and all of them were very respectful of him.

    I am looking forward to my next courses with Ben and Rob and cant wait to get back to Mt Gambier for some more sinkhole dives in the very near future (it is extremely addictive and beyond comparison).

    Thank you Rob, Ben and team (Russ, Matt and Nick)

  • Sam Hodgkinson
    Posted at 18:45h, 11 October Reply

    Awesome work Rob,Ben and team. Sounds amazing

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