Discover the Cenotes of Yucatan Mexico underwater
The Cenotes of Yucatan offers to divers the possibility to experience a unique type of dive: cavern diving in the Cenotes.
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 Cenotes is 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.