Located in the famous “Ruta de los Cenotes” (road of the cenotes), Maravilla is one of the newest opened spots for Scuba and free diving in the Riviera Maya.
After Vicente Fito’s exploration a road has been built to enable easy access for vehicles and a platform to enter the water.
Quickly, the whole diving community (guides and instructors) were invited by the owner to do a recon dive and we started to add it on our excursion list.
To describe it, the cenote is a sinkhole with the shape of a bell, where the entrance is a hole in the middle of the top. The really thick sulfur cloud offers views that look from another planet…
Getting really close to this cloud is necessary to observe the gorgeous living stalactites, the biothemes often called “Hell’s bells”. Those mysterious rock formations are alive and grow underwater thanks to very special endemic bacteria. This type of formation as well called “elephant feet” has been found in only 4 cenotes, all of them in the Puerto Morelos area and are subject to ongoing scientific research.
A huge number of fossils can be found on the walls at a depth around 50 feet/15M. During our guided tour, we do a multilevel profile to see them. During the safety stop, the long stalactites coming from the ceiling, near by the opening offer a wonderful view. All the elements together, crystal clear water, bright sunlight, white stalactites and the tree background are mind blowing.
The main reason for Cenote Maravilla’s success is the spectacular sun light beam that crosses the canopy, hits the surface and enlightens the center of the cenote until the cloud. The colors of this bright light beam vary regarding the season, between white blue and greenish.
Depending on the time, its angle changes and offers multiple features where the bright light meets the darkness.
The good infrastructure, the dive profile, its depth and the space available in the water column are the reason why we use it for technical diving training. Within courses like TDI Advanced Nitrox, TDI Deco Procedures, TDI Extended Range or Trimix Diver, PADI Tec 40 or PADI Tec Deep, it is a great place to simulate an ascent following a deco schedule, how to stick to the Run Time or to calculate a precise RMV or SAC rate.
Big efforts have been made by the owner for a sustainable and ecological use. On the property, they are clean dry toilets, and a solar panel supplies enough electricity for the caretaker, Don Miguel that has a great knowledge about botanic and plants. Organic trash is collected in a compost area that is then used as a fertilizer for plants.
We have special thoughts for the free divers that practice their sport really often in this beautiful place. They clearly participate to the success of Maravilla by the publication of amazing pictures and media.
Cenote Maravilla is open for scuba diving all year around. For a perfect dive excursion, It is great to combine it with Cenote Kin Ha or Cenote Zapote, other beautiful sink holes on the Puerto Morelos area.
The entrance fee is 300 Mexican pesos (+/- 15 USD). Cameras are allowed and some rules apply.
Sac Actun System is now officially the longest flooded cave system in the world
– With a total length of 347 kilometers, (216 miles) Sac Actun is the largest flooded cave in the world – It is the result of many hours of exploration and hard work leading to the connection of Sac Actun System 263 kilometers (161 mi) and Dos Ojos 84 kilometres (52 miles).
Cave exploration background
On January 10th, 2018, the Underwater Exploration “Group Gran Aquifero Maya” (GAM), succeeded in connecting two of the largest flooded cave systems making it the longest flooded cave in the world.
While Robbie has been actively looking for this connection during the last 14 years and adding new tunnels and galleries to this underwater maze, this stage of the project started in March 2017.
Until then, the 4 largest cave systems ranked as follow:
Ox Bel Ha System – 270 kilometers/ 163 miles
Sac Actun System – 263 km/161 miles
KooX Baal System – 93 km/57 Miles
Dos Ojos System – 84 km/52 Miles
The Sac Actun – Dos Ojos Connection
Sac Actun and Dos Ojos are now connected as a result of this intensive exploration.
According to the rules of caving, when two cave systems are connected, the largest cave system gives its name to the new one. Therefore the name of the Dos Ojos system disappears :'( .
Hence, the Sac Actun System is now the largest system in the world, with a length of 347 kilometers – 215 miles of flooded cave.
This finding is also very valuable, because this system supports a great biodiversity that live thanks to this huge reserve of fresh water.
But of course, underwater cave exploration is far from finished! New objectives pop up and the goal is now to connect Sac Actun with other nearby underwater cave systems in the municipality of Tulum.
Local explorers seek to better understand the underground of the Yucatan peninsula. And, they also investigate its biodiversity and the relationship of the humans with these ancestral waters. Of course, very concerned by their environment and pasionate, the aim is to manage an adequate use of the natural resources from this aquifer.
