Choosing wisely a cave diving instructor (in Mexico and everywhere else)

Every year, thousands of people from all over the world come to the Riviera Maya in Mexico to participate in cave diving courses as well as guided (and unguided) cave dives.

If you are reading this, you’re probably doing your due-diligence and researching potential instructors/guides for your trip to Mexico’s Cave Country.

What should you look for in an instructor?

When you first contact a cave diving instructor, you’re interviewing him/her as much as they are interviewing you.  Your instructor should be thorough in asking you about your experience, but you should not be shy about asking them the same.

Unfortunately, cave diving is not beyond the reach zero-to-hero instructors.  Many new cave diving instructors have very little experience teaching even at recreational levels, and because of some unscrupulous trainers, as soon as they meet (barely) minimum number of dives required and assists, they go through evaluations,  and quickly move up the ladder.

How can this happen in cave and technical diving?

Unfortunately, as the saying goes, “money talks and bull…. walks”.  Here in Playa del Carmen, it is quite common that someone will do a zero-to-hero instructor program (you know, those programs that take a non-diver, or someone with an open water certification and within a year, magically they are transformed into super awesome instructors with little to no experience), then they may do their full cave course, and from that point on, all they are doing is guiding in the cenotes (mainly caverns), and possibly doing some cave diving on their days off.  Fast forward another year, and suddenly they are cavern diving instructors, within a few weeks or months, intro to cave and so on..

Then, what you’ve got is someone who’s been diving possibly for less time than you, maybe even have less dives than you do, yet, they are going to be your instructor for one the most advanced forms of sport diving known to man?

What should you do to properly choose an instructor?

For starters, you should get references. People you trust.  Social media is great, but like in everything else, many instructors may make themselves look like something they’re not to create a type of social media fame.  In today’s world, where everybody wants to be an “influencer” in one way or another, it is all about likes and such things.  Many of the best instructors are not quite as adept or as fond of social media.

Once you’ve gotten references, do a google search (like the one that brought you here).  Get in contact with several instructors.

When you contact the instructors, ask them:

–          How long they have been diving

–          How many dives they’ve done

–          How long they have been diving at the level you want to achieve

–          How many dives they’ve done at that level

–          How many [non-training] dives they do on average per year

–          What other training/certification levels do they hold

You should also ask them whatever you think is relevant to gauge the personality of this particular instructor and whether or not your personalities are compatible.

While non of this will necessarily guarantee that you will have a great course or fun on your dives, at least you are taking the necessary steps to prevent a clash of personality and/or hooking up with an instructor who may give you a substandard course.