Whilst surfing is the hippy, carefree child in the Watersports family, scuba diving is the slightly more serious brother. Cave diving then, might just be their intense but passionate and scientific cousin. Cave diving is claustrophobic, dark, expensive and often extremely physically demanding. However, the rewards, as many of the hobby’s proponents will tell you, are unparalleled. The physical rush of navigating uncharted and undiscovered waters, with only you, your skills and your equipment keeping you safe has to be experienced to be believed – and that’s without mentioning the often stunning and unearthly scenery including crystal clear freshwater pools, rainbow rock and mineral deposits and otherwise inaccessible ancient cave paintings.
France is one of the most well-known spots for this extreme sport in Europe. Especially in the region between the Lot and Dordogne rivers in the Southwest of the country. Also close to this region is the famous (but sadly dry) Lascaux Cave, featuring absolutely spectacular 14,000-year-old prehistoric cave paintings.
Emergence Du Ressel
Probably the most famous cave dive in the area, this nearly four-kilometre long cave loop offers broad, high visibility passages for beginners – and challenging, twisting sections for more experienced divers as you go deeper into the system. Situated near the remote yet picturesque village of Marcilha, if you choose France as a place to learn to cave dive then don’t be surprised if your instructor brings you here. To complete the full four-kilometre circuit, something only a few hardy souls have ever done, you’ll need loads of equipment – and probably even a submersible scooter too.
Source du Moulin de Cacery
Found on private land near the famous town of Martel, this unique spot is actually found underneath a rather serenely appearing pond overlooked by a gorgeous 16th century mill-house. Long left to fall into disrepair, an enterprising local couple bought up the property, fixed it up and now rent it out to tourists during the Summer months. This can make getting access to the dive site a bit more troubling, unless you want to conveniently book out the whole property for your stay in the region. The cave system is accessed through a 30-metre tunnel only a few metres below the surface of the pond, which ends in a 20-metre drop shaft. From there, experienced divers can descend to depths of 120 metres or more.
Fontaine du Truffe
A shallow cave dive with decent visibility year-round, this lesser-known site has not been mapped completely as of 2019 – so perfect for the more adventurous (and experienced we might add) divers among you. Estimated to be a possible one or two miles long, only the first few sumps have been navigated so far. Just watch out though, as a cave diver did sadly die in the nearby and similarly unmapped Source De Landenouse cave back in 2013. Cave diving is not an activity for the faint hearted or unprepared, so make sure you are 100% trained by the relevant authorities before undertaking any expeditions in France – or anywhere else!