The North American country of Mexico is known for its beautiful underwater caves across the country. There are numerous places of attraction where one can see the best underwater cave experience and the best ones are the Riviera Maya and other stretches in the Yucatan Peninsula. The region in Yucatan Peninsula from Playa del Calum to Tulum (a 10 km stretch) has more than hundreds of cave entrances and provides for a long distance of passage.
It was in 1980 that the Mexican caves were first explored around the Yucatan Peninsula. ‘Dos Ojos’ and ‘Nohoch Nah Chich’ were discovered in the 1980s when the competition among divers to discover the largest underwater cave in the world was heating up.
Post that lot of cave explorers targeted the place and started finding new caves across different islands. At the end of the 20th century, a group of divers discovered the world’s longest underwater cave, the ‘Ox Bel Ha’ using GPS technology and satellite images. ‘Ox Bel Ha’ is supposed to be around 240 kms long. The presence of considerable number of risky Cenotes (deep pit holes or pools which generally connect to other caverns) is still a limitation to underwater cave explorers in Mexico.
As mentioned though Mexico has a lot of places throughout the country which provide for excellent cave diving experience, the ones around the Yucatan Peninsula stand out. These are mostly done for exploration purposes providing a sense of adventure through the activity. Water is very clear here and since it houses the two longest underwater caves in the world it has become a very famous tourist destination over the years.
Cenote diving especially attracts a number of tourists here. The diving conditions are not much dependent on the weather and the water is generally warm here. The currents are conductible for diving and visibility is high as the water is clear. Most of the dives require open water scuba equipment and some operators insist on a certification. There are also courses offered which include instructions for around 2 to 3 days and a further two to three day deep water dives. For someone who is here for the first time, it would be better to stay for a week at least and enjoy the vast stretch of caves. There is also rich biodiversity in these caves. Barracudas, sharks and sea turtles are regularly seen.
At the Riviera Maya, one can get to experience the halcolines. Wherever fresh water and salt water meet, it creates a halocline because of the differentiation in densities and temperatures. At Riviera Maya the temperature difference is felt distinctly and gives an exotic experience. The local guides at most places are very helpful and are aware of the various passage ways.
Some of the regularly visited caves are ‘Choc Mool’, ‘Dos Ojos’, ‘Sac Aktun’, ‘Nohoch Nah Chich’, ‘Car wash’, ‘Mayan Blue’ among others. ‘Dos Ojos’, which stands for ‘Two Eyes’ in Spanish referring to two cenotes one can enter this cave from. The upstream dive is the one that is generally taken. The downstream one is a little risky as taking a wrong turn might even cost your life. ‘Nohoch Nah Chich’ (meaning Giant Bird Cage) too offers a wonderful dive experience. Surprisingly one has to schedule the dive after obtaining permission from the Nohoch family which owns the cave. If you are able to contact them and schedule a dive, the family takes all efforts to help you reach the entrance.
Take a professional guide with you or book a dive package through a tour operator even if you are a certified diving professional. One, if you are on your own, then it might be a little difficult find which are the best sites. Two, even if you know the best ones, identifying the entrances is one huge task. Once you enter the passage identifying the right path through the jungle might also be very difficult. Choosing the right tunnels to explore will help you save a lot of time. Without doubt, it is advisable to always have a professional guide who knows the place. Apart from the numerous Mexico based cave diving operators (most of them fall under the Association of Dive and Water Sports Operators and are well organized), even US based operators organize tours in defined periods.
The Merida International Airport in Yucatan is the nearest Airport. If that does not provide connectivity one can fly to the Cancun International Airport located in the neighbourly state of Quintana Roo. Most operators arrange even travel tickets from your starting point and hence it should not be a problem.