Lesson Learned From Cave Exploration

Cave Rescue is a leadership exercise that some global performance consultants use in their behavior-based or game-play workshops. The exercise may be used in planning & organizing, assertiveness, problem solving & decision making, and a whole host of other behavior-based approaches. In this exercise, there are a handful of people and not all will survive. Some perish; die. And this brings us to 2018 incident that garnered global attention – the Tham Luang cave rescue of 12 schoolboys and their coach of the Wild Boars football team.

For some peculiar reason, the boys and their fledgling 25 year coach came to be at a depth in a cave that was beyond comprehension. How they got there is bizarre because the exit seemed to meander into crevices that made getting out a colossal effort. And more oddly, how long did it take them to get far into the cave. Was this an attempted hike twinned with fitness to get the boys physically athletic? Or was this a simple exploration gone awfully wrong? You read the news that gripped many in Thailand, most of all, the family members of the boys. And people over the world prayed for their safety.

What lessons are there to be learned from a deep cave exploration cum hike? What can you as a hiker take a leaf out from the ‘Wild Boars’ book?

By Failing to Prepare, You are Preparing to Fail

Benjamin Franklin was absolutely right when he said this around the mid-1700s! And to this day, this quote shouts out loud in business, a birthday party, building a garden shed and even hiking. The kids and coach were not so much as ill-prepared; they did not plan at all and walked into a blind spot! How could this happen? Ignorance? Or is it a well-known term of familiarity breeds contempt, except this was danger in this situation. A hike – especially one that you think you are most familiar with of the environment - needs planning of all sorts. I could swamp you with all types of things to bring on your hike but hey, let’s not overdo it as well. Here are 10 key things you should bring on your hike:

To Boldly Go Where No Man Has Gone Before

Many will recall this famous movie quote from the opening voice over of Leonard Nimoy or William Shatner of the Star Trek movies and series. Yet to boldly go can prove to be one’s undoing if the ‘going to wherever’ has not an ounce of planning and safety built into the journey. Which explains why Captain Kirk and the USS Enterprise continually ran into all sorts of trouble with space and its inhabitants. Similarly in any hike, a sensible approach is required. Some basic planning is required to know what the terrain is like, to be prepared to thwart insect bites (cue dengue fever), and other calamities that may befall hikers if they venture into the unknown. It is best to research the place of hike, or speak to hiker to get some known experiences. Imagine going into primary forest and not knowing what the exit plan looks like. There isn’t a behavior-based exercise of Forest Rescue.

Everything I do, I do it for you

Yes, we know Bryan Adams sang this song. What was the movie? I seem to have forgotten. And that is exactly what happened with the boys and the coach. What were they thinking? Of course, we could squarely lay blame on the coach. Did the older kids not ask of their coach as to why they were venturing deep into the caves? I suppose it comes back to the song that one person, the coach in this instance may have probably expressed that what he was doing, was for the kids. And in any hike, at times, one person in your party may have a ‘bigger say’ based on experience and credibility or that person might be the ‘ketua kumpulan’ (head of the group). And with that sort of reputation, confidence or over-confidence, that may well give that person head start in the queue. As a member of the party, we must also participate in the hike and ask questions in how we are proceeding, the challenges over the terrain and even request for a stop if the legs need resting or the throats need to be washed down with water. Do not ever assume that a certain Robin Hood will come to your rescue and show you the way out of the forest!


What a movie! It showed how Bryan Mills played by top actor Liam Neeson, who lived on the dominance of information, needing to know where the whereabouts of his daughter; all the time. His insatiable appetite of knowing was the fear his daughter might land in some unsavoury trouble, not the sort he least expected. Why am I drawing parallels with this movie? We live in an information age where we expect fast access to all sorts of news, articles, knowledge, etc., yet we fail to keep our families and friends in the know. We venture into some unknown or lesser known territory and when we do that, we should keep someone in the loop of our whereabouts. We may not know when we might be lost in some trek or hike. We do not know for how long that absence might be. We can never be certain despite the copious hours of planning and detail that we put into our journeys. We may be taken by the environment or a human mistake. That mistake may be of cataclysmic proportions to others, and to our safety and comfort. So, when you next step out of your door or beyond the boundaries of your known territory or into unknown grounds, ask yourself: Have I informed someone?

I could go on and on about the pre-safety checks in venturing into the wild. Nothing will plan you more for the adventure that awaits you than planning itself. Unless you start to exercise ‘comme il faut’ or some accepted standards when starting a hike, you may put yourself, and others with you, and others that are not with you into a worrisome state. Be safe. Be alert. Be smart.

On a parting note, if you watched or recollect the exchange of conversation of Sam Gange and what Frodo Baggins thought of as he left the shire in The Lord of the Rings:

Sam: “This is it.”

Frodo: “This is what?”

Sam: “If I take one more step, it’ll be the farthest away from home I’ve ever been.”

Frodo: “Come on, Sam. Remember what Bilbo used to say: “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

Be more certain than less that your next step is one that is going to get you back to your beginning; not leave you in peril.

PS We are incredibly jubilant the Wild Boars and their coach survived the ordeal. And in that joy, we remember the loss of a heroic professional, and give tribute to. We dedicate this article to Mr Saman Gunan, former Navy Seal diver who tragically lost his life.

Last modified onFriday, 01 May 2020 10:59

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