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Cenote diving
Origen - Cenotes


Origen of Cenotes Goto top

The Maya were able to survive droughts, and even flourish, because they used an unusual system of natural wells for their water supply. The northeastern Yucatan has approximately six thousand such wells, which gave the Maya access to an extensive system of underground rivers. The Spanish colonials named the sinkholes cenotes, from ts'onot or dzonot, the native words for the the natural wells.

Cenotes vary considerably in shape and size; some are tiny and others gigantic. One of the most famous is the Sacred Well at Chichen Itza, a Maya ceremonial center in the Mexican state of Yucatan. Shaped like a slightly oval well, it is fifty-eight meters in diameter, with vertical walls that measure twenty meters from the ground's opening to the water's surface. It's depth is eleven meters of water with a twelve meter layer of mud underneath.

Some cenotes form inside coastal lagoons, acting as fresh water feeders that lower the salinity levels of the sea water. Most can be easily recognized, like the enormous Cenote Azul de Bacalar, located in the state of Quintana Roo. However not all can be seen from the surface. Some are discovered because their depth is greater than the lagoon's. Diving expeditions often reveal that there are large holes in the mantle of hard rock situated under the lagoon's muddy bottom.

A fascinating feature found in many cenotes is that regardless of being flooded with water, stalactites and stalagmites are found. Stalactites and stalagmites are formed when drops of water partially evaporate before or after they fall from a cave ceiling, leaving small amounts of mineral salts. Over centuries, the accumulation of mineral salts forms stalactites which hang from the roof, and stalagmites which rise from the floor like pillars

These rock crystals can form in partially empty caverns where water filtrates down and drops from the ceiling. But it can not happen in completely inundated spaces such as cenotes. How is it possible for their to be cenotes with stalactites and stalagmites? These formed over more than fifteen thousand years ago, during the last ice age. The sea level in the Caribbean was seventy five meters lower then than it is today. The subterranean waters that flowed to the sea had an equally lower level and what today are inundated cenotes were then air filled grottos. Latter, when the climate changed and the the ice glaciers melted, the oceans ascended, and with them the level of the subterranean rivers also ascended.

As a result of the changing sea levels and also the geological movements that have lifted and continue to lift the Yucatan peninsula, cenotes are the habitat of unusual animal life forms. Principally cenotes house creatures whose ancestors were marine life and later, trapped in the depths of the earth, evolved and adapted to life in fresh water and darkness.

The ancient Maya had different uses for the cenotes, some were exploited as water supplies while others were exclusively designated for ceremonial ends. Today, cenotes are used principally as tourist attractions, especially in Yucatan and northern Quintana Roo. In some cases as part of large eco-touristic centers, others as specialized sites for cave diving, and the rest of the time as small family enterprises in farmer communities. In this way cenotes, those subterranean marvels, are taken advantage of by the heirs of the people, that more than two thousand years ago, to part of the rise and life of the villages of the northern Mundo Maya.

Some of the cenotes:
27 steps, Abejas, Ak Tulum, Aktun-Ha, Akumal, Alaina's Garden, Alhambra , Azul, Bosch Chen, Buena Vista, Calimba, Carwash, Chac Mol, Chemuyil, Conch's Hope, Corral, Cristlino, Dos Ojos, DOS Palmas, Ek Be, Esteban, Garden of Eden, Grand, Half Moon, Ho-tul, Jailhouse, Ka' aam, Kentucky Castle, K'oxul, Little Joe, Little Maya, Luke's Hope, Maraville, Maria Isabel, Mayan Blue, Mayan Naharon, Monolith, Morharra, Mundo Escondido, Nahoch Nah Chich, Nahoch Nah Chich, Najaral, Naval, Nochoch, Pascal , Ponderosa, Ponderosa, Repair Shop, Sac Actun, Sugar Bowl, Taj Mahal, Tapir's End, Temple Of Doom, The Pit, Tortuga, Toucha Ha, Toucha Ha, Tuhx Cubaxa, Vaca Ha, X'onot, X'tabay, etc.


Cenote x Goto top

Cenote Mayan Blue

First discovered and explored during August, 1986. This cenote is located on the Ejido Tulum property three kilometers south of the Pueblo Tulum. It serves as part of an Ecological Park for the local community. The entire cave system includes such cenotes as Naharon, Maya Two, Cenote of the Sun, Sunhole Cenote, Lost Cenote among others and contains over 64,000 feet of surveyed lines and ranks #4 in longest underwater cave systems in the world.


Cenote Vaca Ha

This "unique" hole was also part of the August, 1992 expedition with the first cave dive performed by Steve Gerrard during May, 1992. A wooden ladder is installed making entry and exit very easy. The first 600 feet is typical fresh water zone dominated by massive columns, stalactites and stalagmites. The line takes a quick "Z" turn and the cave changes personality as the passage follows a fracture that actually parallels the Coba road underneath the power lines. The roadway is 3,000 feet from the Cenote Carwash closest to Tulum. 200 feet exist between Vaca Ha and "The Drain" passage of downstream Cenote Carwash but no connection has ever been made. A favorite for many cave divers!

