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Posts Tagged ‘cenotes’

When you hear people discussing their vacations in Mexico you will often hear them describe how beautiful the beaches are, the turquoise water and white, soft sand but what you may not hear them talk about as much are the thousands of cenotes that can be explored either on your own or by joining a tour group. A cenote is simply asinkhole that is most often surrounded by rocky edges. There are above ground sinkholes as well as subterranean cenotes and the water is usually very clear. Many Mayan settlements were based around cenotes as they provided an essential water source for the people. Chichen Itza is one of the more well-known cities that settled near these natural wells. Mayans also believed that these sinkholes were gateways to the afterlife and so they played important roles in theirMayan rites.

Cenote Yokdzonot

In my 16 years in Cancun I have visited many cenotes and I continue to explore new ones whenever I get the chance to do so. I have always loved the ocean but I am particularly fond of these magical, fresh water oasesperhaps because they bring back such fond memories of time spent at the numerous lakes, found in B.C., whilst growing up in Vancouver, Canada. Some of my favourite cenotes are located close to home in Quintana Roo and some others are several hours away in the Yucatan state. Cenote Cristalino, which is about 15 minutes south of Puerto Aventuras, is probably the first cenote that I ever visited over 14 years ago. When I first started going very few people knew of its existence. In fact, on most occasions when I went there with friends we would be the only people there .It was our very own private oasis. Through the years that has changed with the advent of major development in the Riviera Maya and “cenote tours”. “Cristalino” is no longer just “mine”; however, it still remains a beautiful spot which I visit often especially when friends are in town.

In the Yucatan you can explore such amazing watering holes like the open air Cenote Il Kil and Cenote Yokdzonot as well as Cenote Dzitnup and Cenote Samula which are both subterranean cenotes. On my first trip to Il Kil we left our SUV in the parking lot just as two very large tour buses pulled in and a huge group of tourists descended from the buses, cameras in hand,rushing towards the very same entrance that we were heading to. We all handed in our tickets and were guided through the souvenir store en route to the cenote where luckily we lost about half of the people from the buses as they were waylaid by sales people trying to peddle ornaments, blankets and otherkeepsakes. We hurried along trying to lose the herd but quickly realized that the cenote was already full of people who had arrived on earlier buses.

Cenote Manati

As we approached the steps leading down to Il Kil we stopped to admire the view from above and I was left speechless, which for anyone whoknows me is quite something. I had seen You Tube videos and photos of Il Kil before but they couldn’t even begin to compare to the sight before us. The crystal blue water, surrounded by rocky edges and vegetation was truly magnificent. We made our way down the steps until we arrived at the cenote’s edge where we joined a crowd of people. We stowed our belongings and dove into the cool water. As I floated on my back I suddenly became aware of a silence that enveloped the submerged cavern. I looked around and to my delight realized that the majority of people had left to continue on their tour. I basked in the silence and swam under the small waterfalls letting the water crash down over my face. As I surveyed the area around me I couldn’t imagine a more beautiful place, so serene and lush with vegetation and natural beauty-a true Garden of Eden if there ever was one.

Cenote Il Kil

Yokdzonot is very similar to Il Kil but without the crowds as it is relatively new to the tourist scene. It is run by a small group of Mayan women to help support their community of 850 people. It boasts an estimated depth of 45 meters and is 40 meters across and about 22 meters from the rim to the water. On our last visit there we were the only people in the water. Need I say more? Finally, the cenotes Dzitnup and Samula, which are by no means less breathtaking, are located in Valladolid, a quaint colonial town about 1.5 hours from Cancun. Both of them are below ground and offer a different experience than the aforementioned cenotes. LED lights enable you to navigate the stairs down to the subtlety lit caverns where you are greeted by an eerie silence with cave walls that echo your every word. Samula, though smaller, is less crowded (for now), and there is an opening above that lets in rays of light that shine down on massive tree roots, which in search of water have taken root in the small island in the center of the cenote. As you swim through the mineral infused water you cannot help but feel blessed to be a part of such relatively untouched natural beauty. I often experience a great sense of peace and feel connected to “something bigger” when I visit these places.