There will be more very ambitious stages to this project. Among those, stands the analysis of the water quality of Sac Actun System. As well, there will be studies of the biodiversity and its conservation; in addition to following up the mapping and investigating the submerged archaeological sites.
According to the Quintana Roo Speleological Survey (QRSS), the north of Quintana Roo alone hosts 358 submerged cave systems. It represents around 1400 km – 870 miles of flooded caves.
The word of the restless explorer, Robert Schmittner
“This is an effort of more than 20 years, to travel hundreds of kilometers of caves submerged in Quintana Roo mainly, of which I had dedicated 14 years to explore this monstrous Sac Actun System; now everyone’s job is to conserve it”
The word of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) and Director of the GAM Project, Guillermo de Anda
“This immense cave represents the most important submerged archaeological site in the world, as it has more than a hundred archaeological contexts. Along this system, we had documented evidence of the first settlers of America, as well as extinct fauna and, of course, the Mayan culture.”
Tulum: the mecca of cave diving.
Underwater explorers from all over the world have devoted their lives to their passion for exploration. Among them Bil Phillips, pioneer of the exploration of the Mayan aquifer. He founded together with James Coke, the Quintana Roo Speleological Survey (QRSS). The QRSS database gathers detailed maps of these complex systems. Today it is a valuable tool to understand and protect the aquifer.
Dedication to Bil Philips
Bil Phillips explored this wonderful underwater world until the last days of his life. For more than 40 years he devoted himself to understand the aquifer through the investigation of these ancestral waters.
Bil Phillips was an underwater cartographer and explorer, he passed away in November 2017.
You can think of cave diving as very demanding and more dangerous than reef diving, but when executed properly, cave dives are safe and extremely rewarding. After completing your cave diver training, you will travel to amazing places such as Bahamas islands and the Cenotes of Yucatan in Mexico, discover places only few people have ever seen and get a sense of exploration.
To become a cave diver you will have to go through rigourous training. The steps and levels can slightly differ from one training agency to the other, but your training will strongly depend on the instructors experience in cave diving and teaching. So make sure you get the right instructor for yourself.
Here are a few thoughts…
Can I become a cave diver?
First of all you need the right motivation: an interest for cave and for cave diving. If you’re a thrill seeker: pass your way!
Any Open water diver with sufficient experience and habilities can start a cave diving training program. You should be confident diving in low-light and low visibility conditions. You should be qualified or comfortable learning in a two-tanks system, either in sidemount or backmount configuration.
Cave diving demands a serious and confident approach, and discipline to meticulously conduct every dive, every time.
Three torches (Primary light source and two backups)
Reels and spools
Make sure to talk to your instructor before purchasing any item, to ensure that you’re getting the right gear.
Where can I learn to cavern dive?
First step of the full cave diver training, you should do your training in a cave diving area, to get real experience, and inspire you to continue your training to cave diver. The Cenotes of Mexico in the Yucatan Peninsula offer amazing training and diving sites, and remain one of the most popular cave diving destination in the world.
Where can I learn to cave dive?
The cave diver training is a two step course. During the first part, the introductory course you will learn to complete simple cave dives following a single continuous guideline.
The final part of cave training is mainly about adding complexity to navigation inside the cave. For that last part of the training we highly recommend the caves of Mexico. These very complex systems offer a large quantity of dive sites and scenarios possibility for training. The warm water and shallow caves will enable you to stay longer underwater, practice and focus on cave related skills.
The Cenotes of Yucatanoffers to divers the possibility to experience a unique type of dive: cavern diving in the Cenotes.
Diving in Cenote will give you a hint of what cave diving looks like in case you are yet undecided to become a cave diver or just want to enjoy the experience once.
What is a cenote?
The word “Cenote” comes from the Mayan “dzonot”. Cenotes are sinkholes created by the collapse of the limestone rocks, filled with crystal clear water.
The Yucatan penninsula is covered with Cenotes. They are found almost everywhere, some remain undiscovered deep in the jungle and others are right in the center of cities and villages. Furthermore they can have all sizes and shapes, some have underwater passages, some offer large pools while others are vertical pits. The Maya considered the Cenotes were sacred doors.
