Grand Cenote in Mexico.
Grand Cenote. This is one of the most famous cenotes in Mexico.

Cenotes are an ancient sinkhole of sorts that exist in various locations all over the Yucatan Peninsula. They form over the top of caves, creating a huge hole or openings into caverns below. These cenotes are full of water and have become a popular attraction for scuba diving. In fact, in Mexico, they are a major scuba diving attraction. The following is important information on cenote diving you need to know before venturing into the depths yourself:

The History of Centotes

Cenotes were the primarily and only source of water within the jungle for the Mayan civilization. The Mayans deemed these cenotes as an entrance to their “xibalba” or “underworld.” In other words, the place where their spirits resided after death and their gods reside. The word cenote is created from the Mayan word “D’zonot.” It describes any subterranean chamber that constantly houses water. Some cenotes are water-filled, vertical shafts while others contain underwater passageways leading into the interior of a cavern and/or pools.

Is There Special Diving Qualifications Required to Cenote Dive?

No. Since the definition of cave diving that requires special training and equipment has recently been modified, today’s cenote diving is defined as cavern diving not cave diving as long as natural light is present. This distinction means you can cenote dive as long as you hold a basic scuba certification.

Cenote Diving Isn’t For Everyone

Just because you are allowed to cenote dive as a certified scuba diver, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s an ideal dive spot for you. If you tend to get claustrophobic or don’t like the dark, cenote diving is likely not going to be something you enjoy.

When is The Best Time of The Year to Cenote Dive?

When lighting and visibility are vitally important, like in the case of diving a cenote, its best to visit between May and September. If you want the best above-the-water weather, though, October through April is the best. It’s worth noting that it’s possible to dive in cenotes all year-round.

Where to Go Cenote Diving

Most cenotes are open to all divers with a basic scuba certification. The Sac Aktun and Dos Ojos systems are ideal for cave divers who like to explore.

You Can Snorkel in a Cenote

Even if you don’t have a scuba diving certification, you can still enjoy the majestic brilliance of the cenotes by snorkeling or swimming in certain cenotes. For swimming and snorkeling, the best cenotes are Cenote Azul, Cenote Dos Ojos, and the Gran Cenote. You will enjoy some stunning underwater images by snorkeling in these cenotes thanks to their light play and water clarity.

What You Can See in a Cenote?

Cenotes are the natural home for around fifteen species of fish, including tetras, catfish, and mollies. You can enjoy all this marine life thanks to the lack of hiding spots for the fish to hide away from visitors. You will also see chara, which is a species of algae and the most cenote’s most common plants. Each cenote differs as it relates to the saltwater-freshwater ratio. Since this changes from cenote to cenote, so does the number of fish you can see. Some centotes are seemingly brimming with fish while others seem almost empty of any marine life at all. Of course, marine life isn’t all you get to experience when diving a cenote, as there are also countless interesting geological formations in cenotes like those typically seen in caverns and caves. You will find huge pillars, stalagmites, and stalactites scattered throughout these ancient sinkholes.

How to Reach a Cenote

Most of Mexico’s cenotes are located between Tulum and Playa del Carmen. This means if you are staying near the Riviera Maya, your best bet for reaching a cenote is likely renting a vehicle. However, you can also opt to use a shared van. Keep in mind, most tourist centers in the area offer their own tours of the cenotes. If you choose this option, you will get transportation to the cenote as well as enjoying the benefit of a local scuba operator.

Accidents Can And Do Happen When Cenote Diving: It Can be Challenging

Even if you are an experienced diver, cenote diving, due to the enclosed nature and sometimes low visibility, can present some challenges. It’s important to dive within your own limits when diving a cenote. Although the water in a cenote is often crystal clear, silt is kicked up by divers, which can cause your vision to become blurred within the caverns. Also, there are areas in cenotes where visibility can drop down to nothing at all and it can become downright dark. This is important to note due to the fact that darkness can and will alter your natural sense of orientation and make it super easy for you to get lost. Again, know your own limits as a diver and opt for snorkeling or swimming instead if you think visibility issues, as well as tight quarters, might become an issue for you.

In conclusion, cenote diving can be an awesome way to push the boundaries of your diving ability and enjoy a beautiful piece of heaven on earth. The experience is worthwhile to be sure, just take the necessary steps to ensure you dive as safely as possible. If the worst should happen, you should be happy to know that we at AirEvac International are ready and willing to come in and get you out of harm’s way should you need medical help in an emergency situation.