A trip to the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico can and should be epitomised by two words. Not ‘chicken fajitas’ – delicious as they are, particularly at the little sea front restaurant in Chen Rio Cozumel; nor ‘Mayan Civilisation’, although it is well worth paying a visit to the coastal temple ruins in Tulum, a short ride away from Puerto Aventuras and even closer to Akumal beach where swimming with turtles is as good as guaranteed. No, while all of these attractions are worthy contenders for the Mexican bucket list, the two words that should epitomise this fantastic country are ‘Cenote Diving’ – pure and simple, nothing else even comes close. Here’s why…
Luis is a larger than life character and greets us warmly for our first day of cavern diving. Buckets of confidence and an equal measure of charm oozes from our expedition leader as he explains that our first day will be led by Memo, a friendly and – by comparison – mild mannered Mexican cave diver. Sam and I take to the road with Memo as we head to Dos Ojos, a popular Cenote 45 minutes’ drive from down town Playa Del Carmen.
The Cenotes were incredibly important to the ancient Mayan civilisations; not only as a vital source of fresh water, but also because the many sink holes of porous limestone that constitute the sacred pools were commonly used for burial rituals. I was fascinated to learn that ‘The Caveman from Dos Ojos’ is the oldest human skeleton ever discovered in the Americas and dates to around 13,400 years BC. Today we delve into the very cave system where he was found.
An eager arrival at Dos Ojos Cenote is followed promptly by a look at our entry point for the first dive. It is breath taking. I had seen plenty of pictures and some videos before now, but seeing the crystal clear fresh water for the first time before my eyes was nothing short of exhilarating – and we hadn’t even geared up! Memo completes a safety briefing and explains our route through the intriguing cavern and into the infamous ‘Bat Cave’; it is here where we will slowly rise to the surface and look above for the many bats that will be hanging and flying over our heads – this is sizing up to be a dive like no other.
The water temperature is around 25 degrees Celsius, so for most divers a 3mm wetsuit or shorty will be enough to take off the chill; Samantha dives with two wetsuits as well as a shorty on top as she feels the cold more than most. Fortunately she is a very competent diver, and with fresh water only requires 2kg of lead for a successful descent, even wrapped up in all that buoyant neoprene!
As we descend I turn around and look to the surface as the light from above breaks through the water… crystal clear is now an expression I feel justified in using without fear of exaggeration. It feels as though I could see forever, if only the twists and turns of the cave system enabled me to do so. We forsake the sunlight as we slowly fin ourselves away from our entry point and delve deeper into Dos Ojos.
Although there are other dive operations at Dos Ojos today – and due to the choppy conditions out at sea, Memo explains that it’s likely that there are more than there would be on any other given day – we rarely encounter anyone else during our time underwater. The flicker and glow of a distant torch occasionally provides a reminder that we are not alone down here, but the dive is anything but crowded. We cruise through the gin like water at a beautifully calm pace and do our best to mimic the expert precision of our dive leader’s gentle fin flicks. We are astronauts in inner space. I am hooked.
Mid-way through the dive we ascend into a cosy opening in the cavern. Daylight does not reach us here and I quickly acknowledge the peacefulness of the silence within the bat cave as I resist the urge to blurt out a crass American style whooping noise to exclaim my satisfaction of the experience so far. Instead, I join my buddy in a moment of quiet contemplation. We look to the many crevices in the cave around us as the bats huddle together. Occasionally one will flutter past us and search for a new resting place. The only noise is that of a droplet of water. We float. We breathe it all in. This is diving bliss.
If cavern diving is something that you have dismissed until now then I urge you to re-consider; this is a great introduction to an experience that can only be described as ‘other worldly’. Perhaps you’ve thought about delving into the darkness but worry about the dangers and the extra training needed; fear not because with no special certification required to dive the Cenotes and with expert local guides on hand you’ll be in very safe hands.
So what are you waiting for? The Cenotes make for a spectacular diving expedition and should appear on the bucket list of any self respecting scuba adventurer!
Mat is a travel consultant for Dive Worldwide.
Book Release: Diving the Thistlegorm – The Ultimate Guide to a World War II Shipwreck
Diving the Thistlegorm is a unique in-depth look at one of the world’s best-loved shipwrecks. In this highly visual guide, cutting edge photographic methods enable views of the wreck and its fascinating cargo which were previously impossible.
