Ok this one is a little for the diving nuts among us but lets all put on our imagination caps just for a little. Our dive master took absolutely rubbish photos so i’ve scored some web images of the particular cenotes we dives, please excuse the plagiarism…
What is a Cenote?
This part of the world has a bit of a weird feature, there’s basically no overland/ surface rivers, in fact there might not be any at all. Instead, the water flows through underground channels which eventually interconnect and make it out to the ocean. A cenote is a hole in the surface, usually small, where you can access this limestone subterranean network. And as the saying goes, a picture paints a thousand words, this is what a cenote is. And yes, it’s as otherworldly and crazy as you are thinking.
So we linked up with a local dive shop and we’re away. Our chain smoking pre-cancer poster child guide Carlos is a small chirpy local dude with a healthy streak of greenie pinko hippie, perfect! We dive Casa Cenote first which is a gentle introduction with some cool small caverns. This one is simple but has 2 main cool features.
There’s a thing we’ve never seen before, a hydrocline. Similar to a thermocline (where a distinct visual barrier separates cold and warmer water), a hydrocline separates salt and fresh water. So where a thermocline goes from stupidly clear water, the longest visibility we’ve ever seen, to slightly fuzzier water, a hydrocline is clear fresh water sitting atop a dense roiling salty water sheet, like a silken layer of cloud. With the clarity of this water it’s the most ‘flying’ feeling we’ve ever had diving, and to do it above the quiksilver milky sway of the hydrocline is phenomenal. Watching a diver disappear into the hydrocline and re-emerge like a jumbo from storm clouds seriously stops you in your tracks, it can’t be described. the seemingly viscous caramel of the salty water swells and clings to the diver before serenely parting to suck back into it’s slightly disturbed surface tension, if that’s even the right term.
Casa Cenote also takes you through small caverns, not squashy at all, under mangroves. So you have multiple small light sources, the hydrocline underneath and you ‘fly’ under the reaching fingers of the mangrove roots. It’s so disorienting, you simply feel like you’re flying above clouds and under the earth at the same time, who needs mushrooms or cactus, this is just so wrong. I try swimming upside down to have the ‘earth’ below me and the ‘clouds’ above but its not helping, I think someone slipped me some Payote or Iowaska. Drink spike date rape alert!
The first dive wet our appetite so we really wanted to have a look at something more dramatic. We’d heard of Calavera Cenote, apparently a particularly small entry to a cenote which is quite well known. Upon arrival we walk past what seems to be someones house and through what can only be called the shittiest, post apocalyptic excuse for a backyard ever, to come to a round hole in the earth. weird juxtaposition given the majesty and angelic purity of the cenote against the Mexican version of Tempe tip.
Again, the picture versus words thing…
We push to the outer parts of the ‘temple of doom’ as it’s known and commence doing a circular lap. The underground network is in full view as the corroded, pock marked geology seems to branch out pretty much everywhere. There’s no real aquatic life here, it’s just rock formations, all dramatic it seems. We don’t delve into the caves as such but we do work our way through heaps of crazy rock caverns and rooms. Again the visibility is a joke, even better than in Casa Cenote. We look at each other and through to a wall over 10m away and it’s like being on the surface. For the non divers, 5-8m visibility in Sydney is ok, amazing ‘vis’ in PNG is 30-40m, here’s we’re 80m plus, we just haven’t gotten a view far enough to see if it goes further.
With heads spinning we leave our days diving amazed that this has lived up to all expectations. We are planning to go to two more sites, Dos Ojos (two eyes) and ‘The Pit’ later this week. We can’t see how this could possibly be topped but Mexico does seem to like a surprise.