Guest writer Gavin Harvey blogs for hotelopia and has checked in to fill us in on Mexico’s cenotes. ‘Cenotes?’ you say? Read on to find out more…
As a lover of sunshine, scuba diving and Sangría, there have been few holiday destinations I’ve preferred to Cozumel, a small island just off the very tip of Mexico. Unfortunately, the diving part of my holiday got cut short when Hurricane Emily struck, trapping us on the tiny 30 mile island and washing up most of that beautiful coral reef I’d been hoping to see underwater onto the roads and beaches.
So what do you do when you can’t scuba dive in the sea? You scuba dive on land of course! Caribbean climate, delicious tapas and breathtaking beaches aside, this place has something unique to offer – just a short boat ride away (the boats were still working, even if the planes weren’t!) on the coast of Mexico lie the cenotes, a natural phenomenon like no other.
Image by Clinton Little
So, what is a cenote exactly? Well thanks to a large chunk of Mexico being made up of limestone, over millions of years the rain has slowly eaten away at this porous rock to leave vast underground caverns and tunnels, some filled with air, some filled with water and some with a bit of both. It’s like a magical network of nature’s own hallways and rooms, all waiting to be discovered!
I’ve always found caves quite magical and enchanting, but a cenote is something else entirely. Take Cenote Taj Mahal for example; you can tell already from its name that it’s going to be magnificent, but nothing quite prepares you for seeing it firsthand.
After a scuba dive through some spectacularly clear water, trying very hard not to kick the enormous stalagmites and stalactites that surround you on every side, you surface into an enormous underground chamber that is perhaps even more splendid and amazing than the Taj Mahal itself, thanks to the fact it didn’t require a single pair of hands to build.
Image be Serge Melki
There are caverns or ‘air pockets’ like this in many of the cenotes, which makes for a very unusual dive – one moment you’re diving through a seemingly endless tunnel, the next you’re in an enormous space where you can pop your head up and breathe normally!
I felt like Indiana Jones discovering some new amazing wonder of the world – but of course, the cenotes have been around for thousands of years and I’m hardly the first to have stepped (or swam) inside, despite the fact only a rare few even know they exist.
The Mexican cenotes date right back to the times of the Mayans who used them for sacrificial offerings, believing these beautiful caverns to be the entrances to the Underworld – and it’s easy to understand why when you’re in one of these beautiful and awe-inspiring places yourself!
Image by ijokhio
If you’re not a scuba diver, there are still plenty of cenotes that you can go snorkelling or simply swimming in – I haven’t seen it, but I’m told that Cenote Dos Ojos (“two eyes”) is the best thanks to its massive underground network of tunnels that can be swum in without ever needing to go under the surface.
So if you’re looking for an unforgettable experience and the chance to see a natural wonder of the world that few people even realise exist, put Cozumel at the top of your “to visit” list today!
I’d love to hear from other people who’ve seen the Mexican Cenotes, or are planning a trip there soon. Leave me a comment below…
Main image by tslane888
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Category: Guest Post