Cenotes are natural pits or sinkholes filled with fresh water. The word cenote is derived from the Yucatec Maya term dzonot or ts´onot - which refers to a location with accessible groundwater. The cenote water is usually crystal clear and perfect for a quick refreshing swim or dive. The connected cenotes in Yucatan are probably the biggest underwater cave system in the world. Some of the biggest known cave systems are Ox Bel Ha and Sac Actun both over 200 km in length.
I visited some of the popular ones like Yokdzonot, Jardin del Eden - Pondarosa Cenote,
Dos Ojos, Ikkil and Cuzamá. The water temperature was always around 20 degrees Celsius
Some are easy to reach, some you have to walk through the jungle or ride on a small carriage pulled by horses, while others have steep ladders either made out of steel or wood, like the ones in Cuzamá.
I recommend bringing a flash light when you go down to the cenotes, as some are indeed very dark or have less sun light as you reach the bottom of the steps.
One reason for me to visit Yucatan was to go for cenote diving.
I visited a lot of dive spots around the world and also had some cavern dives in France,
but Yucatan cenote diving is one of the diving experiences I will never forget.
Camilo Garcia, my local dive guide, not only prepared everything perfectly for me, but he also introduced me carefully to the cave systems we went in.
One of those adventurous fun dives will cost you something around 100 US dollars plus the costs for additional rental gear.
Depending on the dive operator, you might not have the same security standards you are used to
at home. For me at least it was a little bit scary not to have redundant tanks or lights,
but after the safety briefing from Camilo, I felt more confident.
Entering the cenotes with a dive gear can be a little bit tiring as you sometimes have to climb slippery wooden ladders or walk through the jungle for a couple of minutes before entering the water.
But the reward will come as soon as you put your head underwater. Imagine an underwater visibility of 50 or more meters.
The crystal clear water at the entrance zone is home for many little fishes -
well they are not as colorful as their saltwater colleagues, but remember you are here for
the limestone caves.
The most beautiful aspect of cenote diving here are the rays of sunlight shining through the water surface in one of the many openings of the cave and creating awesome visual effects under water.
There are also areas where salt water mixes with fresh water creating blurry zones.
Don`t forget to bring your camera or video gear to immortalize those moments.
Diving at Jardin del Eden or Ponderosa cenote is easy and suitable for beginners.
The access is easy and comfortable. The cavern rooms are big and you will have a lot of light.
In Yucatan, I tried for the first time my underwater camera case for the contour roam action cam. It is a very tiny video camera without a control monitor. Turn it on and it records until you switch it off. I use a velcro strap to tighten the camera to my arm and here is the result.
This video is about 4 minutes long and available in MP4 (15MB) and WebM (16MB) format.
Please have a look at the end of the page for hints on Android devices.
Compared to diving at Ponderosa the cenote Dos Ojos is more demanding.
The access is also easy, but there are a handful of rooms in the cavern without light.
Dos Ojos is famous for the Bat Cave and the Barbie line (humorous display of croco eats Barbie).
This video will show some parts of Dos Ojos - especially how dark it can get inside the cenote during the dive.
This video is about 3 minutes long and available in MP4 (size 10MB) and WebM (11MB) format.
Users with Android devices need to download the MP4 files instead of using the inline video player. I tested current versions of Chrome, Firefox, IE & iPhone - all worked well with the inline player. Only my Androids did not work - the Samsung S3 will play the link with the external video app.