Tag Archives: Cenote Diving

Diving in Cenotes – Playa del Carmen – Tulum – Yucatan – Mexico

Cavern diving in the Cenotes of Yucatan

Discover the Cenotes of Yucatan Mexico underwater

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The Cenotes of Yucatan offers 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 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?

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.

The Pit

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.

Cenote Angelita

Depth: 40 meters/ 120 feet
Difficulty: Difficult

AngelitaThe 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

Cavern diving course : first steps into the world of cave diving

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

Cenote Kukulkan, cavern dive in the winter morning light
Cenote Kukulkan, cavern dive in the winter morning light

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.

Cenote Eden

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.

Chikin Ha

Depth: 15 meters / 50 feet
Difficulty: Easy

Cenote Chikin Ha - Map of the cavern dive
Cenote Chikin Ha – Map of the cavern dive

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.

Dos Ojos

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.

Pet Cemetry

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 🙂

Dreams Gate

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.

Zapote

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.

Casa Cenote

Depth: 8 meters /  30 feet
Difficulty: Easy

Casa Cenote - Cenote Manati - Tank Ha

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.

 

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Cenote Taj Ma Ha: an amazing Cavern Dive

BEST CENOTE CAVERN DIVING IN RIVIERA MAYA: CENOTE TAJ MA HA

The amazing cenote Taj Ma Ha is one of the best Cenote for cavern diving tours in the Riviera Maya. Don’t miss this unique diving experience.

Location

Cenote Taj Ma Ha is located about 5 km south of Puerto Aventuras. You drive on a bumpy dirt road in the jungle to the parking area. There you will find bathroom facilities and tables to prepare your gears. From there a short walk down the stairs will lead you to the water.

The Cavern dive

The cavern dive is one of the most amazing and most diverse dive in Cenotes. During the circuit you will dive past several cenotes: Cenote points of light, Cenote Sugar bowl and Cenotes Esmeralda. Each of them offering outstanding light effects.

Cenote Taj Ma HaFrom March to September, you will enjoy one of the most spectacular light shows. The sun is high up in the sky and enters through small apertures in the ceiling of the Points of Light Room. Laser like beams of light will give you the opportunity to enjoy one of the most spectacular light show nature can offer.

In the deeper areas you will cross halocline tunnels. The halocline creates a surprising mirror light effect as you enter the salt water layer, below the fresh water.

These tunnels will lead you to some beautifully decorated areas with a lots of speleothems like stalactites, stalagmites flowstones.

You will surface in cenote Sugar bowl where, you’ll be able to have a unique view over the jungle and maybe spot a Motmot, a sacred bird with stunning colours, often observed in the proximity of the Cenotes. Its very distinctive voice will loudly announce its presence.

Throughout the dive, you will observe lots of fossils in the walls and the ceiling of the cavern. 

Difficulty

This dive has a saw tooth profile and will require extremely good buoyancy control at all time. You will then make sure you don’t damage any part of the cavern and fully enjoy the adventure.

To get the best of your experience we also recommend to book a private tour with an experienced guide.

Maximum Depth: 45 feet (14 meters)

 

Video from two divers on a private tour at Cenote Taj Ma Ha

Contact us for a private guiding service in the cavern of the Cenote Taj Ma Ha

Group rates available starting from 4 divers

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About the Cenotes

Cenotes

The word “Cenote”, comes from the mayan “D’zonot” and means “well”.

Cenotes are natural pits, or sinkholes, resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock therefore exposing the ground water underneath. Cenotes are common geological forms in low latitude regions, particularly on islands, coastlines, and platforms with young limestones with little soil development. They spread all over the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico. The term “cenote” also describes similar karst features in other countries such as Cuba and Australia, in addition to the word “sinkholes”.

Diving into the cenotes is like diving into the history of the peninsula of Yucatan and much more. It gives a wonderful chance to appreciate the evidence of geological changes, archeological discoveries, extinguished species fossils…

The best way to discover the Cenotes will be by cavern diving or cave diving, getting cave diving training.

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Description

Cenotes are the connections to the subterranean water bodies. They can feature large open water pools or small sheltered pools. Sometimes they do not have any exposed water. There are over 6000 different cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico.

Cenote waters are usually crystal clear, as the water comes from rain water filtering slowly through the limestone. Therefore contains very few particules. For cave divers great pleasure, cenotes sometimes reveal an underlying cave system.

