I’m sure that by now you have at least seen a picture of the most famous cenote Ik Kil. Were you wondering what the cenotes are and how they were created after all?
Mayans and Cenotes:
The word of the Cenote comes from the Mayan word dzonoot or tz’onot which means the well or the ambis (somewhere it is translated as the Water eye).
Cenotes for Mayans were one of the most important sources of freshwater, which led to the emergence of many cities around them.
There are many legends about Mayans using those places for the sacrifice. In some cenotes, archaeologists have found human bones (mainly children), jewelry from jade, gold, and copper, which can confirm these legends.
If you look at the topographic map of the peninsula of Yucatan, you will notice that there are no mountains or rivers. What is adorned with this place are underground rivers and limestone lakes.
It is considered that the cenote formed by the combination of at least three mechanisms: decomposition, collapse and the formation of limestone.
- In the first mechanism, the wall is dissolved using a slightly acidic rain which, when mixed with salt water, increases its corrosive power by forming a wide network of rivers and caves.
- In the second mechanism, when the sea level falls during the glacial period, the level of the aquifer also drops and leaves the cavity full of air, where due to the lack of support various roof parts can collapse. At the end of the Ice Age, the poles were thawed, which led to the rise of sea level and cavities overflowing.
- Finally, the third mechanism is related to the formation of stalactites and stalagmites.
There are three forms of cenotes according to which their age can be determined.
- Underground cenotes are the youngest and they are mostly associated with the sea, and visibility at these ones is mainly dependent on the minerals that are found there.
- Semi-open cenote – is of medium age. They are mostly freshwater and water is crystal clear and these cenotes are perfect for diving and snorkel because visibility is very high.
- Fully open cenotes – this is actually the oldest example of cenote. For some cenote of this type, water is located on the very surface of the earth or at a great depth.
I have to say that I’m so obsessed with cenotes that I’m trying to visit one new every week. I will share with you my experience and advices from ones I visited
Diving in Cenote:
As far as diving is concerned, there are some rules that the various agencies offering these excursions respect or not.
Since I was working on selling excursions and having some basic information, I will give you my earnest advice:
- To dive in the cenote you must have a PADI (Open Water) certificate (a valid diving certificate in the open water). Also, it is advised that if you want to dive into cenote, first you have at least 20 dives in open water. If you do not have this certificate, and let the agency tell you that it is not of great importance to them or you do not need it because it is safe, definitely do not buy any excursion from them.
- Diving in the Cenote is different from diving in open water and requires great control of the body, breathing, and mental control. You need to feel relaxed in the dark parts, although you will have a lamp with you, be aware that lighting is very limited.
- Your guide must have a diving certificate and should not have more than 4 divers in the group.
- If you have paid DISCOVER DIVE, for diving in open water, and the agency takes you to the cenote where you first meet the basic rules, I advise you to immediately ask the company to lead you to the pool for a test dive. I’ll explain to you black and white what is going on. Many agencies, especially those in Tulum, lead people to the first dive (where you are getting familiar with equipment etc.) people or a not so deep cenote or in a lagoon. For both places I’ve heard stories the story that the diver on the training was pulled by current into the cave, where they could not find him (Cenote), and another of a girl who got stuck into the seagrass and disappeared. They simply avoid swimming pools and there is a very small number of swimming pools that allow them to practice in them because the equipment in many cases damages the bottom and edges of the pool.
My intention is not to scare you, or to create a negative image for you. This is definitely among the nicest places to dive, but to do it in a safe way and really enjoy it, these are my honest tips.
One of the most beautiful diving places is Dos Ojos.
If you decide to visit and enjoy in one of this gems of the nature, those are some basic tips for all of them and I hope they will help you:
- Before you go to cenote, check if they are providing you snorkeling equipment. Some of them, are not including snorkeling equipment in the ticket, but some do not have it neither for rent, so you have to bring your own.
- Respect instructions. In cenotes like Nicte Ha it’s not allowed to use fins since they can damage underwater flowers. Also, usually in open cenotes you will see ropes in the water. In some of them, it is for swimmers, so they can rest but in others it can be sign for not going behind that rope. Those once usually are in front of the entrance of the cave parts. It can be very dangerous, since water currents can get you into the cave.
- Bring biodegradable sun cream or repellent. In this way you are not affecting underwater world so much.
- In almost all cenotes, you have to pay entrance in cash. Be ready to have enough if you need for renting snorkeling equipment, life jacket, lockers, food or pictures.
- Always have with you water and some food, in case there is no store or restaurant in cenote you decided to visit.
Hope those informations will help you. Comment your experiences, what cenote is your favorite?