There are some truly spectacular places to visit around the world and for lovers of exploration and excitement, Mexico has to be high on the list of ‘must-see destinations.
In particular, let me tell you about cave swimming and diving in Mexico, as this is a very special experience in many ways and one that should be added onto any bucket list!
Mexico – and especially the glorious Yucatan Peninsula – is home to magnificent and mysterious caves, known as ‘Cenotes’. But what are Cenotes, and what makes them so special? This is exactly what I’ll explain in the following post.
All About Cave Swimming & Diving in Mexico
What Are Cenotes?
Cenotes are not unique to Mexico, but it is home to more than any other country across the world, and they are the most accessible for swimming and diving. A Cenote – it is derived from an old Mayan word – is a cave that has been formed by collapsing limestone rocks, which is then filled with water. The water in the Yucatan Cenotes is crystal clear, making them perfect for swimming and diving.
These are not merely caves, however; what you will find when you swim in the Cenotes is that many feature spectacular underwater tunnels that connect to individual pools and other features. Some are deep, well-like cavities that are superb for diving, and they are all protected as culturally and historically importance by the Convention on the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage.
It is notable that the Mayan people consider Cenotes to have great importance, and they are regarded as doors to another world. This is hardly surprising given their form and appearance when viewed from the surface.
What can you expect when you dive or swim in a Cenote in Mexico?
What Makes Diving in Cenotes so Special?
Firstly, it’s worth knowing that to dive in the Cenotes you need only Level 1 Open Water. These are not difficult dives, but they are very different to what you may be used to. The water in Cenotes is notably colder than in the sea, so a full wetsuit is required.
Light can also be a problem, so we recommend an underwater flashlight as part of your kit for these locations. However, once you are in the Cenote, you will experience a dive like no other.
This is mostly due to the unique geological formation of these glorious underwater caves. You will see many stalactites hanging from the roof of the caves and tunnels, and experience simply magnificent rooms and caverns where the light from the sun casts amazingly beautiful patterns.
You may also experience haloclines, a fascinating underwater phenomenon found in very few other places. Snorkeling and swimming activities are also very popular in Cenotes.
What are Haloclines?
If you dive in some of the best Cenotes in Mexico you are entering a different world, an underwater world including haloclines. Recommended is the Cenote Tajma Ha, where haloclines are frequently experienced.
A halocline occurs when there is a separation between two layers of salt water and fresh water. This phenomenon is found in very few places where you can dive, so it is certainly one for your bucket list.
Divers in haloclines have reported that when in the fresh, clear water, the experience is akin to ‘flying above the water’ thanks to the salt water level below. It is a feeling that you need to experience in person to fully understand and is utterly unique.
Add this to the sheer magnificence of some of the underwater landscapes you will find in Cenotes and you can see why this region is very popular with divers who are looking for something different to the norm.
Wildlife and Wonders of the Cenotes
The fact that you are swimming in an underwater cave means you will find you are among some strange local wildlife. It is, for instance, rather unusual to swim and share your cavern with small bats that also live there, but don’t be afraid, they are harmless and won’t bother you!
You’ll also find that you are often swimming among hordes of very, very small silver fish, which inhabit the clear and beautiful waters of the Cenotes. This is just part of the wonder of these amazing underwater systems that are held in awe by those who have visited them, and those who still revere them in the local culture.
Be aware before you dive in a Cenote that there is another dweller in the waters. This is the Mayan Rain God, Chaac, who is still prayed to in modern times by the Maya of the present. Within the Cenotes many offerings to Chaac have been discovered, including human remains, so look out for unusual artefacts when you are down there!
If you want to experience the very best of the Cenotes it pays to do your homework in advance, and it may be worth looking for the lesser-frequented ones as those that are popular can become very busy in the tourist season. Nevertheless, pay your visit to Cenotes, and you will experience diving that cannot be repeated elsewhere.
Check this out to learn about other fun places to visit in Mexico.