Author: Alison Bygrave
The whole incredible experience of Cenote diving was a mind altering experience, from beginning to end it will stay etched in my memories for ever. But this is something that you must experience to believe.
Millions of years ago, the Yucatan Peninsula was covered by the ocean. Some 15,000 years ago, during the last Ice Age, the sea level descended approximately 75 metres.
For thousands of years, the porous land surface, formed by fossilized coral and limestone, has filtered rainwater, which dissolved parts of the subsoil. This process created a unique labyrinth of flooded underground rivers and caves and makes up the largest network of caverns in the world.
The whole experience of cenote diving was totally different to anything I had every experienced before in the underwater world. Having become a bit ‘reefed out’ working as a dive guide with over 3,000 dives under my weight belt, this experience re-ignited my passion. If you may feel the same then I really recommend it.
I was lucky enough to explore Chickin Ha, the first cenote in a system that connects several cenotes through more than 10 kilometres of underwater passages. After kitting up we made our way through the overhanging vegetation of the jungle, past people zip-lining and towards the mouth of the cenote. Turquoise blue water glimmered in the sunlight. Under this inviting water was to find one of diving’s best kept secrets!
I did a backward roll entry into the water and could almost smell the history of the Ice Age as I bobbed around the inside of the mouth of the Cenote waiting to descend. What greeted me underwater was a stunning lazer light show as the sunlight penetrated the darkness, lighting up the rocks, stalactites and fossils; light and shadow competed to provide me with a completely new experience!
Safety was never left to chance. The main guide led the way diving on a twin set (in case of an out of air situation). Two buddy pairs followed and the second guide brought up the rear of the group to constantly signal to the dive leader that we were all present and correct. As well having the two dive guides we were told not to veer away from the white line which marked out the dive throughout the cenotes.
At 10 meters a remarkable and strange visual effects started to take place. Without warning I could only see the top half of my buddy! The bottom half of his body had
completely disappeared. I cleared my mask but no change, I then began to ponder if I was suffering from a strange narcosis but realised at 10 metres this was simply not possible! I need not have worried for later I was to learn that this mysterious effect was due to a halocline, which is what happens when salt and fresh water start to mix.
Cenote diving is a remarkable and unusual phenomenon which should be a compulsory experience for every wide-angle photographer and for those with a spirit of adventure and a thirst for new and exciting experiences.
Cenote illumination (Karen Doody)
Into the Mayan underworld (Karen Doody)
Stalagtites and diver (Karen Doody)
The water is crystal clear and the light and colours are remarkable. (Karen Doody)
Cenote exploration (Karen Doody)
Michel in the 'Room of Tears' (Karen Doody)
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