My feet are heavy from the flippers as I step into the clear water. It’s cold, but it’s a relief from the humid, humid air around me. I feel the cold water nip at my wetsuit as I hold my breath and let my body plunge underwater. I squeeze my eyes shut for a second, but quickly remember I’m wearing goggles. When I open them, a whole new underwater world is in front of me as I’m snorkeling in Cenote Dos Ojos.
The last time I snorkeled was three years ago off of Koh Phi Phi Island in Thailand. The aquamarine water below me was stunning, but I was a little worried my legs wouldn’t be able to tread water after 20 minutes and that I’d sink into the depths of the ocean before the long-tail boat returned to pick us up to fully enjoy my surroundings. Plus, I was a little hungover from too much Koh Phi Phi partying. I almost forgot how much I love it. Seeing life underwater is so different from land, and it leaves much to be discovered.
True to form, I’m a sucker for beautiful travel photos. I saw one image of a cenote in the Yucatán and I was ready to jump in and explore these caves and the freshwater running through it.
While in Tulum, Mexico, I embarked on a snorkel adventure at the nearby Cenote Dos Ojos, one of the most popular cenotes in the Yucatán for snorkeling and diving. We donned wetsuits, flippers, and flashlights and plunged into the water, heading toward the dark abyss of the limestone caves.
Cenotes are natural sinkholes due to collapsed limestone. The body of freshwater beneath the sinkhole surfaces, and violà! You’re looking at another one of Mother Nature’s stunningly beautiful wonders. The Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico has some 30,000 cenotes, and most unexplored and untouched. The subterranean bodies of water are crystal clear, likely because it’s all rainwater that filtered through the ground.
Back in the days when Mayan Civilizations ruled the Yucatán, offerings of human sacrifices into the cenotes were not uncommon. The cenotes were sacred; the Mayan ruins of Chichén Itzá even has a Cenote Sagrado (Sacred Cenote) in which humans along with objects like jade and gold, were thrown into as sacrifices to the Maya rain god. These natural beauties are still a big deal, but now instead of human sacrifices, they’re everyone’s favorite place to swim, snorkel, and dive.
Cenote Dos Ojos is where you can find the deepest cave in Quintana Roo, Mexico (about 119 meters) and is one of the longest underwater cave systems in the world (at about 82 kilometers). The name Dos Ojos comes from the two connecting cenotes that appear to look like two eyes.
Now I love swimming, but I’m definitely not as elegant as a mermaid underwater. Throw a snorkeling mask on me and I’m accidentally choking and somehow inhaling water, freaking out, and pulling the mask off my face as I’m trying and failing to tread water. Once I got used to the snorkel once again, I was unstoppable underwater!
As a longtime contact lenses wearer, I haven’t been able to open my eyes underwater since I was a child. I never bought goggles for swimming because I thought they were dorky, but being able to see all the fish underwater in Cenote Dos Ojos was incredible! I realized firsthand that there’s so much more to see underwater than from the opening of the caves on solid ground.
Dodging stalactites hanging from the top of the cave all the way down into the water, I followed our guide into the caves, where it got darker and the water was colder. It’s much scarier to swim in a confined space in the dark with only a flashlight for guidance, but underwater the caves were serene and full of life. I felt like I could breathe easier underwater than when I resurfaced. It helped that the rays of light from the flashlights of scuba divers darted around the water, bringing into view the many stalagmites on cenote floor.
This was my first opportunity to capture some underwater footage with my new GoPro HERO4 SILVER, which I love and am completely obsessed with. I’m still a newbie at the editing though!
I swam with a school of fish that I didn’t realize was there when gazing around me above the surface, watched an eel-like fish slithering near the cenote floor, was surrounded by bats flying around a secluded cave, and saw the sun’s rays cut straight through the water like a knife. Sure, the water was cold and my surroundings were dark and ominous at times, but the snorkeling was fantastic. I look at the underwater world with childlike wonder and innocence; it’s not something I’ve seen that much in my travels!
Snorkeling in Cenote Dos Ojos definitely helped me get my feet wet (get it? ha-ha) more underwater adventures in Latin America. Scuba diving perhaps?
Where is the most exciting place you’ve ever snorkeled?
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