Yucatan . Caving in Tulum
Cenote: (pronounced say-no-tay), is the name given to freshwater-filled limestone sinkholes. Cenotes are fully or partially collapsed caves. Mature cenotes often resemble small, circular lakes or lagoons with vertical edges… By far one of the most geological interesting things I’ve ever encountered.
The company “Hidden Worlds” was recommended by a few local folks around Playa del Carmen, and judging by their full page ad in the local “To Do” guide, we figured they must know what they’re doing. Hidden Worlds is located a few miles north of Tulum in the west side of highway 307. We arrived and were given a friendly greeting and briefing as we donned our wetsuits.
Caleb, Ellen, myself, and about six others road a big jeep about five miles into the jungle. Arriving at a small hold in the ground with a rope leading 30 feet into darkness, our guide Juan asked us if we wanted the easy way or the hard way. (The hard way being a drop 30 feet through the hold into the lake).
The easy was a narrow staircase just a small walk from the hole. After twisting and turning down the steep stairs, one by one we turned around and saw an immense open lake with the ground above us as the ceiling. The roots of the trees hung down like chandeliers halfway down, and some down to the surface of the water. The entire roof of the Cenote was made of stalactites hanging from the ceiling, giving it an almost cathedral appearance.
Our guide Juan was knowledgeable and entertaining. He explained in great detail the geological and cultural history and significance of these caverns. The entire limestone ground on the peninsula is very porous, almost like a sponge, with seawater filtering in to the very bottom, and fresh water filling the lakes and rivers.
Below: underwater – stalactites penetrating the surface
Our second cenote was a narrow maze of channels, rather than a large open lake. Our handheld underwater lights were a necessity, as it was pitch black without them.
Juan led us through intricate channels, some we had to squeeze through. At different spots there were ropes far underwater which scuba divers use to find their way. With the appropriate maps and knowledge it’s possible to scuba dive the enter 50 mile length of the underground river. Without it would be a death sentence.
Juan recommended the Don Huacho del Medio Dia in Tulum for lunch, and we enjoyed fresh seafood with plenty of chips and cervezas.