Previous Thread
Next Thread
Print Thread
Subterranean scuba in caves, Mexico and Belize #406738
05/02/11 09:00 AM
05/02/11 09:00 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 72,953
oregon, spr
Marty Offline OP

Marty  Offline OP
By Levison Wood

YUCATAN, Mexico -- Most people associate cave diving with having a death
wish. It features in the stuff of nightmares- running out of oxygen or
getting lost amongst a labyrinthine network of pitch black caves full of
water…. But for some people, the allure of inland diving away from the
tourism masses in some of the world’s most beautiful scenery just about
overcomes the apparent madness of it all.

“You don’t actually need any specialist qualifications, other than the
PADI open water certificate,” says Aaron, the local divemaster who has
been exploring the cenotes of Mexico’s easternmost region for over
fifteen years, “the most important thing is a sense of adventure.”

That’s putting it lightly thinks I, as we climb down a rusty set of
ladders some twenty metres down a natural bore hole in the middle of the
jungle, an hour’s drive from the nearest town.

Cenotes are a natural phenomenon unique to this part of Mexico and
neighbouring Belize, a result of the huge meteor that wiped out the
dinosaurs 65 million years ago. The whole of the peninsula is dotted
with these holes, ranging from cavernous wells to tiny potholes- many of
them are linked by an underground network of tunnels. Because of this,
there are no natural rivers here and all water flows underground
creating a vast undiscovered world below the blooming jungle of the

I begin to realize that there is more to Mexico than meets the eye --
the luxuriant grandeur of Cancun and bustling markets of the Spanish
Colonial cities are a world away from this remote spot.

As we don our flippers and masks, Aaron points to a particularly dark
corner of the cave’s lake. “We are going that way, make sure you follow
me.” He needn’t have reiterated that point.

Up until now I had only ever dived off the coasts of Egypt and Thailand,
civilized affairs where the boat stays as a reassuring image above
one’s head. This was something totally different.

Aaron tells me that in fact the water in this cave is fairly new and has
been steadily rising over the centuries. As we begin to descend into
the water I am amazed at just how crystal clear the fresh water is, the
visibility is incredible, despite the lack of natural light and I soon
lose my initial fear.

Cenote diving isn’t cave diving in the truest sense (for which you need
specialist certification and nerves of steel), because when you get
below the small entry points they actually open up into immense
cathedral-like caverns where it is almost impossible to get lost. Aaron
leads the way, following a pre-placed line to the bottom of the cave and
I am surprised to see fish and even a turtle swim gracefully by.

I gaze in wonder at my surroundings, drooping stalactites and
stalagmites protrude to create an otherworldly feeling reminiscent of a
journey to the centre of the earth. Even the water changes its
appearance to give the impression of layers of air, but it’s just a
different kind of water says my guide through the high tech inbuilt
microphone system in my mask.

At the bottom of the cave we find what Aaron has been so excited to show me.

“He is maybe two thousand years old,” he says, pointing at the human
skull, sitting incongruously on a rock shelf next to a pile of bones.
Nearby is a pair of perfectly preserved ceramic jars about the size of a
keg of beer -- each containing yet more bones. “They are from animals-
probably cows” and on the cave wall is a painting of what looks like a
horse running.

The cenotes were seen by the ancient Mayan civilisation, which
flourished in Central America until the coming of the Spanish in the
sixteenth century, as gateways to the afterlife. Many of the caves were
then dry and became used as burial chambers and places where human and
animal sacrifices took place.

Since the conquistadors effectively ended many of the traditional
practices and Christianity took hold, the cenotes were left to disappear
into the jungle and were forgotten about for several hundred years.

It wasn’t until the first European explorers and anthropologists became
interested in the Maya in the nineteenth century and discovered such
architectural riches as Chichen Itza and Uxmal that cenotes were even
heard of. Sketches were made and, later, photographs taken of these
natural wonders but it wasn’t really until the 1970s that the first
intrepid divers decided to explore the underwater treasures.

