What would you think of scuba diving underwater, while also underground, and exploring a network of submerged caverns and caves where there is almost total blackness, unless illuminated by the dive lights that you brought with you? Sound intriguing? Or are you suddenly feeling a little claustrophobic?
I could understand anyone who might want to pass on this type of adventure, but my wife and I were intrigued and we wanted to experience cavern diving in Mexico.
But this was not our first choice in March of 2005 when we were vacationing on the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico in Tulum, about 83 miles south of Cancun. We wanted to go scuba diving in the warm and clear sunlit waters of the Caribbean Sea, exploring the coral reefs and swimming with schools of brightly colored tropical fish.
But an offshore tropical storm caused the normally placid, bright turquoise green waters of the Caribbean to turn into very rough seas, and the local dive operations knew that the conditions were too dangerous to dive in, and canceled our boat dives.
At least the weather on the beach was still bright and sunny, in spite of the rough conditions farther offshore, and we could still enjoy sunbathing and swimming in a tropical paradise.
It’s hard to complain when you’re in a place like this, and it sure beats going to work!
But we were still very disappointed that we couldn’t go diving. Until we found out that we could… The rough seas that cancelled our boat dives opened up a new opportunity for us that we would have never tried under normal circumstances. We couldn’t scuba dive in the open sea, but we could go diving underground. The area we were in is honeycombed with a network of underwater limestone caverns and caves called Cenotes.
Our dive operation offered to replace our boat dives with a full day training course in Cenote diving skills and then after we were ready, to take us on guided underwater tours of the Cenotes. My wife and I enthusiastically agreed. Lounging on a tropical beach was nice, but we really wanted to go diving and if cavern diving was our only option, we’d take it.
It all worked out to be one of our best diving adventures ever. The following photos were all taken by our dive guides, with MexiDivers Tulum.
This is the entrance to the Cenote, with a wooden platform to make it easier to get in the water.
Taking the plunge – Jean and I had done many dives together since 1987, but never anything like this. A totally new experience for us!
Looking back, while swimming away from the dive platform on the surface, and just about to go under the water.
Just below the surface – We’re headed down into those dark areas and I’m already feeling awestruck.
Divers Down – Looking back from inside the entrance of the cave.
Stalactites and stalagmites underwater – We saw different sizes and variations of these everywhere.
Underwater and Underground – No room for any claustrophobia down in here…
My wife Jean – She handled it all like a Pro! 18 years of diving experience helped a lot.
Fossilized Snail – It looked like the head of a sea monster turned to stone. The actual fossil snail is the spiral shape that forms the monster’s eye.
The Bat Cave – Other than the entrance and exit, this was the only place inside the Cenote where we surfaced. This is a fairly large cavern and yes, we could see bats hanging from the ceiling above.
Dive Guide Humor – OH NO!!! Poor Barbie!!! Our dive guides put this little scene near the end of the guide line for our route. Lol :-)
End of the Line – Only experienced cave divers are allowed beyond this sign, because after this point the Cenote gets very winding and narrow with multiple branches and turn offs. In the narrow passages, the silt can get kicked up by divers, causing zero visibility within minutes, even with a powerful dive light. It’s easy to get disoriented, lose the guide line and get lost, and even expert cave divers have drowned down here. So I had no problem with turning around and heading back at this point…
Me – Turned around and heading back with my wife next to me.
On the way back, we passed a place where there was an opening to the surface, and it was very cool to look up at it from underwater. The dappled tan and white pointed object is a large stalactite hanging from the ceiling above us.
Here we’re almost back to our exit point out of the Cenote, and it’s nice to see the shafts of sunlight streaming down through the water, after an hour of exploring the darkness of the underwater caves and caverns.
Back on the surface again, and a great diving experience completed! Scuba diving in the Cenote easily makes my top ten list of the most adventurous and exciting things I’ve ever done. It’s strange to think that this is an experience my wife and I probably would never have had, if it hadn’t been for that off shore storm that kept us away from our originally planned boat dives on the coral reef. I don’t think we’ve ever had bad weather on a vacation work so well to our advantage before or since.