The Cenotes Yucatan Mexico
Yucatan and, particularly, Playa Del Carmen, in addition to the beautiful Caribbean dive sites offers to divers the possibility to experience a different type of dive : Scuba-diving in Cenotes.
Scuba diving in Cenote is more or less like a cave dive but has many advantages. This article aims to explain what is a cenote but also to advise divers and to present the best cenotes of the Yucatan.
What is a cenote?
The Cenote etymology comes from the Mayan word “zonot” or “tzonot” which changed into “Cenote” in Spanish. The Cenote is pronounced “Cé-no-té.” The Cenotes are actually caves or tunnels, which have been created thanks to the collapse of the limestone rocks. The craters, visible from the surface are filled with crystal clear water.
Mexico has the highest concentration and the greatest number of Cenotes in the world and specifically in the Yucatan. The Cenotes are present almost everywhere, some can be found in the deepest jungle while some others are in cities that have blossomed around these freshwater wells. They are also found in all sizes and shapes.
Some Cenotes are caves and tunnels, true underwater passages with large pools while some others are vertical, in the forms of large wells filled with water. The Maya considered the Cenotes as sacred doors opened on another world. Some Cenotes were also used for human sacrifice, 4 have been discovered, or Animal sacrifice. It is still possible nowaday to observe animal bones in the Cenote Cenote Pet Cemetry.The Cenotes, cultural and historical heritage of Mexico, are protected by the Convention on the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage
Diving in a Cenote
Scuba diving in Cenote is an exciting experience. The water is absolutely transparent, crystal clear and pure. The ceilings of the tunnels are bitten of hundreds of stalactites themselves dressed in green roots.
The tangle of tunnels sometimes lead to high rooms traversed by long rays of sun penetrating the darkness of the cave through small openings in the ceiling.
What should I know before scuba diving in cenotes
What level do I need to dive in a Cenotes?
To dive in the Cenotes you only need a level 1 Open Water or equivalent. Cenote diving also requires a good level of buoyancy.
What is the temperature of the water in the Cenotes ?
The temperature of the water in the Cenotes is about 24° Celsius. At sea, water is around 29 ° Celsius in summer. The water is much colder in Cénotes and a full wetsuit is highly recommended.
Where to book a dive in a Cenote ?
You can book a scuba diving experience in Cenote in one of the following dive centers. Click on their name to discover the dive center and their dives :
Origins and phenomena of the Cenotes
The geological phenomenon of the Cenotes
These unique formations are due to a sequence of geological events and to specific climatic disturbances. There are several million years, the Yucatan was submerged by tens of meters of water. It was only during the last glaciation, which resulted in a drop in sea level of nearly one hundred meters that the Yucatan Peninsula appeared out of the water.
Coral reefs created a large layer of limestone of almost two kilometers. Under the weight of the nascent jungle, porous and dry limestone eventually collapsed. At the end of the Ice Age, there are nearly 18,000 years, caribbean waters were lifts, immersing the network of tunnels and caves that communicate with the sea and various aquifers.
What are speleothems?
Speleothems are mineral deposits, usually consisting of calcium carbonate or calcium sulfate. The main types of speleothems are:
You can find all of these mineral formations in cenotes.
What are haloclines?
In Cenotes, you will discover the very characteristic and fascinating phenomenon of Haloclines. The haloclines are created by the clear sep of two layers of saltwater and freshwater. The phenomenon is particularly clear in Tajma Ha Cenote Cenote Tajma Ha.
The phenomenon is very visual and the demarcation between fresh water and salt water is very clear. In the presence of haloclines, when the diver is in the fresh and clear water, has the strange impression of being in flying over the water. In reality, the diver is in a cenote and fully immersed. The feeling appears to be very strange.
The best cenotes Mexico’s Yucatan
Depth: 8 meters
Casa Cenote is the easiest cenote and it is ideal for a first dive. Its main peculiarity is due to the fact that we dive directly from the mangroves. The dive is actually under the jungle. The cenote also has a rich marine life, has a halocline and has beautiful lights effects.
Depth: 15 meters
The Cenote Tajma ha or Cenote Taj Mahal is located 5 km from Puerto Aventuras. In total, you can explore 4 different Cenotes on this dive site. The Cenote is very famous for its stalactites, stalagmites, its lights effects and its fossil shells. You can also discover large rooms of limestone, speleothems, ceiling collapsed and a dense halocline.
