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What’s the Difference Between a Cave and a Cavern?

A common mistake that people make is believing that a cave and a cavern are synonymous with one another. When in fact they are completely different things. If you are someone that doesn’t specialize in that area of knowledge, it is completely understandable that you don’t know the difference. The differences between the two are few and far apart and so it can be difficult trying to work it out alone, but worry not. Here are the definitions of what a cave and a cavern are and what differentiates the two.  


We all know what a cave is, or do we? When we look at the cave’s oxford dictionary definition, it is defined as a cavity in the rock. Of course, a cave is a lot more than that, but caves are usually noted to be openings in mountains. Usually, caves are naturally occurring, but they can also be created as a product of human labor.  The main defining feature of a cave is that its opening is above the ground. Another important aspect to look at when defining a cave is that a large portion of it needs to be hidden from direct sunlight. Because of this factor, when people choose to do scuba activities in caves one feature on the rescue diver list of equipment is a torch of some sort to be able to see into spots that don’t fall under direct sunlight. 


A cavern really isn’t that different from a cave. In fact, caverns actually fall under the category of caves. However, a cavern is very large and has an opening that is not above the ground. Instead, the opening is on the ground, and to access the cavern you have to take a corridor underground. Caverns always appear naturally and are formed over a large period of time through natural erosion and carving by water.  


The differences between a Cave and a Cavern 

The differences between a cave and a cavern aren’t easily definable due to how acute they are. Aside from how you enter each, they share a lot of similarities, however, in the world of diving, they are considered to be vastly different. Cave diving is usually avoided by anyone who doesn’t have years of experience in diving and is considered extremely dangerous. Though there are age restrictions for scuba diving in caverns, the experience is still offered by many diving companies and is actually a very common activity. So, though there may be few differences between what a cave and a cavern really are, what are the differences between diving in the two? 


Cave diving  

As previously stated, one of the main defining features of a cave is just how little direct sunlight most of them get. This happens due to having few openings and thus fewer sources of light. In a normal cave, this wouldn’t really be that much of an issue. However, if you are in an underwater cave, this could raise problems. One of the main parts of diving that divers try to ensure in order to maintain their own safety is direct access to the water’s surface. When you are in an underwater cave, you limit the space that you have to ascend to.  So if you have a random issue pop up when you are in the cave, you can’t just quickly push yourself back to the surface. Instead, you have to find your way back to the entrance you came from, which could be an issue if your oxygen is at risk and you are deep in the cave.  


Due to the dangers that come with it, not a lot of diving organizations offer cave diving experiences and if you choose to do it of your own accord, you need to follow some safety rules. 


Diving safely in caves 

First of all, you really shouldn’t go cave diving alone, so take a buddy or a team of people with you if you do decide to do it. You should also make sure that you are very familiar with the cave that you are diving in before you dive too deep, as caves are extremely easy to get lost in. To lessen your chance of getting lost in an underwater cave, you should take some underwater lighting with you. Taking a few lighting options will mean that you can leave them in certain places in the cave. Taking one light with you to guide your way will not be enough and so you definitely need several different lights so you can get a good view of your surroundings. Doing this will also help you familiarise yourself with the cave and mean that you will have a better idea of how to navigate the cave on later diving trips. 

The most important rule is to not get carried away. Underwater caves can be extremely exciting as they are full of interesting reminders of history. However, you need to ensure that you don’t travel too far into the cave and that you have enough oxygen to cover what time you do spend in the cave. 


Cavern diving  

Though cavern diving does have its risks, these risks are far fewer than the risks that you can find with normal cave diving. When divers do delve into caverns, they make sure they stay in the bits within direct sunlight. This means that they have direct access to exit points. Caverns have bigger openings than caves, so accessing these exit points is much easier. 

Most companies that do offer diving experiences within caverns also run very tight ships and will not allow any divers with little experience to venture further than a few meters from exit points, to ensure their own safety. When diving in caverns, people are also instructed to wear plenty of protective layers as within caverns they are much more exposed to the possibility of being scratched or cut than what they are in normal bodies of water.