We had four days in Mexico. We spent exactly 3.5 of them eating and getting day drunk in Playa del Carmen, celebrating my brother’s fun, beautiful, and heartfelt wedding. Amid the festivities, Peter and I managed to slip away from the beach chairs and white sand for one morning, to explore the Yucatán Peninsula’s famous cenotes. Pronounced seh-no-tays and not see-notes (as Peter and I thought until an embarrassing conversation with a Spanish-speaking friend), cenotes are natural sinkholes filled with crystal clear water and ancient rock formations.
Our guide, Jean, picked us up from the hotel. We stopped for gas and bought tortas for the surface interval, then drove southwest into the jungle - we were headed towards Sistema Dos Ojos, which is Spanish for “Two Eyes”. It got its name from the two neighboring cenotes in the system, which appear like two gigantic eyes, peering into the underground. Jean drew us a map in sand.
The first dive was called the "Barbie Line", because one of the lines was marked with a creepy alligator toy eating a Barbie. (The story goes that two divers had a disagreement over whether a certain rock looked like an alligator's head, so as a joke one diver tied a toy alligator to the stalagmite. Later, for reasons unknown, a Barbie was added.) The second dive, the "Bat Cave", had us swim to a huge rock dome where we temporarily surfaced and watched families of bats fly above our heads. To call the experience surreal would be an understatement.
I learned the hardest part of scuba diving is putting on a too-tight 5mm wetsuit, but a close second is managing your trim for the first time cavern diving. We followed a twisting yellow line deeper and deeper into dark caves, very aware of the fact there was no open water above us. I felt hyper-conscious of my buoyancy - take too large a breath in, and the air in your lungs will make your body rise and scrape your tank on the rocks above you. Exhale too long, you'll kick up silt. We don't yet have many dives under our belt, so it was definitely a learning experience.
It was amazing how far the light from our flashlights reached in that dark, turquoise water. The stalactites and stalagmites formed pillars in what looked like could have been the ruins of some ancient, alien civilization. The Mayans actually believed that cenotes were the gates to the underworld, and I completely understand what they meant.
All photos in this post taken by Marianna Tombini from Scuba Libre!