Sistema Taj Mahal

This cave system was first dived in March, 1995. The dive leeds you to what is known as the "Room of Reflections" and the "City of Agra" Room. Later the JUMNA RIVER was discoverd which is considered one of the biggest passageways among all the caves in the Akumal - Tulum area. Many more discoveries of rooms, passageways and two more cenote such as the "Room of Cheers" have followed. In total 15,000 feet has been explored. A great cave system to tour and enjoy. Entrance fee is 40 pesos.

Sistema Actun Co

A new cave system discovered and explored by a French Cave Diving team during 1996. Located off Highway 307 between the Taj Mahal and PonDeRosa entrance roadways. This entire cave has been resurveyed with more line added by our team members Bernie Birnbach and Christophe Ale Malliot and their best friends Fred Devos and Yayir Azubel. Containing over 10,000 feet of passageways, the "main" cenote provides both upstream and downstream tunnels. Upstream begins with a series of huge rooms with a vast array of speleothems and decorations staying within the fresh water zone. . Many passageways lead off going into the saltwater layer offering the typical Swiss cheesy characteristics. The downstream traverses 1200 feet to another cenote with multiple lines available to explore. Impressive formations abound and creates a toss-up of what is better of the two choices of direction. A great tour cave dive with easy entry. Property owned by a family living in Playa Del Carmen.

Cenote 27 Steps

First dived and explored in August, 1986 by Steve Gerrard, it represents a nice cave for a small team to tour. Located next to the power lines one kilometer north of the Akumal water tower road directly west of the Akumal Caribe entrance on Highway 307. The road is rough so cars cannot make it there. Two directions to choose with permanent lines beginning in the cenote basin requiring no primary reels.

Sistema Sac Actun

Considered one of the best cave dives because of the tremendous abundance of decorations, shallow depths and consistent crystal, clear fresh water. Discovered during November, 1988 by Steve DeCarlo by airplane this cave system was originally explored Jim Coke, Tom Young and several other cave divers. A beautiful map was drawn by Jim Coke with total exploration totaling near 18,000 feet. The fall of 1996 provided the opportunity for Bil Phillips and Sam Meacham to find a small dry cave that contains a pool of water that they named CALIMBA (a musical instrument) located 3,000 feet+ further along the Coba Road. From this point they were able to push a passageway through some incredible cave and a couple of tight restrictions that finally connected with Sistema Sac Actun.

Sistema Ponderosa

It was June, 1990 when Bill and Joyce Matthews of Paalmu told Tony & Nancy DeRosa about a cenote on a friend's property located four kilometers south of Puerto Aventuras. A large pool of water, they jumped in with single tanks and quickly discovered a 300 feet traverse to a second cenote. Returning the second week of July with Steve Gerrard the team of three spent four glorious days laying line, naming cenotes, hallways and big rooms. The grandest prize discovered was an air dome located at the farthest side of a huge room (The Pool Room) called The Chapel 2400 feet due east from the Cenote Ponderosa This air dome still remains the most spectacular and decorated air space ever found in The New Frontier! Over 8,000 feet of line installed with names such as the "Hoss" line, The Corral Cenote, Cenote Alaina's Garden, and Little Joe Cenote.
Maximum depth: 55 feet. Average: 27 feet. Visibility: 300 feet+ Water Temperature: 77 degrees F - Freshwater. 79 degrees F - Saltwater. Access: Very easy. Steps leads down to cement platform from parking area. This cavern dive is a 100 meter traverse from the Cenote Ponderosa to the Cenote Corral. This passageway is 15 - 20 feet from floor to ceiling and eighty feet wide. Some speleothem decorations, a variety of five different freshwater tropical fish and an excellent display of geological and fossilized history. Located on private property with "sign-in" required. Excellent snorkeling. First divers to explore this cenote were Tony and Nancy DeRosa and Steve Gerrard during June, 1990.

 

Cenotes DOS Ojos

Maximum depth: 26 feet
Visibility: 300 feet+
Water Temperature: 77 degrees F
Freshwater completely.
Access: Located on the Ejido Jacinto Pat property.
Dive site fee is $10.00.
125 meter hike from parking area to the water.
Considered the "best" of all the cenotes. These two giant collapses offer a huge passageway traversing 250 feet from DOS Ojos East to DOS Ojos West. Highly decorated with immense columns, stalactites and stalagmites. We offer two different dives within these two cenotes. The BAT CAVERN is a dreamland of it's own.
Superb snorkeling. A underwater photographer's paradise.
First divers to explore it were Jim Coke and Johanna DeGroot in 1986.
Cenote Ponderosa
Maximum depth: 55 feet
Average: 27 feet
Visibility: 300 feet+
Water Temperature: 77 degrees F - Freshwater, 79 degrees F - Saltwater.
Access: Very easy. Steps leads down to cement platform from parking area.
This cavern dive is a 100 meter traverse from the Cenote Ponderosa to the Cenote Corral. This passageway is 15 - 20 feet from floor to ceiling and eighty feet wide. Some speleothem decorations, a variety of five different freshwater tropical fish and an excellent display of geological and fossilized history. Located on private property with "sign-in" required. Excellent snorkeling.
First divers to explore this cenote were Tony and Nancy DeRosa and Steve Gerrard during June, 1990.

