Formation of cenotes in the Mayan Riviera

We love cenote diving but, do you know what´s a cenote?

Yes, we know that you want cenote diving in Tulum, Cancun or Playa del Carmen, but first, we are going to explain how a cenote is formed.

More tan 40 million years ago, the ocean covered the entire Peninsula of Yucatan, a great and beautiful barrier reef. Today, marine fossils inside the caves reveal this history. Ice ages caused the ocean level to rise and fall, so, that at times the Yucatan emerged, and at other times was flooded. The underground caves were formed during the times the ocean level was low.

Rain water mixing with the carbon dioxide of the atmosphere created carbonic acid. As the Yucatans´ground consists of very porous limestone, this carbonic acid percolated into the ground, the limestone was dissolved and over the time carved out huge systems of underground tunnels and caves.

The disolved limestone dripping into dry cave passages, over thousands of years formed an amazingly beautiful decoration of stalactites and stalagmites. It takes approximately 100 years for one inch of growth. After the last ice age around 8000 years ago, the ocean level rose once again and flooded the cave systems.

Caves with ceilings higher than sea level were only partially flooded and an air space remained. Some of these partially air-filled cave ceilings became too thin and collapsed, creating a sinkhole and leaving a natural entrance to the underground river system.

cenote diving Cancun
Cenote in Cancún

The Mayan call these sinkhiles “Dzonot”, sacred well, hence the spanish Word “CENOTE”. The Dzonot is the only source of fresh water in the jungle and is also considere the entrance to the mythical and spiritual underworld.

Cenote diving Tulum
Cenote in Tulum

Cenotes come in all kinds of different shapes and sizes. The most common types of cenotes are cave, semi-open, and open cenotes. The cave’s cenotes are the youngest and the open cenote is the oldest, since the roof of the cave has fallen in on itself.

Diving in cenotes throughout the entire Yucatan Peninsula.

It is very difficult to know the exact number of how many cenotes there are in the Mexican jungle, but there are more than 7,000 cenotes, more than 2,200 have been recorded.

Cenote diving Playa del Carmen
Cenote Playa del Carmen

Yucatán is home to some of the longest underground cave systems in the world. The Sac Actun System, located in the Riviera Maya, is the longest underground cave in the world measuring 350 km, the deepest measuring 119 m and housing approximately 226 cenotes. Archaeologists have discovered 9,000-year-old human bones, as well as bones of animals that walked the planet in the time of the ice age.

Prehistoric Slooth Bear remains found in a cenote diving Tulum
Prehistoric Slooth Bear remains found in a cenote diving Tulum

You can find cenotes all over the world, but the Yucatan Peninsula and especially the Riviera Maya are completely unique due to the large number of cenotes, you will not find this amount anywhere else in the world. Do not hesitate, if you want to dive in Playa del Carmen, try diving in cenotes.

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