S: 2012 - Cenotes of the Riviera Maya
BC: Live to make your dreams come true!
FC: Cenotes of the Riviera Maya February 11 - 18, 2012 "My Dream Come True"
1: My adventure into the world of cave diving was set in motion by my dream of someday exploring the ancient underwater labyrinths of the Riviera Maya. Since I first started diving, I keep hearing stories of their majestic beauty and unique diving experience. I knew someday I would have to explore this world. The Cenotes themselves have an incredible history. Many people believe that they were originally formed 65 million years ago by the same meteor that killed the dinosaurs. Then about 15,000 years ago; during the last ice age, the water level dropped 250 feet and left the Cenotes dry. This allowed time for the formation of millions of stalactites, stalagmites, columns, draperies, and soda straws in an unimaginable variety of shapes and sizes. The Mayans considered the Cenotes to be holy places and the entrance to Xibalba (the underworld). While serving as a source of fresh water, the Cenotes were also used for religious rituals. Artifacts and bones are still being discovered deep in the Cenotes today. Over the last thousand years as sea levels have rose, the once dry and semi dry Cenotes are now predominately underwater. As you dive through the environment you are occasionally reminded that once man walked through here carrying fire.
2: Feb. 11 - Travel Day Orlando to Cancun and a bus ride to Akumal
3: We arrived at the resort at 3pm. By 4pm, I had my fins and mask and was in the water. There is actually a very nice patch reef right off the shore. Had no idea it was there. A great welcome gift!
4: Feb 12 - The experience begins! Sistema Sac Actun "White Cave System" - Grand Cenote Entrance For our first day, we went to the origins of cave diving here in the Riviera Maya region. This is where the first major explorations began. Seems fitting that this is where I begin my expedition.
6: Three hours of diving. Two miles of swimming. And it is only Sunday!
8: Feb 13 - Ancient Civilizations Sistema Toh Ha - Cenote Chan Hol "Little Hole" Day two turned out to be a very special day. Chan Hol is regarded as one of the best dives in the area. It was originally explored in 2004 and later connected to the Toh Ha system. Beyond being a very decorative cave system, in 2006, divers unexpectedly discovered human remains within the Cenote. The remains are believed to be over 10,000 years old and are causing scientist to re-evaluate when the Americas were originally populated. Just inside the entrance of the Cenote, divers have placed two ancient Mayan pots and several animal bones that have been discovered in the system.
13: OUR OWN
15: Beauty | In many ways, I wish we would have done this site later in the week. Looking back at the pictures, I realize just how magical this Cenote was.
16: Grand Cenote from the day before had been filled with large rooms and passages. I almost felt disconnected from the cave. Today, we found tight passages that allowed for a more intimate experience.
20: Feb. 14 - A Day of Magic Sistema Nohoch Nah Chich "The Giant Birdhouse" Cenote Pet Cemetery It was a magical day! I awoke to a beautiful sunrise and the sense that the day held something special in store for me. The car ride to the location was an adventure within itself. And when I saw the entrance to the cenote that we would be using for the first dive, I had to chuckle and wonder how this was going to work. But we were impressively rewarded for our effort. We did both of our dives here today and they were both outstanding, but the first was just dreamlike and ranks as one of my favorite dives of all time. It had everything. You are greeted into the system by something I coined the “The Gates to Heaven”. Followed by huge beautiful white rooms, small tunnels that were heavily decorated, haloclines, and a blue abysses.
21: I want to go play today!!!
