1. Robbie, you were born in Germany, but known as one of the most expert cave divers of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula of the last decades, how did this happen? When did you fall in love with this underwater world that sunlight cannot reach?
In 1996, I visited my diving instructor, Gunnar Wagner in Tulum, Mexico. He and his Mexican wife Lina had moved there from Germany to open a dive center. As I had worked as a dive master at their former center in Germany and we had become true friends, I had the urge to follow them and see with my own eyes where they had found their new home.
Gunnar had become a cave diving instructor with the NACD (National Association of Cave Diving) by the time I got there to visit them. He told me: "You must do a cave diving course. It is the best thing to do on the planet and you will just love it”.
He was right! From the very first dive, I was mesmerized by the beauty of the dripstone formations, the clear water which makes you believe you are flying through this amazing scenery and the seemingly endless underground passages. Every time we had to turn around to get back to the exit, the slumbering explorer inside me wished to go deeper into the alluring darkness.
Unfortunately, my vacation was soon over and I had to go back to Germany. Still, I was hooked.
It took me two years until I was able to go back to Mexico for more cave diving, but during these two years, not a day went by that I was not mentally flying to the caves of Tulum.
The second time, I wanted to stay longer. I took a half-year break from my job as a lumberjack and flew back to Gunnar and Lina’s dive center. I started working for them as instructor, guide, tank filler, mechanic, painter, carpenter and dog-sitter. I did not care what I needed to do, I was just happy that I could dive the caves!
On day, Gunnar’s landlord, Don Cupertino Maas came to see us because he had several untouched cenotes on his property and he asked if we would be interested in exploring them. The very next day, Gunnar and I were running a guideline into our first virgin cave system, which we called Tux Kupaxa (playground).
Tux Kupaxa is still one of the most stunning cave systems found in the area and it ranks number three on “the longest water filled caves of the world” list.
Furthermore, another landowner, Don Roberto Caanche, came to see us with a similar proposal. We called his cave Dos Pisos and it was just as beautiful and breathtaking as Tux Kupaxa.
Exploration became a daily adventure: we built up our first camp and I stayed an entire month in the jungle. Needless to say, I was in cave heaven, addicted to the unknown.
The day I should have gone back to my ordinary life, I called my boss and resigned. With a heavier heart, I called my mother and told her that I would stay in Mexico, at least for another six months.
Twenty-one years later, the caves are still my passion.
Quintana Roo, Mexico, where I live and work since my arrival, has the highest density of cave systems in the world. By now, over 1,500 km (around 945 miles) are reported to the Caribbean state. This tremendous amount of passageways is divided into over 380 different systems. Some are small, some are real giants. The four longest underwater caves of the world are all sitting next to each other around the town of Tulum.