Cenotes, Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico
There are very few surface lakes in the Yucatan Peninsula but the porous calcium carbonate structure of the geology of the area allows the surface water to sink through and form significant underground ‘rivers’. Small underwater ‘lakes’ can form where the ground falls away due to erosion and forms the equivalent of caves or sinkholes,. In Mexico, these underground bodies of water are referred to as CENOTES.
We visited two. The first was run as a very commercial operation with admission fees, reinforced side walls and comfortable steps down to the water’s edge.
It’s hot in Mexico and when it is hot there is nothing as refreshing as a quick dip in a Cenote. Tour operators and tourist-oriented enterprises know a good thing when they see one and many tours now include a dip in a Cenote as part of the Mayan experience in the Yucatan Peninsula.
Each of the Cenotes is different in shape and depth. Each can have its own micro climate supporting tropical vegetation somewhat different from the vegetation found in the countryside around the Cenote. Where the Cenote is open to the skies above, lush vines growing down the walls proliferate, but where the Cenote is an underground cavern, with very little light, the lush greens are absent.
The second cenote that we visited was much more ‘original’ in its nature and required descent on a steep set of stairs down to an underground cavern with limited electric lighting to allow visitors to see a bit in the cavern. Going from the commercial-style cenote, open to the skies, down to an underground cavern was a pretty significant contrast.