A cave diver in Cenotes
- Johan Glindre

- Johan Glindre

The Yucatan Peninsula and Riviera Maya in Mexico are very well known among other things for the Cenotes.

They are the largest underground fresh water cave system in the world. They run for kilometers from North West to South East of the Peninsula and end up in the Caribbean Sea.

There are no overground rivers on the Yucatan Peninsula so this is the only source of fresh water to the area.

About twenty years ago people started to scuba dive the Cenotes to discover this hidden world. Nowadays, Cenotes have become a must do of scuba diving.

Many scuba divers come to Mexico especially for diving the Cenotes. The cavern part of the Cenotes can be dived by Open Water certified divers. To be able to dive the caves it is necessary to hold the full cave diver certification provided by TDI and IANTD.

Brief History of the Cenotes

Before the ice ages the Yucatan Peninsula was a giant coral reef submerged by the sea. During the ice ages between 70,000 and 50,000 years ago the fall of sea level exposed the reef to the atmosphere. This eventually became the Yucatan Peninsula.

Acidic rainfall gradually started traveling through the ground dissolving the alkaline and highly porous limestone. The power of water started to erode the rocks and to sculpt the inside of the earth forming caves. These caves are known as solution caves.

They might take tens to hundreds of thousands of years to form. It is believed that the Cenotes started to form about 12,000 years ago.

a.k.a. Solution Cave after being formed from acid rain - Credit: Public Domain

a.k.a. Solution Cave after being formed from acid rain - Credit: Public Domain

Rain water dripping through the ground formed stalactites and stalagmites creating beautiful decorations. The subsequent collapse of the rock ceiling created openings to access the caves.

Cenotes are filled with fresh rain water and some of them have a bottom layer of sea water due to their proximity to the sea. When these two layers of water meet they form a halocline.

Cenotes used to be dry caves. They provided shelter to the Mayas. Some caves still provide testimonials and remains of this ancient civilization inhabiting the caves. I find the history behind the Cenotes the main reason to dive these caves.

The historical value of Cenotes is worth cave diving for - Credit: Sergey Popov V

The historical value of Cenotes is worth cave diving for - Credit: Sergey Popov V

Coming To Mexico

Bewitched by the idea of cave diving in the Cenotes, my partner Dom and I decided to venture to the Yucatan in Mexico.

We were also aiming to work in the area and we thought that holding our full cave divers certification would have made us more employable by the local dive shops. Only instructors and divemasters with a full cave diver certification are able to guide certified divers in the cavern part of the Cenotes.

Full cave diver certification

Two weeks into the Country and we decided to enroll in the full cave course. We were thrilled by the idea of exploring the caves and hopeful for a job position in the area.

There are so many freelance cave instructors and many dive shops offering courses from cavern divers to full cave course. We were spoiled for choices.

We decided to go with Anders Heegaard of GoPro Playa a freelance PADI Course Director and TDI Tec and Full Cave Instructor. He was highly recommended by a friend of us and we couldn't be more satisfied with our choice. I would highly recommend him myself.

An underwater warning sign to untrained cave divers - Credit: Anders Heegaard – GoPro Playa

An underwater warning sign to untrained cave divers - Credit: Anders Heegaard – GoPro Playa

The Way to Go

I definitely recommend the full cave course to scuba divers planning a diving trip to the Riviera Maya and Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. It gives the possibility to see places where not many people have been and to explore the inside of Earth.

It is absolutely overwhelming and it definitely takes scuba diving to a different level. Follow here next week for a walk through of the Full Cave Diver course.

Have you ever done any cave diving? Tell us about your cave diving experience!