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Treasure hunting goes SCUBA

Scuba diving in itself is an exciting activity – exploring the underwater realm, discovering new species, traveling to new places, meeting new people and creating a connection based on a common hobby, on something you love. But what if you could add a more aimed search and the thrill of finding a small prize to your diving? Well, then you would have a whole new dimension of scuba exploration – “scuba geocaching” (also named “underwater geocaching”, “divecaching” etc.). 

Well established on land, this activity, geocaching, has over a decade of existence, but only recently has started to get “submerged”. Being an outdoor activity, geocaching is basically a treasure hunt where, with the help of a GPS (Global Positioning System) device, players seek hidden containers (having inside, as a rule, at least a logbook and a pen, and sometimes small trinkets such as stones, collectible coins, beads etc.) found all over the world, sign the logbook and share/log their visit in an online community. Essentially, the “treasures’” coordinates are found online, logged by other players who’ve hidden the containers. The rule is that after finding and signing a geocache you have to place it back for other players to locate it. If the cache contains more than just the logbook, you can take the find as long as you place inside something of equal or greater value.  

Scuba geocaching follows the same principle as land geocaching, whilst needing either a snorkel for finding shallow caches or full scuba diving equipment for “treasures” placed deeper. It’s a great way to put to good use those underwater navigation skills acquired during your Advanced Open Water course. And you would really need those skills as, obviously, the GPS devices can’t really show the coordinates of a divecache placed at depth. You’ll surely need your underwater compass too. Some underwater caches give the GPS coordinates for the water entry point and more details for an underwater itinerary, while others will give the coordinates at surface level, above the sunken cache.

The underwater caches are divided into two categories: dry (sealed containers to be taken to the surface and signed on land, usually placed in shallow water and great for snorkelers to find) and wet (flooded containers to be signed underwater).

The coordinates for different caches are found online on a series of websites and anyone can make a cache and place it underwater while following a few simple rules:

- find a suitable location (not too close to well known dive sites as divers might find it by accident; don’t place it as to endanger the divecacher, destroy protected areas such as corals, wrecks etc., and don’t place it as to attract suspicion of being a dangerous object);
- ask permission if you can place the cache in the chosen location, especially if it’s on a private property and investigate what rules apply if the site is public property;
- choose an environmentally friendly container for the cache; if a wet cache, choose a weight that will not corrode and affect the environment;
- the trinkets inside should be chosen applying common sense (don’t place offensive materials, materials with a hidden “agenda”, alcohol, drugs, knives etc.);
- when giving the coordinates accurately specify what the divecacher needs to bring and do on site;
- last but not least, it’s a good idea to consult the guidelines of a community about cache placing;

As a cacher in search of a dive cache there are also a few basic rules that should be followed for your own safety:

- as exciting as the game is, stay aware of your dive and surroundings, check your air and depth gauges frequently and mainly apply those rules learned during your scuba education;
- don’t dive beyond your certification;

In 2011 even DAN placed some caches, but most of the scuba geocaches are to be found in the U.S., with some in Honduras and Europe (Austria, Finland, Germany, U.K. etc.).

In conclusion, if you feel you need to add an extra kick to your scuba diving, it seems a treasure hunt might be the answer.

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