The Yucatan peninsula in Mexico was once a gigantic coral reef. During the last ice age, the ocean level dropped and the coral died. The jungle covered the old reef and the rainfall slowly dissolved the soft coral limestone. A unique dive destination was in the making.
The creation of a unique dive destination
When the ice age came to an end, the area had been transformed into a Swiss cheese of caves. The water level raised and flooded the caves. This has resulted in some unique caves and diving possibilities. We have seen many fantastic pictures of sunlight penetrating into the Mexican caverns. When we qualified for the world championship of underwater photography in La Paz, Mexico, we knew that a stop-over in Yucatan was mandatory.
WEDIVE on tour
We flew with Lufthansa from Norway to Frankfurt and then embarked on the 12 hour long flight to Cancun.
We stayed in Playa del Carmen. This is the tourist city of the Riviera Maya with beaches, shopping and restaurants. The 5th Avenue never sleeps.
Cenotes – A pathway to the gods
So how do we access the underground caves? In the Yucatan there are 6000 entrances where the cave roof have collapsed. These entrances are called cenotes. The Maya people believed the cenotes was sacred and a pathway to the gods. Even Humans were sacrificed in some of the cenotes.
Almost 5 million tourists travel to the Riviera Maya each year and many of them visit the cenotes for swimming, snorkeling and diving.
We went diving with ProDive Mexico. The three first days we visited the cenotes Chikin-Ha, Tajma Ha, Eden and Dos Ojos, which is Spanish for two eyes. The word “Ha” is the Mayan word for water.
Between the open cenote and the cave, there is an area called the cavern. This is an overhead environment where you shall be able to see natural light during the entire dive.
Scuba divers without a cave diver certification may enter the cavern zone accompanied by a guide. Each guide can have the responsibility for up to four divers.
The rainwater is filtered through the jungle and the visibility is always fantastic.
The formations in the caves are beautiful with stalactites and stalagmites. These drip stone formations were created when the caves were dry. Now they are frozen in time. If broken by a careless diver, they will never come back.
A thin line is routed through the cave to lead the way in and out.
In all the cenotes, we find fossils of prehistoric marine life which shows that the caves where once a coral reef.
The halocline is the border line between the fresh and saltwater. The water suddenly gets unclear and creates optical illusions when we dive through it.
This far but not any longer !
The end of the cavern zone is often marked with a big sign to prevent non cave divers to go further. The Dos Ojos cenote is connected to one of the longest underwater cave systems in the world. While we only penetrated 50 meters into the cavern, the cave network continues for another 82 kilometers! Without training, you are lost big time!
A lake beneath the sea !
The last day we were in for a real treat.
The Angelita cenote is something completely different. It is a circular shaft that goes down to 60 meters.
At 30 meters we reach a cloud of hydrogen sulfate. Threes and branches sticks out of the cloud like a floating ghost forest. You can actually smell the hydrogen sulfate despite a tight mask and breathing through the regulator.
The dive site is so unique that a camera fee has been introduced by the owner. We had to pay 500 pesos each to bring our cameras!
We did the last dive in Cenote Car Wash. The name is not a coincident. It used to be the place where the taxi drivers in Tulum washed their taxies.
The light and photo possibilities in the Mexican cenotes are incredible and well worth a visit. If you want to go and see for yourself, Dykkebazaar will be happy to make you an itinerary.