Cave diving is a beautiful and dangerous adventure

May 27, 2015, 1 p.m.

A diver floats through the water of a cave, looking almost like he is flying through air. Cave divers alternate between hovering in these huge, deep caverns to squeezing their way down narrow openings like underwater tubes. The changes in depth and darkness, and the lack of many (or any) escape routes requires cave divers to be level-headed and careful in their adventures.

Cave diver Robert Osborne writes, "There is very little margin of error when you are half a kilometer inside the Earth and possibly more than 50 meters deep. Intense training is required before you can even poke your nose inside one of these caves. Strict adherence to safety protocols is a must. Your gear has to be the best and your partners equal if not better than you in experience. Teamwork is not just a suggestion; it's an unwavering protocol. Yet even under those conditions people die frequently. A report in the International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education stated that about 10 cave divers a year die on average. That may not seem like a high fatality rate, but there are only a few thousand cave divers in the world. Compare that to the statistics on recreational diving where fatalities run at about one diver in 15,000 every year."

But all the work is worth it you consider their reward: sights that exist nowhere else on Earth, access to areas where perhaps no other human has ever been before, and perhaps the discovery of ancient treasures of prehistory. Some of the most popular places in the world to cave dive include Florida, Grand Bahamas Island, the Yucatan, Australia, Sardinia and the Dominican Republic among others.

Not only do divers have to take into account their own safety, but also the safety of the cave. Many of the cave ecosystems and formations are fragile, so divers must be particularly considerate not to disturb or damage them while diving.

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Jaymi Heimbuch is a writer and photographer at Mother Nature Network. Follow her on Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.