We prepared for the first dive. The sides and edges of the lake were strongly overgrown with aquatic vegetation, but we found a clear spot.
I went first, and once clear of the plants was able to see the sloping banks for the first time.
Visibility was spectacular, at least 40m, as sunbeams penetrated the smooth surface to the 30m lakebed. I started filming while waiting for my buddies and we then descended together.
The entrance to the cave was at 30m depth, but it soon became clear that the emerging water flow would be too strong for us to enter without a line.
Following the guideline to the shaft.
For now we decided to continue our first dive outside the cave, and it turned out to be a fantastic experience thanks to the clarity, vegetation and rock formations.
After that first dive, we decided that Karl would lay a line that would allow us to pull ourselves inside with our cameras. I would wait at the entrance in case of any problems.
It turned out that the current dropped a little way into the cave, so Karl was soon able to secure the line to a large boulder beyond that point.
I still found it a chore to swim against the current with my big camera set-up, but the sight of the beautiful rock formations certainly made up for that.
We finned a long way through a long corridor to reach a larger chamber. From here the corridor plunged steeply, a vertical descent in very clear water. The colours of the rock ranged from dark brown to light yellow.
With our strong lights we were able to illuminate large parts of the cave to produce spectacular video images.
Our maximum depth was 60m – there are zero facilities in the vicinity should a decompression incident occur, and we wanted to stay on the safe side. With Tom on open-circuit, we also limited our bottom times.
Over ensuing dives we explored a few side-courses off the deep shaft, and a portion of the main shaft that turned upwards and contained an air-bubble, but there was too little time to explore all the possibilities.
The current once inside the cave was not at all strong, enabling us to swim around easily, and we gained the distinct impression that it declined in strength further over the days we were there, while remaining sufficient to optimise visibility.
But each time we entered into the water we had to be careful not to touch the vegetation too much, or the effect would be noticeable in photographs. The Viroit cave is a true studio for the underwater photographer.