Maximum depth: 26 feet. Visibility: 300 feet+ ... Water Temperature: 77 degrees F. Freshwater completely. Access: Located on the Ejido Jacinto Pat property. Divesite fee is $10.00. 125 meter hike from parking area to the water. Considered the best of all cenotes. These two giant collapses offer a huge passageway traversing 250 feet from DOS Ojos East to DOS Ojos West. Highly decorated with immense columns, stalactites and stalagmites.


Cenote Taj Mahal

Maximum depth: 48 feet.
Average: 23 feet. Visibility: 300 feet+.
Water Temperature: 77 degrees F, 79 degrees F.
Access: Very easy. Cement walkway and platform from parking area to the water.
The dive involves a 200 foot traverse from the Cenote Taj Mahal to the Cenote Sugarbowl including a very beautiful room with huge airspace involving three holes allowing beams of daylight to penetrate the cavern area. This room is called the "Points of Light". The second cavern area beyond Cenote Sugarbowl leads past a third small opening. Many fossils in the limestone. Awesome exit views.
Located on private property requiring "sign-in" with Mayan owners. First explored by Nancy Derosa, Wayne Nefzger, Tony DeRosa and Steve Gerrard during spring of 1995.
Cenote Carwash
Maximum depth: 52 feet.
Average: 29 feet.
Visibility: 300 feet +.
Water Temperature: 77 degrees F.
Completely freshwater.
Access: Very easy with wooden platform and steps.
First dived during the early 1980's, this was the "original" cenote dive for the Akumal - Tulum area. Very wide entrance area over 150 feet with an assortment of tree limbs and branches. This "cavern zone" tapers to a shallower loft area turning into a cave dive. Warning signs installed to stop divers from going beyond unless cave certified. Spectacular exit view. During the warmer months a 5 foot layer of algae exists at the water surface. No permanent guidelines thus requiring a reel and line. Good snorkeling during winter months. Property owned by the Ejido Tulum with a nominal dive site fee charged.


The Gran Cenote

Maximum depth: 24 feet.
Average: 18 feet.
Visibility: 400 feet+.
Water Temperature: 77 degrees F.
Completely Freshwater.
Access: 50 meter walk requiring climb down wooden ladder and wooden boardwalk. Platform for easy entry into water.
Considered the prettiest of all the cenote dives with exception to the "Bat" cavern at Cenote DOS Ojos. Highly decorated with speleothems and columns. Water clarity exceptional. Very sensitive environmentally. A snorkeler's paradise! Located on "private property" with a nominal dive site fee charged.
First explored by Jim Coke, Johanna DeGroot and Stephen DeCarlo during November, 1988.


Cenote Temple of Doom

Maximum depth: 58 feet.
Average 38 feet.
Visibility: 150 feet +.
Access: Requires 120 meter hike through jungle on a rocky path. "Giant stride" entry eight feet to the water or the use of a galvanized pipe ladder for entry/exit.
This cenote is a geologically unique 25 foot diameter hole with a huge undercut ledge. A huge debris mound with all sides leading down to the saltwater level at 33 feet. Along the shallow freshwater depth of twenty feet or less are located speleothems. A 360 degree
permanent guideline is installed allowing divers to safely explore the entire cenote within "natural daylight". Several cave passageways lead off from the cavern zone. Extreme care should be exercised not to wander into the cave system. Great place to go swimming and cool off. Private property but no dive site fee charged.
First explored by Mike Madden and Denny Atkinson during July, 1986.





Cenote Carwash

Maximum depth: 52 feet. Average: 29 feet. Visibility: 300 feet +.
Water Temperature: 77 degrees F. Completely freshwater. Access: Very easy with wooden platform and steps. First dived during the early 1980's, his was the "original" cenote dive for the Akumal - Tulum area. Very wide entrance area over 150 feet with an assortment of tree limbs and branches. This "cavern zone" tapers to a shallower loft area turning into a cave dive. Warning signs installed to stop divers from going beyond unless cave certified. Spectacular exit view. During the warmer months a 5 foot layer of algae exists at the water surface. No permanent guidelines thus requiring a reel and line. Good snorkeling during winter months. Property owned by the Ejido Tulum with a nominal divesite fee charged.













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