Diving in the Cenotes of Yucatan
Diving in the Cenotesis an exciting experience. You will enjoy the best diving conditions you can imagine. The water is crystal clear and the visibility is incredible, there is very little current and the water is warm all year around (25°C/76F). The underwater caves feature lots of speleothems (stalactites, stalagmites, columns, flowstones…) and stunning sunrays penetrating the darkness of the cave through small openings in the ceiling.
What certification is needed to dive in a Cenotes?
To discover the cavern part of the Cenotes on most sites you will only need an Open Water certification or equivalent, good buoyancy skills and a great level of comfort.
And if you want to go further you will need to get cave diving training and your guide can give you all the necessaries informations.
Formations of the Cenotes
These unique formations are due to a sequence of geological and climatic events. Several million years ago, the Yucatan penninsula was submerged by the ocean and arrised during the glaciation period, when the sea level drops.
Cenotes are formed by dissolution of rock creating a void bellow the bedrock and the subsequent collapse. These collapses occur during periods when the water table is below the ceiling of the void, since the rock ceiling is no longer buoyantly supported by the water.
What are speleothems?
Speleothems are cave formations resulting from mineral deposits. They take various forms, depending on whether the water drips, seeps, condenses, flows, or ponds. The most known speleothems are: • Stalactites: hanging from the cave ceiling • Stalagmites: the “ground-up” counterparts of stalactites • Column: when stalactites and stalagmites meet or when stalactites reach the floor of the cave • Drapery, curtain or bacon are thin sheets of calcite hanging downward • Flowstone: covering floor and walls of a cave • Soda straws: very thin but long stalactites having an elongated cylindrical shape
You will observe all of these mineral formations and many more in cenotes.
What is the halocline?
A halocline is a type of chemocline caused by a strong, vertical salinity gradient within a body of water. Because salinity (along with temperature) affects the density of water, it plays a role in its vertical stratification. In Cenotes, you will discover this very characteristic and fascinating phenomenon of Haloclines. And you will observe it particularly cleary in Tajma Ha Cenote and Eden Cenote.
The phenomenon is very visual and the demarcation between fresh water and salt water is very clear. In the presence of a halocline, when ascending from the salt water layer (below) to the fresh water the diver can have the feeling of floating in air over water.
In which Cenotes can we do cavern diving?
Here is a list of the most reknown cenotes in the Riviera Maya. There are many more to be discovered and for the most adventurous divers wanting to experience new dive sites consider a trip to the Cenotes Yucatan around Mérida and add the culture and the culinary experience to your diving.
Depth: 40 meters/ 120 feet Difficulty: Difficult
The Pit is one of the deepest Cenotes of Yucatan (130 meters) and is part of one of the biggest cave system in the world. You will enjoy the amazing light beams going all the way down to the sulfide layer at 30m.
Taj Ma Ha
Depth: 15 meters/ 50feet Difficulty: Moderate
The Cenote Tajma ha is located 5 km south of Puerto aventuras. A fairly demanding dive due to the multiple depth changes, you will be rewarded by the stunning beauty. You will observe lots of stalactites, stalagmites and fossils, 3 other Cenotes on the way with amazing light effects and come accross the halocline a few times.
Depth: 40 meters/ 120 feet Difficulty: Difficult
The Cenote Angelita is one of the deepest cenote in the Riviera Maya. It is particularly known for its sulfuide layer looking like an underground river flowing around a small island whith a few trees. Under the cloud, you will experience total darkness. This is an exceptional dive full of sensations and is for experienced divers only.
Cenote Car Wash
Depth: 16 meters/ 50 feet Difficulty: Easy
Aktun Ha better known as Car Wash is located near Tulum. Its name come from the fact that people used to come to this cenote to wash their cars. In summer the open water pool is covered by a thick and dense layer of algae bloom whith very reduced visibility. Below this layer the water is crystal clear with subtle green brightness. You will meet turtles, fish and possibly a small crocodile. And you will enjoy the amazing beauty of the water lilis.
Cenote Chac Mool and Kukulcan
Depth: 14 meters / 50 feet Difficulty: Easy
The Chac Mool Cavern Line leads you through a large well lit Cavern Zone with very impressive breakdown formations and spectacular views of the jungle from underwater. You will see tree roots growing down into the water along the edge of Main Entrance and dive a hypnotic halocline passage. Halfway through the dive you can surface in a beautifully decorated air dome before continuing on through a cathedral of speleothems.
Cenote Kukulkan offers in winter one of the most amazing light show you can imagine.
