Ahhhh back to Playa Del Carmen and Starbucks!!! Yes a Starbucks only half a block away from our hotel. Traveling around Central America one would think the coffee would be exceptional. It's not. In fact, we found it terrible. There were few espresso bars and the coffee used at guesthouses and hotels were schwill. We got to Playa, checked in, and pretty much just shopped and ate for the first day we were here. We met a guy in Tulum who said he really loved Cenote Diving, and that we should try it. So we stopped by a dive shop around the corner from our hotel, and they sold us on a package. $110.00 each which included everything! Food, equipment, transportation, divemaster, and 2 tanks. We chose to do the Chac-Mool site as it is saltwater and fresh. Dos Ojos is the more world-famous site, for its formations underwater, but it's only fresh water. I will explain the difference a little later.
Shelly at the Chac-Mool Cenote
Finding A Dive Shop
We woke up the next day and got our coffee, and made our way to the dive shop. We loaded up at 9am, and drove about an hour with Juan Manuel our dive master. He was from spain and moved here to dive, and got married. He said he had been doing this for about 6 years (strictly cave/cavern diving) We packed up with another woman named Mia from Finland (who was very nice) and on the hour drive to the cenote, we got a history lesson on what forms a cenote.
How are Cenotes Formed?
When the great rock that hit the earth thousands of years ago, and formed the Gulf of Mexico...it caused the Yucatan to get fissures in the limestone bedrock. These bedrock cracks filled with seawater. Sea water is very corrosive and over time, created underground caves. (some of the largest systems in the world) Where they peak up to the ground, they call these Cenotes. Which are simply sink holes that caused a cave collapse. Over more time, the salt water went away, and fresh ground water formed in these places.
So the cenote we were going to had both salt and fresh water. Salt water being heavier is lower, and comes from the sea while the fresh water is on the surface of the cenote. The interesting thing is what is called a halocline. When you drive down a hot road and see a mirage.. that is basically a thermocline. In seawater, a thermocline is simply warmer and colder water that mixes, and causes a blurry layer in the water just like the mirage you see on the road. Haloclines are much bigger and much more blurry. It is where the salt and fresh meet and mix around. Due to the different densities of the water, it causes an extremely blurry layer about 1-3 feet thick in places.
We got there and suited up and had our dive briefing. We were swimming in two cenotes that are part of the Chac-mool caverns. The first is called Kukulcan, and the second is called Chac-mool. We suited up and got in. It was cooler water than we were used to, but felt great after being suited up in 90-100 degree heat carrying my tank down to the Cenote. It was beautiful. 100% visibility, if it was 100 feet deep I would have been able to see to the bottom, it was only about 12 meters at its deepest. The overhang opened up to a rather large cavern with roots growing into the water, there wasn't much life down there, but the rocks and sunlight penetrating down from the sky was as the guide said "like god himself coming down" 🙂 It was amazing! We swam slowly with our guide in a straight line and spent about 40 minutes down there. There wasn't much of a halocline, or rock formations, but were told that Chac-Mool was more interesting.
We got out, had a snack, waited for about 45 minutes to get back into the water. This time Chac-Mool. The entrance to chacmool was much smaller of a hole, but when we got in... WOW!!! This cenote was amazing. The rock changed from regular limestone to honeycombed limestone from the salt water. It was easy to see how the cave was formed millions of years ago, and there were fossils of giant snails, and stalactites and Stalagmites (which tells us at one time it was a dry cave until it filled back up with fresh water) We swam unto what is called a Dome, which was an air pocket with a small hole at the ceiling. There were entire root systems that bunched up in holes to find the water of the cenote. It was really cool in there. I could have stayed all day.
We went down to the Halocline and that was interesting. I couldn't see very well, and we basically had to just follow the leader and the flashlight of the person in front of you. It was like looking through a mask full of water. Very blurry and then clear!!! It even casted shadows on the walls, that were shimmery, and it was almost visible as an opaque layer in a crystal clear cave. The water was so clear that it seemed like you were flying. There really was very little reference except the floor of the cave that you were in water. Such a peaceful and amazing time. We loved it!
Playa Del Carmen Beach Day
Getting Back To Playa Del Carmen
We stayed down there for about 45 minutes just taking it all in, and then we had lunch found out that a professional photographer was taking pictures and video the whole time. So we paid 40 dollars to get a CD of all the pictures and video sent to our hotel, and then we went back to Playa Del Carmen! I suggest this to anyone. It is not scary or any more dangerous than diving anywhere else but it truly is unique. There are not many of these places in the world, and not many that will let you dive through it! It was money and time well spent!! We will do it again! Glad I saw the haloclines... but think that dos ojos would have been good too. We wished we had more time.
Final Beach Day and End To Our Trip
The next day we pretty much spent the entire day at the beach simply relaxing! The day before we went home to Ohio, before taking off on the 18th for California! It has been an amazing trip and life changing opportunity for both of us! It really is a bittersweet ending. We loved it here, and would love to come back and spend more time seeing the things we didn't see, and just enjoying the food, people and places of Central America. But, we also are ready to get back to work, pets, friends and civilization as we know it. We have met life long friends and seen places we couldn't have imagined.
Change In Perspective
This trip to Central America has been life changing in every way possible. We have learned more about ourselves than we could have imagined. Our love for each other has grown leaps and bounds and we feel as if we have a different direction in life. We learned that through daily living and planning, we achieve a sense of purpose in our day-to-day life. We feel that we can learn by travel, that we can live every day, one day at a time. We have developed a sense of self purpose. There were many times in Central America when we followed our intuition, be it Shelly's or mine. We acted on it and we followed it daily. We experienced more and did far more than we would have ever hoped to do by planning the trip. Life just took us along and we know that our future will involve a lot more travel.