I met up with my buddy Mel in Mexico to head out diving the cenotes in Mexico. I’m a regular visitor to Mexico and have done a few of the cenotes before as a cavern diver – so now it was time to see the caves. We were both diving rebreathers.
The first day didn’t start well. We had to spend the first part of the morning driving to Cancun an hour away to pick up a forgotten item at the car hire place. Once we arrived back in Playa Del Carmen (our base for the trip) we discovered that the car was rapidly overheating! We then spent the next hour waiting for a replacement car to turn up. We had started with a small car and the replacement one was just a bit smaller..
Feeling tired and pretty stressed by the time we were ready to go at the first cenote, we decided to keep it short and simple so we did a few short cavern dives around Chac Mool to check the kit out. Back to the hotel, shower, beer and bed.
Tuesday we were up at 5:30am prepping kit (Mel doesn’t do lie-ins). We got gas fills and then went out to TajMahal Cenote to meet some fellow cave divers. The weather had been a bit wet, so the area was covered in mosquitoes that were biting every inch of bare skin. I think I averaged about 15 mossie bites a day even when wearing bug spray.
First dive was to the Chinese Garden and second dive was to the Waterfall (although we didn’t quite get that far). The cenote was beautiful, covered in fragile white rock formations but parts of it were halocline hell! In some sections there was a halocline that went from about a foot from the ceiling to about a foot from the floor. The first diver in had great visibility, but the following diver (me) could see nothing but blur. The halocline did settle very quickly though, so on the way back out the visibility was restored for the first diver out.
Next day we went to Nococh Chen. I hadn’t heard of this cenote before as it seems it is mostly used for snorkelling tours. It takes about 20mins to drive down the long, bumpy road (in a small car with zero ground clearance) but finally you reach a wonderful open cenote, with decking, kitting up benches, hammocks – it’s a very nice place to go. A relatively short swim brings you to Heavens Gate. This is a big open room with floor to ceiling Stalagtites/Stalagmites.
Thursday, we had the pleasure of going to Jailhouse cenote. Unfortunately for me, this turned out to be a very bad day…
The cenote essentially looks like a muddy puddle, surrounded by swarms of mosquitoes. Once you get on the line, you go through a narrow restriction with no visibility. Once past this restriction, the cenote opens up and is absolutely amazing… apparently…
I had problems with my cylinder valve, which meant I had to abort dive 1 before hitting the water. I decided to head into town to try and get it fixed while the others were diving, or see if I could find something to use for a second dive. I was unsuccessful on both counts. On the way back to the cenote, as I was about to turn into the road a Collectivo bus decided to take the front wing of my car off! I won’t bore you with the details, but I spent 4 hours stood on the side of the road dealing with the insurance companies, hire car company etc while my friends went diving. We had another replacement hire car from the company, which was even smaller than the previous one..
Friday, Saturday and Sunday we went to Ponderosa, Grand Cenote and Dos Ojos.
These are pretty popular cenotes and are often full of swimmers, snorkellers, cavern tours and cave divers so it can get pretty busy. Grand Cenote is a nice place to go and it has changed a little since I was last there. They now have a sheltered section with tables and chairs and a map of the Sac Aktun system on the wall which makes it a great place for lessons or planning dives.
The cenotes in Mexico are great places to go and see. I want to do more dives there, so I will probably be heading back some time next year.
- Always take bug spray!
- Take a cave guide. If you don’t know where you are going, get a guide. Some suggestions: Protec in Playa, Speleotech in Tulum.
- Don’t carry money or cards in your car unless necessary, and certainly don’t leave them in the car when you are diving.
- It really does help if you can speak Spanish.
- Girls, unless you’ve mastered some peeing into a cup technique, then consider a system. I like this one SheWeeGo – I use it more for on the surface than I do for diving but it is a necessity at mosquito ridden cenotes. This could also work..SheWee
- Expect the unexpected
- Assume there are no road rules
- Check before you make any turn that there isn’t anything coming on *either* side of you
- Hazard lights mean “I’m going to do something” – don’t try and guess what you think they are going to do. It really could be anything.
- If you get stopped by the police for “speeding” or anything like that, you don’t have to pay the “fine”. If you have committed a genuine offence, then they will issue you with a ticket. Anything else is just trying to get money from you.