Even now only a handful of the cenotes have ever been dived and there
are still over 3,000 left undiscovered. Aaron hopes to enable more
visitors to experience what he has seen and is one of only a couple of
qualified diving guides that operate in the region.

As we slowly ascend toward the moon-like circle of light above I feel a
tremendous sense of tranquility, but also real privilege to have been
able to explore this fascinating underground world. It only felt like we
were under water for five minutes but Aaron smiles and shows me his
watch and I am stunned to realize that we have actually been submerged
for over half an hour.

“It’s the magic of the Maya,” he chuckles as we climb out into the emerald lushness of the Mexican Jungle.

Levison Wood founded the pioneering expeditionary service Secret
Compass which specialises in taking clients to the world’s most remote
and undiscovered destinations. He is leading a one-off dive trip to
explore the cenotes of the Yucatan in September.

Re: Subterranean scuba in caves, Mexico and Belize [Re: Marty] #406756
05/02/11 11:27 AM
05/02/11 11:27 AM
Joined: Oct 2003
Posts: 2,461
Belize City
Katie Valk Offline

Katie Valk  Offline
Sharks Cave between South Water Caye and Tobacco Caye is a wonderful dive

Belize based travel specialist
[email protected]

Portofino Resort- Now with a new BEACH BAR!!
Click for excellent scuba lessons with Elbert Greer!
Chaa Creek is an award-winning luxury Belize Resort, rated as one of the worlds best Eco Lodges. We are a pioneer in adventure travel to Belize since 1981!
Maruba Beach Klub and Spa is the premiere Secret Beach spa and restaurant located on the crystal blue waters of the Caribbean Sea at the center of Secret Beach, Belize
First Class Accommodations for the Budget Traveler
First Class Accommodations for the Budget Traveler

Things to do

Daily News
Daily Weather

Classified Ads
San Pedro Sun
Ambergris Today
SP Town Council
Channel 7
Channel 5
Love FM
The Reporter
TV Newscasts
Radio Stations

Click for our
Search thousands of Belizean-only websites

Event Guides
Event Calendar
Specials & Events
Things to Do
iTravel Belize
Paradise Theater
San Pedro Fun Finder
Paradise Guy Event Calendar
Cayo Event Calendar

San Pedro Scoop!
Tia Chocolate
My Beautiful Belize
I-Travel Belize
Belize Adventure
Belize Hub
Romantic Travel
Belize Happy Adventures
Conch Creative
Caribbean Culture & Lifestyle
More Blogs...
Search thousands of Belizean-only websites
White Sands Dive Shop - 5 Star PADI Dive Facility - Daily diving, SCUBA instruction and Snorkeling
Caribbean Inspired All Natural Condiments & Spice Blends, Over 100 are Gluten Free!
We manage a variety of homes, apartments, condos and commercial properties here on Ambergris Caye. Our minimum lease on ALL properties is six months.
Click for Ian Anderson's Caves Branch, Welcome to a World of Adventure
Lil Alphonse has snorkel equipment to fit anyone as well as Marine Park Tickets and flotation devices to assist those not as experienced.
Coastal Xpress offers a daily scheduled ferry run to most resorts, restaurants and private piers on the island of Anbergris Caye. We also offer  private and charter water taxi service.
1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30
Cayo Espanto
Click for Cayo Espanto, and have your own private island
More Links
Click for exciting and adventurous tours of Belize with Katie Valk!
ShoutChat Box
Who's Online Now
0 registered members (), 114 guests, and 0 spiders.
Key: Admin, Global Mod, Mod
Forum Statistics
Most Online4,377
Dec 15th, 2020 HELP! Visitor Center Goods & Services San Pedro Town Message Board Lodging Diving Fishing Things to Do History Maps Phonebook Belize Business Directory Picture of the Day

The opinions and views expressed on this board are the subjective opinions of Ambergris Caye Message Board members
and not of the Ambergris Caye Message Board its affiliates, or its employees.

Powered by UBB.threads™ PHP Forum Software 7.7.1