Deep diving in the caves of Song Hong and Sra Keow

Deep diving with: Fred, Chris and Jane Apr 2016

Deep diving Instructors: Ben Reymenants

Written By: Ben Reymenants

deep diving thailand
Song Hong deep diving
Habitat for decompression
In the habitat

When we do deep diving in the caves, local Thai people often ask me what I’ve seen when they see me surface after a couple of hours in a small pond somewhere in the jungle. Little do they know that underneath their feet lies some of the deepest cave networks of this planet.

Today I have news for them; I found a shrimp!

They look to each other in a puzzled way and stare back at me; “is it pretty down there? “. “yes, very pretty I reply as I start dragging the bouquet of stage decompression cylinders on dry land. I show them footage and they stare in awe, take pictures and happy to have a story to go home and tell. Still puzzled why a foreigner would drive all the way here, spent 4 hours under water and dive below 160m to find a tiny shrimp?

Throughout the week….Jane, Fred and Chris have been deep diving gradually deeper in song hong sinkhole. Today, Fred and myself return to unfinished business. During our dives in the last years, we had seen a small animal in the corner of our eye around the 150m mark. Which is unusual, since there is no life in Song Hong sinkhole apart from some small fish in the shallows. This is likely due to dissolved gas in the water, which can be seen exiting in an impressive string of clouds from various sides of the sinkhole. Great was our surprise when dropping below 155m, we found a think layer of ‘fog’ resembling a satellite picture of a hurricane. Once below the foggy layer, several white spots started making their way towards us. this might be because of the 15.000lumen of light we took among us, but we could clearly make out what appeared to be small translucent ‘shrimps’ making their way towards us.

We have yet to find the species. but that they have never been spotted, except below 155m, below a layer of gas, makes this creature all the more interesting. A few days later, we went deep diving and dropped to the same depth, this time in Sra Keow cave, which is a thermo-vent and not a sinkhole. It is colder and brings up a turquoise coloured water, rich in minerals. Here we decided to drop in Sra Keow Sump 2, jump across to the line leading to sump one at a depth of 150m and then continue to 170m. It is a true shame that the drop needs to go that fast to reduce decompression, but the layers of different stone and minerals sticking out of the walls are impressive. All the way down and up we receive friendly fire from shrimps desperate to clean out nails and fingers.

Coming up in another pond than you descended is called a traverse, which brings a certain risk and serious logistical planning. The nice part is that you don’t need to come back the same way for deco and you’re guaranteed good visibility. Sra Keow can be traversed in 3 different ways; through the keyhole, a 68m traverse, the Y-junction at 80m, which Chris and Ben decided to do, or the deep line, which connect the two systems at 150m. The main line continues to 240m, where the apparent bottom seemed to be.

The 3rd and newest sump 3 challenged Jane, as the first women to crawl through the 40m restriction on a twinset, not without a few exciting moments. Sra keow sump 3 has line up to 53m and seems to continue a great deal, a dream for sidemount ‘crawlers'”