The Yucatan Peninsula is now officially host of the longest cave system in the world, s system Sac Actun with 347 km. Thanks to  many years of hard work and many hours of exploration, active explorers recently connected  Sac actun (264 km) and Dos Ojos (83km) underwater (January 2018).

Cenotes around the world attract cavern and cave divers.

The Yucatán peninsula

CenotesFormed during the Cenozonic era, – 65,000,000 years ago, the peninsula of Yucatan is very young. The entire peninsula was once a reef, but as the water level dropped, the flatland of Yucatan emmerged.

The peninsula is the exposed portion of the larger Yucatán Platform composed mostly of limestone . The whole of the Yucatán Peninsula is an unconfined flat lying karst landscape.

65 million years ago a meteorite impacted in the greater Caribbean Basin. The center of Chicxulub crater is deeply buried  off the north coast of the peninsula near the town of Chicxulub. The famous “Ring of Cenotes”  outlines one of the shock-waves from this impact, which lies more than 1 km below the modern ground surface.

Although cenotes spread widely throughout much of the Yucatán Peninsula, a higher-density circular alignment of cenotes overlies the ridge of the Chicxulub Crater. This crater structure, identified from the alignment of cenotes, along with geophysical methods.

Limestone

Cenotes - Karst of MexicoLimestone is a sedimentary rock composed primarily of calcium carbonate (CaCO3) in the form of the mineral calcite. It mostly forms in clear, warm, shallow marine waters. It is an organic sedimentary rock that forms from the accumulation of shell, coral, algal and fecal debris. It can also be a chemical sedimentary rock formed by the precipitation of calcium carbonate from lake or ocean water.

Dissolution of the limestone, formation of the caves

For the Chemists this is how it goes:

Cenotes Limestone dissolution – Chemical reactions leading to cave formation

Gunn J. (Ed.) 2003. Encyclopedia of Caves and Karst Science. Routledge. New York

Calcium precipitation in the Cenotes forms a white layer at the surface

Flora and fauna

Flora and fauna are generally more limitted than in the open ocean, however marine animals do prosper in caves. In caverns, one can spot mollis, guppies, cat-fish, small eels and turttles. In the darkest cenotes, the fauna has evolved special features to live in an the absence natural light. For example, most cave fauna doesn’t have pigmentation and is often blind. They are equipped with sensors in order to find food and make their way around in the dark.

Remipede (Speleonectes tulumensis)

Remipedes are primitive centipede-like crustacean. They can grow up to an inch (2.5 cm) and they use venomous fangs to capture their prey. No other crustacean has this characteristic.

Isopod (Metacirolana mayana)

These cave scavengers feed on whatever comes accross their claws (usually smaller crustaceans).

Mexican Blind Fish (Typhliasina pearsei)

A fish species that inhabits the brackish and freshwater layers of the Yucatan’s caves. The albino, sightless fish grows a couple inches (5 cm). And unlike most other fish, it gives birth to live young.

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Side mount cave diving in cenote Minotauro

A day off, cave diving

A cave dive at Cenote Minotauro.

Cenote Minotauro is an easy place to reach. You arrive on a parking lot with tables (at the right height)! And new bathrooms 🙂

The access to cenote Minotauro is through a nice stairway and you can just walk into the water.

I have dove a lot in this system in Backmount configuration, however, it is really nice for side mounting and gives access to many more passages. In Side Mount configuration it is much more enjoyable and probably more precise and easier to avoid damage on the cave.  This system goes up and down, reaches the halocline but remains fairly shallow and is a great place for long dives.

The system itself and the dive circuits can seem a bit confusing as you start knowing the system but it is all really pretty. There is a great map of Minotauro by Alessandro Reato, that really gives all its sense to following Ariadne’s line as this place is really a labyrinth.

You will see here a few images of a fun dive with a friend, local instructor. This video has no teaching purpose whatsoever. No pretension, just two local instructors and experienced cave divers enjoying their time cave diving, filming, editing and sharing their passion.

When this dive was finished, as the current had pushed us quite fast towards the exit we still had plenty of air to recalculate thirds and have a short dive on the other side, downstream so beautiful again. But guess what, the camera’s battery was dead!! I guess we’ll have to go again.

See you,

Géraldine

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