Friday, August 5, 2011

Cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula

It is August, it is HOT in Cancun, it is most definitely a cenote weekend. Going to the beach is great (I'll probably do that too), but when it is demon hot I dream of crawling inside a cool cave and submersing myself in the clear, chilled waters that run through it. Eating a picnic lunch in the lush jungle. Snorkeling to check out the small fish slipping around the stalagmites and boulders. Watching the butterflies flutter by and listening to the birds calling and a chicken squawking nearby. Refresh.

Cenote Azul

A cenote (seh-noh-teh) is a natural limestone sinkhole that occurs mainly in Mexico in the
Yucatan Peninsula and in parts of Central America. The word "cenote"orginates from the Maya "dzonot" meaning "well" or "abyss". The ancient Maya placed great importance on the cenotes as the only source of potable water in a region with few lakes and almost no rivers. They drank from their waters and used them as a place to honour the rain god Chaac. The "Cenote Sagrado" at Chichen Itza is an enormous crater, valuable objects and human skeletons were found in its depths during early 20th century excavations leading to the speculation that the Maya may have practiced ritual sacrifice.

The jump off point at Cenote Cristallino

There are thousands of cenotes throughout the Yucatan, each with their own unique characteristics. An "open" cenote is found at ground level, appearing like a pond in the jungle. "Semi-abierto" cenotes are half open and half in caves, the result of a partial collapse of the limestone shelf. Some cenotes are only accessible by small openings in the surface that lead to large, gorgeous chambers characterized by stalactites and stalagmites formed over millennia. Still others are found deep inside dry caves, quite a distance underground. The water found in cenotes is rich in minerals and appears crystal clear and turquoise.

A catfish swims through the stalagmites

Given their beauty and history, cenotes are naturally an attraction for tourists to Cancun and the Riviera Maya. The curious will enjoy a trip to one of the cenote parks, with ample facilities like rest rooms, showers and restaurants. The adventurous may seek the lesser known cenotes marked only by cardboard signs on the side of the road or go scuba diving in the underground cave system. Many tour companies include a stop at a cenote as part of their day trips. Visitors to Chichen Itza may stop at Il Kil, one of the largest and most stunning cenotes in the region.

Cenote Il Kil

Any regular readers of my blog know that I am a cenote junkie, seeking out hidden spots on the weekends with my son and visiting the big parks as part of my "day job". I always bring my visitors on at least one cenote adventure. Being they are one of my very favourite things in Mexico, I ask of you this. Respect the cenote and it's connection to all the underground rivers, tying pueblos and cities for kilometers around and providing them fresh water. Do not use chemicals on your skin, you will be in the shade, no need for sunscreen and if you must use bug spray, please ensure that it is eco-friendly. Do not ever ever ever touch a stalactite or stalagmite, the oils on our skin will stop them from growing. If you bring garbage in, take garbage out. Leave no trace and the cenotes and the waters that flow through them will continue to provide refreshment, life and pleasure for years to come.

It's still a hot one in Cancun, who's up for a cenote adventure with me this weekend?

Disclosure: I am being compensated for my work in creating and managing content as a Contributor for the México Today Program. All stories, opinions and passion for all things México shared here are completely my own

Insider's Guide to Cancun


KfromMichigan said...

Did you know there is a cenote near Xcacel (sp?) back in the jungle & hard to find. I don't know that it has a name. Very private (at least it used to be). Hope hasn't become a tourist spot!

Maria Karras said...

Hi there,
How's the weather in Cancun when it's raining and there are thunderstorms. We are scheduled to fly into Cancun for a week this coming Wednesday, August 10th. We checked the weather forecasts and they say it's going to be raining most of the time we are there.

We don't know what to do...cancel or go.

CancunCanuck said...

KfromMichigan- There are soooo many cenotes in that area, hard to know which one you mean! Some are "private", some don't even have names! Glad you got to enjoy a little private oasis. :)

Maria- It's "rainy season", the weather report ALWAYS says rain, even when we haven't had any for a month. Right now it is HOT and super sunny, I spent the afternoon in the ocean watching white fluffy clouds. I can't say with 100% certainty that you will have perfect weather, but I will say don't cancel, even if it does rain it's usually only for a short time. Most people don't even bother getting out of the pool.

Marc Olson said...

Thanks for this post on cenotes. I visit various cenotes from time to time, mainly off the tourist track, so I especially appreciate your comments encouraging people to be careful and take care of cenotes. You've mentioned a couple of things most people won't think of. It's sad to see how some cenotes have been badly damaged, with stalactites broken off, graffitti painted inside, trash left everywhere and protecting vegetation cut away "to keep 'basura' from falling in." I even know of cenotes where people pour chlorine bleach in to make the water "clean." More education needs to be done. Articles like yours help.

CancunCanuck said...

Hi Marc,
Thanks for your comment, I think the last paragraph of this post is the most important. "Sustainable" tourism is vital here, the attractions of the Yucatan Peninsula are primarily natural and preserving them is essential to the future of the eco-system and the economy of our states. I've seen graffiti CARVED into stalagmites at the bottom of some cenotes and it infuriates me. (Also makes me wonder how long someone had to hold their breath to do it and how many dives it took to get "Te amo Chucho" carved so deeply in the rock.) So sad!

Off to see a cenote today, still haven't decided which but I think Chikin Ha is looking good!

Maria Karras said...

Hi Kelly,
Thank you so much for responding to my post about therainy weather forecast we say for Cancun during our preplanned trip there mid August. You encouraged us to make the trip nonetheless and we are now planning to do just that.

I love, love, love reading your blog "A Canuck in Cancun". You are sharing your life there is such a meaningful and colorful way that the reader feels like we are all old friends. I was very sorry to read your April 1 post about your split with your hubby. The link to Neil Sedaka was especially poignant. I am a 61 yo Greek American woman who grew up with music like his. If you were my daughter, I would be very proud of you and the life you have forged for yourself and your son, Max.

I loved your account of the day your happy boots and you landed in the hospital because I had a pretty bad medical year last year with a hip replacement. I feel as if I am better than ever now and I am glad to hear that things turned out well for you as well.

Well we are heading off to Cancun from Pasadena, CA this coming Wednesday, the 10th for a week. It would be awesome to cross paths with you and Max.

Best Regards,


CancunCanuck said...

What a warm and lovely comment, thanks so much! I hope you have a lovely trip to Cancun, it has been soooo HOT lately, just stay in the pool and drink frozen beverages! Have a terrific time. :)

Maria Karras said...

How's the weather in Cancun this week? Does it look like rain?

CancunCanuck said...

Clear skies, HOT and sunny today Maria! Just checked the satellites, doesn't appear to be any storm systems anywhere near us. Hopefully it will stay that way!

Maria Karras said...

Yeeeeesss! Thank you God.

Anonymous said...

I love your life. :)

Think I definitely need to pay a visit to a cenote when I get over there.



Unknown said...

me!! can we come?? :)

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