The beam of my torch lights up stalactites and stalagmites. The water is so clear that it is hard to believe. A few grey fishes evolve in the darkness. Only my breathing breaks this underwater silence while I follow the line that my dive buddy is holding. We are cave diving in Grand Cenote, a fresh water sinkhole in Tulum, Mexico.
We entered the crystal-clear water pierced by a few sunrays like we would have entered a swimming pool. Then, we slowly immersed ourselves in the darkness of an underground tunnel to explore a small part of one of the extensive cave systems that can be found all over the Yucatan peninsula and without which it couldn’t have been populated. Indeed, as the region has hardly any rivers and only a few marshy lakes, cenotes were the principal sources of water in much of the peninsula: rain water is filtered slowly by the limestone ground, hence containing very little suspended particulate matter. This slightly acid water dissolves the alkaline limestone rock (once a coral reef before the ice age during which the ocean levels lowered and exposed it forming the Yucatan peninsula), creating an underground void. When the rock is not supported by the water buoyancy, it collapses, before being slowly removed by further dissolution. When the ceiling collapses, a pool appears and a cenote is born.
Major Maya settlements, including the famous Chichén Itza, were built around these natural wells which also played an important role in Maya rites, being considered as gateways to the other world.
Today a blocked nostril prevents me from diving it, and my memories from 7 years ago are very vivid as we explore it snorkeling. Rediscovering this sinkhole hidden in the green tropical forest, being lit by the sun rays painting it turquoise blue is as magical as the first time.
Marcella & Claire
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