Odds are, if you have been cave diving — or just following cave diving — for any length of time, you’ve come across a video showing fellow cave diving instructor Max Kuznetsov tackling among the tightest of all cave passageways, the infamous “Fluffy Bunny Tunnel.” It’s available on Vimeo and it’s a great video to share if you want to absolutely horrify your non-cave-diving friends.
Here it is:
I’m not going to tell you exactly where this is, for the simple reason that it’s an extremely advanced dive and 99.9 percent of all trained cave divers have absolutely no reason to go there. Formal training in no-mount diving is an absolute must — and, even then, it’s still risky as Hell.
Nevertheless, there is a good chance that, if you haven’t heard of it already, someone would tell you sooner or later. This being the case, I thought I would share a few things about this unique passageway that you may not hear elsewhere.
1 People have been diving it for nearly two decades
To the best of my knowledge, the first person to dive the Fluffy Bunny Tunnel was cave explorer Mark Sumner, in the late 1990s. It was Mark who first told me about the tunnel and suggested the strategy I then used to dive it, Dogwood Spring and Little Devil — other no-mount tunnels that Mark and and a handful of others were exploring at the time.
Mark’s method was to equip a single cylinder with a H-valve and two, independent first and second stages. Surrounding the tank would be a neoprene-foam sleeve, into which you shoved a capped piece of four-inch PVC pipe. This acted as a buoyancy tube, and helped offset the top end of the cylinder’s tendency to sink. Also shoved into the sleeve at the bottom end of the tank was a UK1200 light with no handle. This would act as your primary dive light.
I further equipped my rig with a pocket for backup lights and a jump reel (spools had not yet come into vogue). I also equipped my rig with a safety leash that clipped to a makeshift chest harness — this after Mark told me he nearly died when he accidentally dropped his rig near the top of a narrow crevice in Little Devil. Had he not been able to grab the rig by a second stage at the last second, he would not have been around to tell me this.
Now, you are probably thinking that the flaw with this rig is that it would provide no redundancy should a burst disk or tank-neck O-ring fail — and you’d be right. Additionally, having a buddy with you wouldn’t help, as there is no way that buddy could pass you an extra second stage in such a tight passageway (nor would you want a buddy behind you, should you need to back out).
Today, most no-mount divers use a rig in which the single cylinder is replaced by two aluminum 40s or similar tanks. This provides the same redundancy as sidemount. Additionally, today’s no-mount diver is likely to be wearing a sidemount harness and a compact, helmet-mounted primary light.
What was most unique about Mark’s approach was the method he suggested for getting to the start of the Fluffy Bunny tunnel, as it was beyond the range of my single-cylinder no-mount rig. That was to get an open-water BC, tank and regulator and wear it from the entrance to the start of the Bunny Tunnel, dropping it there and switching to the no-mount rig. I can only imagine what passers by might have thought, had they swam by the start of the tunnel and seen an open-water rig abandoned there.
2 The name is the pinnacle of irony
Credit for the name goes to none other than Bill “Bird” Oestreich — the same character who gave us such names as Underwater Diving Instructors and Educators (U-DIE). Apparently, when Mark went to Bill and told him about this incredibly gnarly tunnel he found, Bird said something to the effect of, “Let’s see. we have Devil’s Eye, Devil’s Ear, the Devil’s Lips — and you say this tunnel is way scarier than all of these? Then we can only call it the Little White Fluffy Bunny Tunnel.”
The name stuck.
3 You’ve likely passed it numerous times
While I won’t tell you exactly where the Fluffy Bunny Tunnel it is, I will tell you that, if you are familiar at all with the first 500 feet of the Devil’s Eye system (and by this I means things like the Catacombs and Bypass tunnels, not just the main line), you’ve most likely swam right past the entrance to the Bunny Tunnel and not even realized it.
If you do happen to know where it is, it’s only because another diver spilled the beans. Use good judgment and keep this knowledge to yourself.
4 It’s too small for even sidemount
In the video, you see Max and his buddy negotiating the tunnel by dropping their sidemount bottles and pushing the tanks ahead of themselves. Obviously, that works — although you do see them stir up a fair amount of silt in the process. I can tell you from experience, however, that it is much more comfortable doing the tunnel with a neutrally buoyant and well-balanced no-mount rig.
5 It saves hundreds of feet of swimming
If you have studied either of the popular maps of the Devil’s system, you’ve no doubt noticed that the July Spring tunnel snakes around and passes within less than 100 feet of the Lips Bypass tunnel. To get to July Spring using the “normal” route is a swim of 850 feet. Using the Fluffy Bunny Tunnel cuts this distance in half.
Nevertheless, when you factor in all of the time and effort needed to traverse the Bunny Tunnel, assuming you don’t kill yourself in the process, it’s still not worth it.
6 It’s the tip of the iceberg
If you have taken the time to truly get to know the first 500 feet of the Devil’s system, then you have probably used a primary reel to explore the route from the end of the Keyhole Bypass to the July Spring tunnel by way of the Lightning Spring passageway. Smaller divers in backmount might be able to do this, but it’s far more comfortable just using sidemount.
What you may not realize is that this is just the tip of the iceberg. There is, in fact, and entire maze of tunnels between the Lightning Spring tunnel and the Fluffy Bunny Tunnel. (I like to refer to this area as Bunnyland.) These are nearly all no-mount tunnels. They used to be lined, however, Jeff Hancock pulled all but the Bunny Tunnel line to keep unqualified divers out of trouble and ease stress on the cave — a decision I wholeheartedly support.
7 Odds are, you have no business going there
Let’s see, have I mentioned the part about dying, cold and alone, trapped immobile in one of the tightest cave passageways imaginable? I just wanted to make sure I didn’t leave that part out.
Seriously, if cave diving is an activity well beyond the skills and abilities of even the most seasoned Open Water Instructor, passageways like the Fluffy Bunny Tunnel are at least that far beyond the abilities of the average cave diver.
Nevertheless, if you are determined to do something like this, you have two advantages us early no-mount explorers did not:
- Safer no-mount rigs
- The ability to get formal No-Mount Diver training
If you decide to tackle the Bunny Tunnel — or anything like it — without both the right equipment and training, I’ll bring a ladder to your funeral and, after your family has left, I will climb to the top of the ladder and piss on your grave from a considerable height…because you’ll deserve it.
As for myself, my no-mount rig has long since been retired. That was 20 years ago and I’m just too old for this shit.