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Cenotes, what they really are?

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Cenotes, what they really are?

There are a lot of underground lakes and caves all over the world. However, the most impressive ones are located on the Yucatan Peninsula. They are called cenotes (pits).

These natural pools annually attract thousands of tourists. Thus, most of these natural pools of the Riviera Maya are crowded. Fortunately, the visitors of the Akumal Monkey Sanctuary have an opportunity to swim in a private cenote after the tour. Today we will shed some light on what the cenote really is.

What is a Cenote? 

About 65,000,000 years ago, the Yucatan peninsula was under the ocean. Within time, pressure and temperature solidified the layers of the extinct animals and plankton into a rock material named limestone. Due to erosion and volcanic activity the region’s surface has been riddled with holes and channels like Swiss cheese. These holes began to fill with rainwater creating the extensive system of underwater rivers that formed the natural wells, cenotes. The Mayans used them as a source of drinking water and for sacrifices. By the way, the tab water in this region still comes from the cenotes (it’s not potable). Nowadays Yucatan has about 6000 cenotes. However only 10% of them are studied, and even fewer are available for swimming and diving.

Types of Cenotes 

Depending of their formation here are 3 types of cenotes: 

  • Cavern (located deep in the cave);
  • Semi-open (half is underground and half is open);
  • Open (looks like a pond).

Open Cenote

This classification is directly related to the age of the cenotes. Thus, open cenotes are considered the oldest as their upper part is already collapsed. Caverns are the youngest ones. 

The water in cenotes is fresh and is 20-24C (64-75F). It is so transparent that one can not identify how many meters deep the cave is. The main inhabitants of these natural ponds are catfish, small crabs and the bats. The bats live on the ceilings of caverns and semi-open cenotes.

The meaning of cenotes to the ancient Mayans

In Mayan times the settlements were built close to cenotes as they served as tanks with fresh rainwater. As the rains didn’t happen often, there was a cult of the God of rain. Thus, some sacred cenotes became the place for sacrifices, like the one you can meet in Chichen Itza. According to the Mayans, cenotes were as well the entrances to the underworld called Xibalba. So there are lot of mysterious legends about the rites that were held by the indigenous in these water objects. In some of them, the scientist found ancient ceremonial artefacts. Some of the tourists say that visiting these places make them feel reborn. The secret is that this water can heal your soul. Thus, whenever you swim at the cenote, the wisdom of the most intelligent ancient civilization is transferred to you. So get ready for some insights and rethink.

What can you do in a cenote 

For sure, swimming in a cenote is a fantastic experience itself. Nevertheless, there are much more activities like snorkelling, kayaking, zip-line, rappel or night scuba diving. People also often visit cenotes for family and wedding photo sessions. Cenote diving is a popular activity in Riviera Maya. The most famous spots among drivers are Dos Ojos and Chak Mol. So if you have a PADI certificate and at least five dives, you can experience the whole beauty of the underwater world. If you don’t have a certificate, you can swim with a mask and snorkel. 

Cenote in Akumal Monkey Sanctuary 

What can be better than to freshen up in a cenote after a walk in the jungles and encounter with monkeys? After the tour we invite you to the Spider Monkey cenote called Ma’ax. It is a part of three other cenotes network connected between each by underground rivers of 6 km (3.7 miles) long. Ma’ax is divided into two parts: the dark and the open-air one. We offer the tourists to enter into the dark part first to experience the “floating in a vacuum”.

In the darkness, you may feel wired and face your deepest fears. But don’t worry, the sacred waters will take them all away. The dark part is 27 meters (88 foot) deep. The guide will show you some stalactites, stalagmites and the bats. By the way, this small cenote is a home for 17 species of bats. And then you will move to open part where you can see the bottomless pit with stunning transparent water. Just relax for 30 minutes and enjoy the silence.

Visit Cenote Ma’ax at Akumal Monkey Sanctuary & Rescued Animals.