A day in the cenotes


Imagine a subterranean paradise teeming with calcified stalactites, and at the center, a pool of crystal-clear freshwater. This describes one kind of cenote. Sometimes a cenote is tens of meters beneath the surface and then tens more deep. Holes in the earth high above can deliver beams of sunlight into the beautiful caverns. Or they can be pitch black and illuminated only by the light you carry.

Today, four of us are riding to Cuzama to explore three popular cenotes.

The trip begins in Merida where we battle traffic and topes in David’s jungle-worn Jeep. His trusty red heap of steel delivers us to the small town Cuzama where for 75 pesos a piece, we climb into a horse-drawn heap of steel and ride into the forest. Our guide’s horse does the pulling while the guide does his best to keep the rickety truck on the track. Several kilometers later, we arrive at the first cenote.

Its hole is barely visible at the base of a tall tree. A steel ladder takes us below and follows the tree’s own roots to the bottom some ten meters below. The roots descend from ceiling to floor not unlike the stalactites that fill the rest of the cavern. The underground space is full of beautiful rock formations. The white walls look like ribbons of cloth stuck in time. In the very bottom of the cenote, a shallow swimming pool gives us our first taste of subterranean swimming.

The second and third cenotes are quite different from the first. Where the first is not unlike a maze of rock and water, the interiors of the second and third are vast in every dimension. Spears of sunlight shine through vents in the ceiling and explode from the surface of the water to illuminate the entire space.

The shear scale of each cavern is only obvious by looking at the dangling legs of other swimmers, small against the expanse around them. I try my best to swim to the very bottom only to find an endless distance of water still to go. The bottom never gets any closer while the surface shrinks to a small circle high above me. Already grunting for air, I think better about exploring too far. It’s best to leave that kind of diving for SCUBA.

We jump and dive and swim for hours. I capture the day on video and share our story here. Enjoy!

Thank you to David, Vladimir, and Christopher for a wonderful day. I wish you all the best in your travels and adventures abroad.


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