Follow these simple guidelines to enjoy your activity with minimal impact on the environment and other people:
- Remember every caving trip has an impact. Is this trip into this cave necessary? If it is just for recreation, is there another cave that is less vulnerable to damage that can be visited? Make this assessment depending on the purpose of your visit, the size and experience of the proposed party, and if the trip is likely to damage the cave.
- Where possible the party leader should have visited the cave previously to gain an awareness of the sensitive features of the cave and find where the best anchor points might be. This knowledge will reduce the need for unnecessary exploration in the cave.
- Cave slowly. You will see and enjoy more, and there will be less chance of damage to the cave and to yourself. This applies in particular to when you are tired and exiting a cave.
- If there are beginners on a trip, make sure that they are close to an experienced caver who can help them when required, e.g. in difficult sections. Ensure that the party caves at the pace of the slowest caver.
- Cave as a team - help each other through the cave. Don't split up unless impact is reduced by doing so. Keep your party size small - 4 is a good party size.
- Constantly watch your head placement and that of your party members. Let them know before they are likely to do any damage.
- Keep caving packs as small as possible or don't use them in sensitive caves or extensions.
- Ensure that party members don't wander about the cave unnecessarily.
- Stay on all marked or obvious paths. If no paths are marked or none is obvious - define one!
- Learn to recognise cave deposits or features that may be damaged by walking or crawling on them. Examples are: drip holes, stream sediments, paleo soils, soil cones, crusts, flowstone, cave pearls, asphodilites, bone material, potential archaeological sites, cave fauna, coffee and cream, tree roots.
- Take care in the placement of hands and feet throughout a cave.
- Wash your caving overalls and boots regularly so that the spread of bacteria and fungi is minimised.
- If a site is obviously being degraded examine the site carefully to determine if an alternative route is possible. Any alternative route must not cause the same or greater degradation than the currently used route. If an alternative is available suggest the alternative route to DOC and report the degradation.
- Carry in-cave marking materials while caving and restore any missing markers. Tape off sensitive areas you believe are being damaged and report the damage to DOC.
- If it is necessary to walk on flowstone in a cave remove any muddied boots and or clothing before proceeding or don't proceed! Sometimes it is better to assess the situation and return at a later date with the appropriate equipment.
- Treat the cave biota with respect, watch out for them, and avoid damaging them and their traps (webs for instance). Also avoid directly lighting cave biota if possible.
- If bone material is found on existing or proposed tracks it should be moved off the track to a safer location if at all possible. Collection should only be undertaken with appropriate permission.
- If you eat food in a cave ensure that small food fragments are not dropped as this may impact the cave biota. One way is to carry a plastic bag to eat over and catch the food fragments. This can then be folded up and removed from the cave.
- Ensure that all foreign matter is removed from caves. This includes human waste. If long trips are to be made into a cave, ensure that containers for the removal of liquid and solid waste are included on the trip inventory.
- When rigging caves with artificial anchors, e.g. traces, tapes, rope etc, ensure that minimal damage occurs to the anchor site by protecting the site. For example protect frequently used anchors, e.g. trees, with carpet, packs, cloth, etc. Bolts for rigging in caves should only be used as a last resort and where natural anchors are inappropriate.
- The classification of caves and karst areas for the purpose of conservation and preservation must be honoured.
- Take all your equipment and rubbish with you when you leave the cave.
- Maori tapu relating to burial caves should be respected and such caves should not be entered without permission. All human remains, artefacts, and other objects must be left undisturbed. Photographs should not be taken without first obtaining permission.
- Carry out human waste (faeces) in a cylinder or other container.
- Avoid camping in caves.
- Cave softly.
Activity safety guidelines - caving