22: The cenote has two entrances. This small vertical shaft; which you descend down in full gear, is used when making runs deeper into the system. It saves 8-10 minutes and starts you off right at "The Gates to Heaven". I'll admit, I was being very cautious as I descended. Before the dive, our dive guide explained that the final push to the blue abyss would be a 6-7 minute swim through a very tight section of cave and that on the exit; we would most likely have very limited visibility in this section. And he was right. It was a tight swim most of the way. Loved every minute of it! We had a very good group of divers with us and on the exit, it was actually pretty clear. The blue abyss itself was stunning. You come out of the tight tunnel almost right into it. It is this huge room that looks like a ballroom on the top and is a circular hole that eventually drops to 240 feet. We agreed to keep max depth to 60 feet. We exited using the other entrance. Using those stairs once was enough for me! Discovered there is actually a nice cavern line between the two entrances. I spent another 30 minutes at the end of the dive just playing on it. Ended up doing a two hour dive here.
26: For the second dive, we used the alternate (easier) entrance. This time we jumped to the "Dark Side of the Moon".
30: The pictures do not do it justice, but this is the "Gates to Heaven". It is at least 25 feet tall and 50 feet across with openings at the top and bottom. I never saw anything even similar the entire week.
38: Feb. 15 - Playing the Big Rooms Sistema Aktun Hu (White River) - Cenotes Fenomeno and Conchitas Explorations of this system originally began in 2007 and since then it has been connected to Sistema Sac Actun. I’m starting to understand why most of the locals believe all the systems in the area are probably connected. As they continue to explore and push the systems, they keep connecting. One thing that amazed me during the week was the variety and diversity of the sites. Two Cenotes just miles away from each other and part of the same sistema (system) look and feel totally different. For the week, these two dives were my least favorite. Not because the entrances were a huge pain (especially Conchitas), but the sites were just too big for my taste. At times, it felt like I was driving down a 4 lane highway. Really cool effect for awhile, but lacks that personal connection for me. It was not until I ventured more off the main line and off to the sides that I started to really enjoy the dives.
40: One thing that really made this day "interesting" were the entrances. While Fenomeno was not that bad, Conchitas nearly got the better of me. There is barely a worn path (above) to see your way in. And what path there is has drops, loose rocks, roots, and slippery rocks to make entry an adventure.
46: Giant Sloth skeletal remains and ancient Mayan pot. Did they cook the sloth? ;-)
47: Feb 16 - Cave of the Mastodon Sistema Tux Kupaxa (Playground), Cenote Nai Tucha Very beautiful cave and heavily decorated. But the highlight of the dive are the mastodon bones. Most of which have been removed for research, but several large pieces remained for exploration. One of my favorite parts of the day was the sun rise. I woke up early and decided to explore the beach.
53: Femur Bone of the Mastodon | Skull bone of the Mastodon
56: Taking a nap after a nice long dive!
57: Feb. 17 - Alien Worlds Sistema Minotauro and Sistema Nohoch Na Chich, Cenote "Great Entrance" Hard to believe this is our last day. My mind is sad, but my legs are happy! Today we dove two different and distinct systems. The first, Sistema Minotauro was amazing and unlike anything I have ever dove before. It is a small, knarly, tight passage rollercoaster filled with amazing haloclines. We were the first in the system this day and that made the halocline stable. It was like flying over an alien world. The heavier salt water looked like a lake below the crystal clear fresh water that we were in. Then when you dipped below the “lake”, the world became a hazy dreamlike experience. The last dive of the trip was Nohoch Na Chich. We spent a lot of time jumping and exploring. At one point, we were 4 jumps in. I could tell our dive guide was also having fun. We were all just taking our time and enjoying the beauty that is the Riviera Maya cave systems. It was a dream filled week!
58: One of my favorite things to do this week was to wake up early and watch the sunrise over the calm ocean and the splendor of the rays bouncing off the waves.
63: At one point in the dive, we hit about a 10 minute section that felt like an alien world. The halocline gives you the sensation that you are flying above an alien planet off on some alien world. | If you look carefully in the picture to the left, you can see the salt water lake beneath my dive buddies fin.
67: Feb 18 - The Road Home Who says dreams do not come true. It was a long time in the making with lots of twist and turns. But it was an adventure that I will remember for the rest of my life.