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Diving the Tobermory Caves December 4, 2008

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Dive Log.
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My second dive of August 12th, 2006 was at the Grotto, a more apt name than caves because compared to some of the hair-raising cave diving adventures others go on this is pretty tame. In fact, compared to most of the wreck diving in Tobermory it’s pretty tame. If you want to read about real cave diving, try the Quiet Diver blog.

The Grotto is accessible from both land and water. It’s a hike from the road on the land side, and I’ve not heard of anyone actually trying to lug their Scuba gear overland to dive it. It’s a regular stop for the dive boats though, as it’s suitable for divers of all skill levels and experience. Unlike the first dive of the day, the Niagara II, I had been to the Grotto before, 23 years earlier in 1983. The Niagara II was still afloat at that time, so diving it wasn’t a possibility in my previous trips to the park.

Unlike the previous dive, where the water was a mere 9C (49F), as this dive is much shallower, it was a balmy 20C (68F). I was still wearing my dry suit, though, but dispensed with the hood and gloves. I also owned nothing thicker than a 3mm (except my old suit that no longer fits me) at the time, so 20C is a bit cool for that, even though I’ve survived such temperatures in it. Our maximum depth was 31 feet, which made the Nitrox 36 I was breathing a little useless, although when I had it refilled it was perfect for the next day’s second dive.

The actual Grotto is a smallish cave that is accessible through two underwater tunnels and also by land. One tunnel is much wider than the other, but neither are more than 15 feet in length so the risks associated with an overhead environment are minimal. The light is clearly visible is both directions, and the depth is no more than 10 feet or so. The main hazard is that swimmers occasionally jump into the water unannounced, so care is necessary when near the surface in order not to collide with one. Once you’ve spent 5 minutes in there, there’s not much else to look at, so when you exit there’s a bunch of rock formations in the area that you can see, and that’s about all.

Roger and I spent about 40 minutes overall dive time looking around, and while we had extra air, we had agreed before the start of the dive to return to the boat at a preset time as the Grotto is a fair distance from the harbour and the boat needed to get back for the afternoon divers.

Looking up at the Grotto

Looking up at the Grotto

By the way, there are lots of other caves in the area. The Grotto was one of those formed by wave erosion (in my considered opinion, anyway), while there are also many Karst caves in the area (the same type as the Cenotes, where the Quiet Diver lurks), both air and water filled. My brother told me he saw a documentary on caves in the Tobermory area where divers were removing their Scuba units to allow them to squeeze through constrictions, so there is some hard core cave diving available there. There’s not much readily accessible information on it likely for the protection of the untrained masses, but I did find a Geological report with general descriptions of caves in the area.



1. End of 2007 Diving Trip to Tobermory « Chronicle of an older diver - January 21, 2009

[…] second dive was back at the grotto, where I’d been the year before. After getting everyone’s tank pressures, assigning buddies, and so on I jumped in the water […]


2. me - August 23, 2010

All of the caves and karst features in the park are permit only-not open to recreational diving.


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