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Swimming in Cenotes

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Curious geological formations. The betrayal of the Cocom’s. Learning swimming.

In the Yucatan one finds the curious geological formations known as Cenotes which are formed by a collapse in the limestone to reveal the water table contained within. The most interesting and scientifically romantic cause of Cenotes is the Chixhulub meteor which exterminated the dinosaurs and as a small side effect caused a collapse in the limestone to create cenotes.

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Improvised Life Jacket.

Cenotes come in an amazing variety of forms – ones that are completely open, those that are fully enclosed by a cavern, and ones that have a partially collapsed roof that admit a dramatic shaft of light that illuminates the emerald green water. The latter are the most dramatic – close to Valladolid there is one that has the long roots of a tree reaching down into the cavern onto an internal island.

The Maya revere cenotes, as well they should, since they provide the only water during the dry season. So what better way to revere a deep body of water than to throw stuff into it? Dredging the sacred cenote at Chichen Itza revealed human skeletons, jewelery, and copious quantities of the sacred blue color.

In the 1500’s the Xiu ruler wanted to make a pilgrimage to a sacred cenote to celebrate a victory over the Spaniards and presumably to throw stuff into it. As luck would have it the route passed through Sotuta, capital of the rival Cocom dynasty. The ruler, Nachi Cocom, remembering the slight that the Xiu’s had committed against his great-grandfather, craftily agreed to provide safe passage for the King and his entourage. After four days of intense feasting and good cheer the Cocom’s fell upon their Xiu rivals and slaughtered them to a man. The resulting internecine carnage allowed the Spaniards to conquer and dominate the Yucatan for almost four hundred years.

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Happy together!

As with the Maya, cenotes have taken on a special meaning for us. They provide an excellent learning environment for aspiring swimmers and it is here that Neena honed her skills to tackle the wilder environs of the Caribbean Sea. These deep sink holes that no Dinosaur swam in will always have a special place in my heart.

8 Responses to “Swimming in Cenotes”

  1. Neena says:

    Shreesh wasn’t afraid of cenotes! He was afraid that I would panic and he wouldn’t be able to rescue me as easily as he would in the extremely buoyant salt water environment of the ocean! But the cenotes are so calming, even snorkelling the deeps didn’t freak me out. Everyone should swim in a cenote!

  2. jerzy says:

    So, how did those human skeletons end up at the cenote bottoms?
    I am very happy to hear you survived this adventure.

  3. Andy Cohen says:

    Hi! I’m Andy, and I met you (along with my wife Susan and our daughter Elana) at the Hotel Zaci in Vallidolid. It was a pleasure to see your impressively prepared vehicle, and to hear about your trip. We’re back home now, after some cenote snorkeling of our own. Have you seen the cave-diving warning signs at Gran Cenote and some others? They’re a great example of graphic design, and list a number of do’s and don’ts for cave divers, culminating with a tiny little skeletonized cave diver who disregarded some warning signs. I regret now that I never got a photo of it. Do you have one?

  4. madhuri says:

    Neena looks so comfortable in that backstroke picture, i now think she was being modest when she claimed she wasnt a good swimmer!

    You guys are having too much fun. So, here is a question to spoil your peace of mind :-) Arent candiru supposed to be flourishing in fresh water in south america?! 😀

  5. Fred says:

    I saw a documentary on the idiot box where a guy jumped out of an airplane and opened the chute below ground level inside a Cenote! I don’t think you want to try that, though.

  6. flipper says:

    So did the cocom’s toss the xiu’s into the cenote or just into a hole?? Will you be taking a dip at the pole when you reach it??

  7. Trainer Bob says:

    Hey Guys,
    My wife and I spent 2 weeks in the town of Akumal. I’m sure you have visiited or driven by the town. Great Restaurant Que Onda, worth trying. We found a very magical cenote called Dos Ojos. You should check it out. It still has most of the Limstone roof intact. You enter through a large opening at the mouth of the cenote.
    Happy Travels

  8. Neena says:

    No, unfortunately we don’t have any such picture of the cave diver. Hope you had a great time in Mexico!
    Candiru is only supposed to be in the Amazon. Whew!

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