Cenote Samula

There are so many cenotes that one can visit while exploring southern Mexico. I have but only scratched the surface with this article. Below is a small list of some of the cenotes that I have been to over the years and which I recommend that you consider exploring on your next visit to Quintana Roo and the Yucatan.

•             Cenote Cristalino-15 minutes south of Playa del Carmen, Q.Roo

•             Cenote Eden-15 minutes south of Playa del Carmen,Q.Roo

•             Cenote Azul-15 minutes south of Playa del Carmen,Q.Roo

•             Cenote Manati-40 minutes south of Playa del Carmen,Q.Roo

•             Grand Cenote-90 minutes south of Playa del Carmen

•             Cenote Il Kil- 2 hours west of Cancun (next to Chichen Itza,Yucatan)

•             Cenote Yokdzonot-30 minutes from Chichen Itza,Yucatan

•             Cenote Samula and Cenote Dzitnup- 90 minutes west of Cancun (Vallalodid,Yucatan)

•             Cenote Cuzama (3 cenotes) 4 hours west of Cancun (Yucatan)

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It’s been a busy 2 weeks since my last post but I  have suddenly found myself with a lot of free time coming my way for the next 3-4 weeks. Hubby and I have been very active lately, running in the mornings and afternoons and I have been going to Pilates classes with a couple of my girlfriends a couple of times a week, with the goal of losing some extra weight that I have dragged around for the last couple of years. Well, not anymore. This morning I fractured my toe (how stupid of me) and according to my doctor I will have to be off my feet as much as possible for 3-4 weeks-OH JOY!! So it looks like I will have loads of time to catch up with my blogging.

What a view!

At the end of April we set off to explore a new cenote for us and an old familiar one in the Riviera Maya. Since it was my Mom’s last weekend in Cancun we wanted to take her on an adventure before she returned to Vancouver. We hit the road early and made Cenote Manati our first stop of the day. When we arrived a tour bus had already beat us there but undeterred we parked and unloaded our snorkeling gear. My Mom decided to forgo the first cenote and instead she installed herself in a nice little restaurant on the beach and ordered a tall cool one. We were anxious to explore the cenote and we saw that they rented kayaks so my excitement grew as I thought that we were in for a great experience kayaking through the mangroves and waterways. We paid 50 pesos for each kayak and paddled off. Cenote Manati is located on the largest cave system of the world and is very picturesque to say the least; the crystal clear water  gives off the illusion of various shades of green and is surrounded by lush vegetation.Cenote Manati received its name because in the past you may have come across a Manati but with increased tourism to the area it is now very unlikely that you will encounter one of these very shy creatures.

Cenote Manati

As we were paddling through the waterways and manoeuvering through the mangroves I felt very peaceful and I was enjoying the physical exercise  accompanied by the beautiful scenery. After about 10 minutes we hit a dead-end and try as we might we just couldn’t seem to find a way to keep going so we paddled back to ask the guide for directions. Much to our disappointment we were informed that you couldn’t go any further so we decided to kayak the same short route again. At 50 pesos a pop per kayak we felt somewhat mislead and we were determined to get some more use out of our kayaks. After we had paddled around some more we ditched the kayaks and armed with snorkel gear we delved into the depths of the cenote in search of underwater life. Once we felt that we had enough we joined my Mom for a drink and a snack and then we set off for Cenote Azul.

Mom chillin' at Cenote Azul

After exiting the highway we found a nice shady spot under a tree and left our truck to make our way down to the cenote. It was a Saturday so understandably there were a lot of people cooling themselves off in the cool refreshing water and working on their tans. My Mom and I didn’t waste any time as we jumped into the water and swam around until we found a rock conveniently in the shade under a large overhanging tree. There we stayed until Cesar joined us and then I set off with hubby and snorkel gear to explore the cenote some more. As we swam around admiring the different species of fishes and underwater nooks and crannies I thought to myself what an amazing world exists below the surface.

