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Scuba diving the Cenotes of Mexico

written & images by Joey Pool – Perth Scuba Assistant Instructor

Part 1Lee diving the Cenotes Mexico

Only in Mexico would the airport control tower have a giant Corona bottle painted up its length! And with that it was “WELCOME TO ME-HI-KO!” by our guide at the gate and we were off to our hotel on the beach. And what a hotel it is! Phwaaaaaawwwwh!!! Nice place to be staying when on a “dive” holiday. We were greeted with a cold tropical cocktail, a wristband slapped on and then led to our room by the bell boy – poor fella had no idea what he was in for when he offered to take our bags – we don’t travel light! We wound our way through the lush gardens, swimming pools, another swimming pool, a bar, another bar, past the sports lounge and then arrived at our Garden View Room. Aptly named as you could see the garden out the window BUT beyond that we could see the beautiful ocean beyond – oh baby – this was looking good already, not least of which because I saw the size of the cocktails on our walk past!

The hotel is located in the wonderful Puerto Aventuras development. This is a tourist development which boasts a marina for yachts, a golf course, restaurants and dolphin tanks, all within easy reach of the main Mayan Riviera attractions. Lee and I got up early in the morning (surprising I know!) and went in search of the dolphin tanks. When I say tanks, they were more like closed off parts of the marina with reef growing on the bottom. We found them after an easy 10 minute stroll from the hotel reception. WOW! There must’ve been a dozen dolphins cruising around the marina, leaping about their enclosures and chasing each other – even babies! Very cute and smiley. Right next door there were rays, sealions and three BIG manatee. I’ve never seen a manatee in the ocean and it was fascinating to see these big sea cows grazing around their enclosure and rolling onto their backs to eyeball you.

After our first night chilling by the bar – finding out just how many tequilas and cocktails they’d serve… To the people around us – not us – we were diving in the morning! We were up and bounded out of bed for our pickup for our first two dives of the day. We were collected promptly and taken to the dive shop… A whole 5 minutes drive from the resort! Hmmm well that was easy. We were then introduced to our experienced cavern and cave guide, Alex, and then loaded into the car to our FIRST Cenote Dive!!! In case you’re wondering a Cenote is a deep water-filled sinkhole in limestone that is created when the roof of an underground cavern collapses. This creates a natural pool which is then filled by rain and underground rivers. ome cenotes are vertical, water-filled shafts, while others are caves that contain pools and underwater passageways in their interior. Cenotes are prevalent in the Yucatan Peninsula – which is where we stayed. There are over 2000 Cenote in the area with more being found every year!Hotel Catalonia located in Cancun Mexico

Our first dive of the day was to be at Chac Mool, which was a 10 minute drive from the dive shop, everything’s SO CLOSE! Scroll down for more about our Mexico dive tour…

The water was a beautiful 25°C so we only needed to wear a 5mm wetsuit. No drysuit to worry about like you’d need to in other cavern systems across the world! We had the choice of twins or single cylinders to dive the system as the entry was so easy for either. Just looking into the water from the edge it looked like bottom was only 30cm away… And then we found out it was 8 metres! How’s that for visibility yippee!!!

Alex explained to us that Chac Mool was one of his favourite cavern dives with lots of beautiful formations and plenty of variation throughout the system. And he was SPOT ON! It was beautiful!!! Crystal clear water with sun beams lancing through the water down through the jungle canopy. Then the stalagtites and stalagmites formed over thousands, if not millions of years, when the cave systems were not flooded with water. It was fascinating to swim through shimmering haloclines where the salt and fresh water met and created a swim through that made you think you’d been drinking too many tequila! No matter where we swam through the caverns there was always a spot of light where you knew you could escape to the forest above. Surprisingly the cavern system even had fresh water fish, including catfish and small tetra’s that came and nibbled on your fingers whilst you sat still – manicure anyone?

Our next dive was through the very same entry at Chac Mool, but this time we headed off through a restriction and out into what’s known as Kukulkan. At approximately 10mtrs, we entered the Halocline zone. We were shining our torches into the point were salt and fresh water meet and marvel the reflections projected on the walls of the Cavern. The dive passes through a huge Cavern that surrounds the Cenote. The light effects are amazing, as sunlight penetrates the darkness. If you ever do this dive take a moment to look towards the ceiling at the entrance to see the colors of the rainbow.

Both of our dives were close to an hour long and they were fascinating. Brilliant that even though Lee and I don’t have our cavern qualifications, the guides are able to take us through these dives that otherwise we’d never be able to enjoy. We jumped into the ute and headed back to the dive store and arrived in time for lunch!

We were dropped back at Hotel Catalonia for a relaxing afternoon by the pool. This is where we found out what our wristbands were good for… EVERYTHING! Oh yeah, it didn’t matter which restaurant, buffet, bar, snack shop or drinks cabana you went to, everything you ordered was included. That’s right – you could eat and drink to your hearts content (actually, your doctor would tell you your heart wouldn’t be content – it’d be horrified!) and there was nothing more to pay. The entire time we were staying in Mexico we spent a grand total of $20 – and that was a tip to the taxi driver because we didn’t have smaller notes! Oh yes, we could definitely get used to this treatment.

Part 2

Check back on Saturday 29th September 2012 for Part 2 of our Mexico Adventure…

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