This book is the culmination of decades of experience, archaeological and photographic expertise, many hours underwater, months of computer processing time, and days spent researching and verifying the history of the ship and its cargo. For the first time, Diving the Thistlegorm brings the rich and complex contents of the wreck together, identifying individual items and illustrating where they can be found. As the expert team behind the underwater photography, reconstructions and explanations take you through the wreck in incredible detail, you will discover not only what has been learned but also what mysteries are still to be solved.
Find out more about:
- One of the world’s greatest dives.
- Incredible ‘photogrammetry’ shows the wreck and cargo in a whole new light.
- Meticulous detail presented in a readable style by experts in their respective fields.
About the authors:
Simon Brown is an underwater photographer and photogrammetry/3D expert who has documented underwater subjects for a wide range of clients including Historic England, Wessex Archaeology and television companies such as National Geographic Channel and Discovery Canada. Jon Henderson is Reader in Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh where he is the Director of the Underwater Archaeology Research Centre. With specific research interests in submerged prehistoric settlements and developing underwater survey techniques, he has directed underwater projects in the UK, Poland, Greece, Italy, Egypt, Jamaica and Malaysia. Alex Mustard is a former marine biologist and award-winning underwater photographer. In 2018 he was made an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list for “Services to underwater photography”. Mike Postons pioneered the use of digital 3D modelling to visualise shipwrecks, as well as the processes of reconstructing original ships from historic plans. He has worked with a number of organisations including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Historic England and the Nautical Archaeological Society.
About the book:
- Release date 25 November 2020
- Limited run of Hardbacks
- RRP £35
- ISBN 978-1-909455-37-5
- 240 photo-packed pages
- 240 x 160 mm
Check back on Scubaverse.com for a review of the book coming soon!
Deptherapy’s Dr Richard Cullen becomes a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society
Dr Richard Cullen, Chairman of Scuba Diving Rehabilitation Charity Deptherapy and Deptherapy Education, has been recognised as a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.
Fellowship of the Royal Geographical Society is a prestigious Fellowship that is open to those who demonstrate a sufficient involvement in geography or an allied subject through publications, research or professional experience.
Paul Rose, Deptherapy’s Vice Chair, and a world renowned explorer, author, broadcaster, who is a former Vice Chair of the RGS said:
“This is a huge achievement by Richard. His Fellowship is richly deserved, and a direct result of his steadfast commitment to preserving our oceans through Deptherapy’s very powerful ‘Protecting Our Oceans’ Programme. I know the top team at the RGS are looking forward to welcoming Richard into the Society.”
The RGS was founded in 1830 to advance geographical research, education, fieldwork and expeditions, as well as by advocating on behalf of the discipline and promoting geography to public audiences.
Paul Toomer, President of RAID, said:
“I have been close friends with Richard for many years and his passion for our seas, even at 70 years of age, is undiminished. Deptherapy are the world leaders in adaptive scuba diving teaching and are our much valued partners. Taking UK Armed Forces Veterans who have suffered life changing mental and/or physical challenges and engaging them in major marine biology expeditions, is to most of us beyond the realms of possibility. The skills these guys have to develop is just awesome. This is a great honour for Richard, a great honour for Deptherapy, and also for us as their partners. The diving world must come together to celebrate and acknowledge Richard’s achievement.”
Richard joins some distinguished Fellows of the RGS. Former Fellows include Ernest Shackleton and many other notable explorers and geographers.
“I am both honoured and humbled to become a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. When I was invited to apply for a Fellowship, I was, which is very unusual for me, lost for words. I hope it will allow me to take our message of Protecting Our Oceans to a larger audience and to further develop our programmes. The Fellowship is a recognition of the charity’s work to raise awareness of the plight of our oceans. The credit belongs to a group of individuals who have overcome massive challenges to let alone qualify as divers but now to progress to marine biology expedition diving”.
For more information about the work of Deptherapy and Deptherapy Education visit www.deptherapy.co.uk.
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Sharks Bay Umbi Diving Village is a Bedouin-owned resort with stunning views and a lovely private beach. It is ideal for divers as everything is onsite including the resort's jetty, dive centre and house reef. The warm hospitality makes for a diving holiday like no other. There is an excellent seafood restaurent and beach bar onsite, and with the enormous diversity of the Sharm El Sheikh dive sites and the surrounding areas of the South Sinai, there really is something for every level of diver to enjoy.More Less
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