Unified Team Diving

It's Never Just Diving with a UTD Instructor, Tulum Edition

I've been back in the states now for a few days and I've had some time to reflect on my adventure in Tulum. I close my eyes and I can still see the jungle, the caves, and my friends in Tulum. It really was a pretty amazing trip.

The first week was to be UTD Cave Diver training. One of the "J Team" members and myself have been talking about taking a cave course for about five years or so. Originally, we intended to take GUE Cave 1, and earlier this year we decided that we would bite the bullet and planned on taking the class this fall. We started our initial planning and by late spring, we had an opportunity to meet Emanuela "Ela" Bertoni and take UTD Overhead Protocols with her. After spending a few days with her, my team mate and I were set. We wanted to take the UTD Cave Diver course with Ela and also wanted to attend UTD Cave Week that Adam Korytko and Ela were hosting through their dive center, Cave Heaven.

Let me just say, that I believe we absolutely made the correct choice. The UTD Cave Diver program is a combination of UTD Cave 1 and Cave 2. Cave 1 is mainline only, utilizing 1/3's - rock bottom for gas planning and Cave 2 includes complex navigation. We showed up with our heads screwed on and ready to rock. The Overhead Protocols class gave us a base skill set that we could practice before the class, which helped tremendously. That allowed us to focus on team building, communication, and procedure differences. Which is a great thing, because the caves in Mexico are a complex maze of underground, underwater passage ways and it would be very easy to get completely lost. We experienced many simulated failures during the class including, but not limited to, gas failures, light failures, lost buddy, lost line, blind exits while navigating jumps and T's. I have a whole new respect and appreciation of the overhead environment now. I was thoroughly pleased with the class.

As amazing as the class was, the hospitality of Adam, Ela, and many of the Tulum locals was what really made the trip. Cave Heaven is no ordinary dive shop where you go in, pay your money, do some dives, and leave. They have really built a social environment that is refreshing to be around. After a day of diving, we would all sit around and have a couple drinks while telling stories of the day or just dive stories in general. The way that their dive shop is laid out, it really is meant to be the center of the larger aspect of diving, which is hanging out with your friends and sharing your dive experiences. Beyond the social aspect, Adam and Ela are spectacular hosts! Adam and Ela graciously loaned me their personal gear during the two week stay; from a drysuit, when my neck seal ripped on the second day; to a primary light when it became apparent early on that the bulb on my HID had seen better days. Those types of accommodations would be something that you would expect from your friends, not a dive retailer, and I am grateful to them for that.

Cave Week were my first cave dives outside of class. What a treat that was! Every dive was amazing, with every dive seemingly getting better and better. Everything from decorated passages with soda straws, stalactites, and stalagmites, fossils of prehistorical marine life, bones of animals that seemingly felt out of place, places of historical and cultural value. These places really got my imagination going. We had Bill Phillips give a presentation of the R.E.M., Referencing Exit Marker, and Adam also gave a very interesting presentation on the formation of the cenote's, the cave passages, and the relevance that they played in Mayan culture.

With as good of a time that we had, I suppose that all great things must come to an end. It was a shame to have to leave, but I'll soon be back!

Here is Cave Heavens' Blog of Cave Week.

Also, our friend, Andrea Schenato made an excellent video of our cave training! Check it out!

Thanks to the great people at Cave Heaven, our driver during Cave Week - Manuel, and Marco and Daniele at iTour Mexico for your amazing hospitality! Ya'll guys are amazing and really made the trip!

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Comment by Randy Tay on December 2, 2011 at 1:05am

Thank you James. It has been reposted with due credit here: http://www.divestheword.com/blog/

Comment by James Williams on November 30, 2011 at 7:30am

Thanks! Certainly!

Comment by Randy Tay on November 29, 2011 at 5:19pm

Great report! Mind if I repost this to my site?

Comment by Cave Heaven on November 15, 2011 at 3:29pm

James, great write-up!


As an added service for our friends from Texas, we plan putting a horse rail in the parking lot - LOL!

Comment by Emanuela Bertoni on November 15, 2011 at 2:51pm

Thanks very much appreciate it !!! :-) Viva Mexico 

Comment by Unified Team Diving on November 15, 2011 at 12:21pm


We very much appreciate the UTD Adventure report. It always brings me such a smile to see others discover the beauty of cave diving and that area. Reading your report I remember the days when Adam and Ela and I were discussing names for their new venture. I always thought it should be called  "Cave Lounge"  rather than Caven Heaven. But either way they really do  provide an "experience" not just a class. 

Hope to se you in the caves soon


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