Depth: 60 meters
The Cenote Angelita is one of the deepest cenote in the Yucatan Peninsula. It is particularly known for its underground river flowing quietly in the depths. The river is actually a sulfide cloud on which floats a small island and a few trees. Under the cloud, the diver experience total darkness. This is an exceptional diving site for experienced divers only.
Cenote Car Wash
Depth: 16 meters
Ha Aktn or Car Wash is located near Tulum. Its name come from the fact that the Mexicans used to come to this cenote to wash their cars. Therefore, a layer of products and bacteria remains static on the surface.
It is a very green and majestic cenote with a subtle brightness. You can meet turtles, fish and huge floral gardens. Apparently, a small crocodile sometimes ride in the Cenote Car wash.
The Chak Mool
Depth: 14 meters
Chac Mool means big red Jaguar. There are three entries and three different dives in this cenote. The entrances Chac Mool, Kulukan and Little Brother. The three dives are amzing and pretty similar. Little Borther has the distinction of offering the opportunity to observe a collapsed ceiling and hundreds of stalactites. At 10 meters deep, you can experience a dense Halocline .
Depth: 15 meters
The Cenote Eden or Ponderosa will amaze you thanks to its rich flora and fauna. You will be able to dive with different type of fishes, turtles and freshwater eels. Beautiful light effects and a dense halocine complete the dives in this wonderful natural swimming pool of crystal clear water.
Depth: 15 meters
This cenote is not our favorite but we enjoyed its halocline around 10 meters deep and its beautiful lighting effects. On leaving we had the chance to observe a very special Maya bird singing, the legendary Motmot.
Depth: 9 meters
Difficulty: easy Barbie Line or Easy Batcave Line
Dos Ojos is probably one of the best cave diving in the world or at least, one of the most known thanks to the movie “Amazing Caves”. The cenote offers two separate dives.
The first is called Barbie Line and its circuit of almost 520 meters is distinguished by its immersive and reassuring brighness with its many columns and stalactites.
The second dives, called Batcave Line, is more like a dark cave dive given the very low light. This dive is more difficult than the first one, the tunnels are narrower and evolving in this maze demand a better buoyancy given its delicate formations.
Depth: 7 meters
To enter this underwater sanctuary, the diver usually pass through the Cenote Dos Ojos. As the name suggests, you can discover, at the bottom of the cenote, some animal skeletons. Especially a Machoïr of a tapir and the fossil of a camel. It is very impressive to discover these treasures in such a shallow cave. But the Cenote has much more to offer and you will be able to discover other more classical features of the cenotes. A must do.
Depth: 40/45 meters
Before to enter this Cenote, we were very impressed by its huge pit buried deep into the jungle. The Pit is the largest underwater cave in the world and the deepest natural well of Quintana Roo 130 meters. Divers can enjoys a very special brightness and extremely well diverted rays. You will discover two haloclines around 11 meters and 16 meters and a sulfur cloud at 30 meters. Dive for experienced divers only.
Depth: 7 meters
Dreamgate is a relatively easy dive but requires a good buoyancy because the dive site is very rich in subtle and fragile geological structures. Very close to Dos Ojos and Pet Cemetry, dreams gate is a really nice dive but you will not be able to see any halocline, marine life or sulfide cloud. The Cenote is particularly known for its stalactites and its dark sedimentary background highlighted by different BBC reports.
Temple of Doom
Depth: 16 meters
Calavera or Temple of Doom is actually a very large room with a beautiful halocline at 12 meters. Divers enters the Cenote with a 3 meters high jump throught the vault. The name Calavera, that means skull, has been given to the Cenote because the holes in the vault gives the strange sensation of diving inside of a giant skull.
Depth: 8 meters
Difficulty: Very Easy
Gran Cenote is a must do in Yucatan and deserves to be discoverd. By itself, it represents close to 175 km of galleries and nearly 130 different connected cenotes. The Gran Cenote is the second largest underwater gallery in the world. The dive spot is large and grand, visibility is exceptional and its walls are very clear. Like Casa Cenote and Dos Ojos, it’s a perfect dive site for beginners and it is a perfect introduction to scuba-diving in Cénotes.
Depth: 60 meters
Difficulty: Very Hard
Zapote is probably the most difficult Cenote proposed by most of the centers of the Yucatan Peninsula. It is particularly deep and dark but you would be able to discover a very particular and unique rock formation shaped like characteristic bells see photo. It also has a large hydrogen sulfide cloud at a depth of 25 meter. Dive for experienced divers only.