Sac Actun System is now officially the longest flooded cave system in the world.
Update March 2023: This post was written in January 2018, right after Sac Actun’s connection to Dos Ojos, making Sac Actun the longest cave system in the world. Meanwhile, the GUE divers exploring the Ox Bel Ha cave system for over 20 years have made a great push and overtook Sac Actum. Well done!
– With a total length of 347 kilometers (216 miles), Sac Actun is the largest flooded cave in the world
It results from many hours of exploration and hard work leading to the connection of the Sac Actun System 263 kilometers (161 mi) and Dos Ojos 84 kilometers (52 miles).
Cave exploration background of Sac Actun
On January 10th, 2018, the Underwater Exploration Group “Gran Aquifero Maya” (GAM) connected two of the largest flooded cave systems making it the longest flooded cave globally.
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 four largest cave systems ranked as follows:
- 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 due to this intensive underwater cave 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 flooded cave globally, with 347 kilometers – 215 miles.
This finding is also precious because this system supports great biodiversity that lives thanks to this huge reserve of fresh water.
Future cave exploration projects
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. They also investigate its biodiversity and the relationship of humans with these ancestral waters. Of course, very concerned by their environment and passion, 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 the Sac Actun System. There will also be studies of 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 with this system, we had documented evidence of the first settlers of America, extinct fauna, and, of course, the Mayan culture.”
Tulum: the mecca of cave diving.
Underwater cave explorers from all over the world have devoted their lives to their passion for exploration. Among them Bill Phillips, a 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 cave systems. Today it is a valuable tool for understanding and protecting the aquifer.
Dedication to Bil Philips
Bill Phillips explored this wonderful underwater world until the last days of his life. For more than 40 years, he devoted himself to understanding the aquifer by investigating these ancestral waters.
Bill Phillips was an underwater cartographer and explorer; he passed away in November 2017.
Who can dive Sac Actun?
All certified cave divers can discover the Sac Actun System. 347 km leaves the possibility of many hours of cave diving. The system connects many Cenotes and offers the possibility of many entries. Do not hesitate to contact us to guide you in the most beautiful tunnels of the network.
For recreational divers interested in discovering these underwater cave networks, we offer cave diving training.