Depth: 15 meters/ 50 feet Difficulty: Easy
The Cenote Eden also known as Ponderosa features beautiful light effects and a wonderful halocline. In the open water pool you will observe many colorful fishes.
Depth: 15 meters / 50 feet Difficulty: Easy
Chikin Ha means “Western Water” it is a very large half moon cenote with crystal clear water.
The permanent guideline begins in the open water of Chikin Ha and traverses over to Cenote Arcoiris (Cenote Rainbow) through a large halocline tunnel. On the way back to Chikin Ha you will see fossils, crystal formations and speleothems.
Depth: 9 meters / 30 feet Difficulty: easy
Dos Ojos is probably one of the most known Cenote dive thanks to the I-max movie “Amazing Caves”. The cenote offers two different dives, the Barbie Line, a circuit with massive columns and stalactites. The Batcave Line is more like a dark cave as you swim around an air bell with very little light entry. All along you will enjoy the variety of its delicate formations.
Depth: 7 meters / 30 feet Difficulty: Moderate
As the name suggests, you will see along your dive, at the bottom, some animal skeletons. And above all this is not even the hit of these dives! This cave is amazingly decorated with white speleothems. the nearby surface will offer stunning reflexions of these formations. Just hold your breath and enjoy! And if you need more look between the roots for blind fish 🙂
Depth: 7 meters / 30 feet Difficulty: Average
Dreamgate requires really good buoyancy skills as it is very shallow and has very low ceiling. Very decorated with delicate formations, make sure you dive close to the line to limit the impact of your bubbles or an unfortunate fin kick. We love the place and want to enjoy it for a long time.
Depth: 40 meters / 120 feet Difficulty: Very difficult
Zapote is one of the most demanding Cenote dive as it is deep and fairly dark and you will also encounter a sulfide cloud. But most of all it is very rewarding as, out of this cloud, you will face very special formations, in the shape of a bell. Keep in mind that not only they are very surprising but the are still new to science.
Depth: 8 meters / 30 feet Difficulty: Easy
Casa Cenote is one of the easiest cenote dive. You will dive directly under the mangroves and get the chance to meet some marine life since the Cenote is directly connected to the ocean. Most of all you will swim across a dense halocline and observe some beautiful lights effects.
Remipedes are blind crustaceans living in coastal aquifers which contain saline groundwater, with populations in almost every ocean basin explored, including in Australia, the Caribbean Sea, and the Atlantic Ocean.
Remipedes are venomous crustaceans, and the only ones of their kind, first discovered in the 1980s. Their name comes from Latin for “oar-footed” because of the beautiful movement of their many pairs of swimming legs.
Contact us for some guided cave dives get the chance to observe live remipedes.
And if you want to become a cave diver we will be happy to orientate you through your training.
In Cave Diving a Restriction is a narrow passage where two divers could not fit side by side or one on top of each other. Learn how to get through during the Full cave training. A few shots of some minor restrictions put together by my friend and dive buddy while Cave diving in the Cenotes of Mexico
Cave diving in these amazing mexican caves requires proper training. Don’t hesitate to contact us for more information on cave diving training.
All the Cenotes offering the possibility to do a Cavern dive present a board with very clear and explicit pictograms regarding the safety rules for cavern diving. We encourage you to have a look at it and ask your guide what may remain unclear.
– No Knives – No Gloves
– No snorkel – Gear streamlined and stowed
– Do not remove any stalactite, rock, fossil from the dive site
– No touching, no scratching, do not leave any visible mark
– Divers go behind the guide in a single file, maximum 4 divers per guide
– The guide must be a Divemaster or Dive Instructor in teaching status and be a certified Full Cave Diver
– Manage your Air using the rule of thirds
– Natural sunlight should be visible at all time, do not go beyond natural sunlight
– Follow the guideline at all time, do not go off the guideline
– Adopt good trim, buoyancy and propulsion techniques,
– Do not remove sediment, it might result in the loss of visibility and it is part of the cave formation, so you should treat it respectfully
– Do not pass through restricted area, at all time 2 divers should fit side by side or one on top of each other
– Limit your penetration to 60m/200feet even when sunlight is still visible, you should not pass this distance without proper Cave diving training.
Remember: There is nothing beyond these limits worth dying for! Do not put your life at risk and follow the rules.
The cavern dives are full of surprises and amazing dives all year around, enjoy!
We are passionate and experienced instructors and guide and will love to show you this amazing and unique art of nature in the safest way possible.