Heavenly

As the sun rose high in the sky we began to feel a rumble in our tummies so we packed up our stuff and bid adieu to Cenote Azul and headed to Playa for a well deserved lunch on the beach. It had been another great day in paradise and a wonderful way to spend my Mom’s last weekend in Cancun.

Another view of Cenote Azul

Have you been to a cenote before? Which ones are your favourites?

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The last stop on our amazing Easter Yucatan Adventure took us to the cenote Il Kil. After checking out of our hotel we crossed the street and parked in the cenote’s lot just as two very large tour buses pulled in and a huge group of tourists descended from the buses, cameras in hand, rushing towards the very same entrance gate that we were heading to. We all handed our tickets in and were guided through the souvenir store en route to the cenote where luckily we lost about half of the people from the buses as they were waylaid by sales people trying to peddle ornaments, blankets and other keepsakes.We hurried along trying to lose the herd but quickly realized that the cenote was already full of people who had arrived on earlier buses.

Cenote Il Kil from above

As we approached the steps leading down to Il Kil we stopped and first admired the view from above speechless. I had looked at videos on You Tube of Il Kil before we had decided to go but they couldn’t even begin to compare to the sight before us. The crystal blue water, surrounded by vegetation was truly beautiful. We made our way down the steps until we arrived at the cenote’s edge where we joined a crowd of shouting, pushy people. We stowed our belongings and dove into the cool water. Hubby felt cold after a while and wanted to dry off  but I wasn’t ready to leave yet.

Me, floating after everyone had left

As I floated on my back I suddenly became aware of a silence that enveloped the underground cavern. I looked around and to my delight realized that the majority of people had left. I imagine that they were called away to continue on their tour. I relished the silence and swam under the small water falls letting the water crash down over my face. As I surveyed the area around me I couldn’t imagine a more beautiful place, so serene and lush with vegetation and natural beauty.

Loganiza appetizer

Finally, I made my way to the steps to get out leaving behind me a profound sense of peace that I had experienced while swimming in the deep clear water of Il Kil. We made our way to the parking lot and decided to stop for something to eat before heading back to Cancun. We came across a great little restaurant and ordered some local favourites. We started off with Loganiza ( seasoned pork meat sausage) with pickled red onion and then I had salpicon, (shredded deer meat with radishes, cucumber and seasonings) and Cesar had pork leg seasoned with achiote paste (annatto) and sour orange. The food was amazing!!! I only wish I could remember the name in order to recommend them. The restaurant was clean and the waiter was very friendly.It was the best meal of our trip.

Salpicon de venado

We headed for home feeling refreshed and relaxed and the topic of conversation on our drive back? Where should we go next?

Pork leg Yucatan-style

Here is a link to a short video that we took while we were away http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pokOWLwbFp4

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Continuing on from my last blog entry chronicling our trip to visit several cenotes in the Yucatan over Easter break  I will pick up where I left off. We made our way along the path to a wooden staircase leading down to the first cenote, Chelentun,where we were greeted by a huge group of people all toting their cameras and swim gear. Once down the stairs I peeled off my clothing and amidst flashing cameras I dove into the cool crystal blue water.There was a beam of sunlight shining down from an opening above which lit the cavern up and enabled you to see the bottom though the cenote was quite deep. There were stalactites hanging down from above which added to the beauty of this natural wonder.

Bolonchojool

After swimming for our alloted 30 minutes we took a few pictures and returned to our cart.On our way to our next destination we had a bit of excitement as our cart derailed and Luis and Jose quickly mounted the cart once again onto the tracks and we were off again!. We arrived at Bolonchojool unscathed and Luis told us that this particular cenote was a favourite among visitors to Cuzama. We walked to the cenote’s entrance which consisted of a small hole reminiscent of Alice and Wonderland’s rabbit hole. It had a makeshift wooden ladder burrowing deep into the earth. There were people trying to go up and down it at the same time even though there was room for only one person at a time…you gotta love Mexico! I gingerly made my way down encountering steps that creaked and buckled under my weight—eeek!Once I arrived ,again there was a large group of people but I easily ignored them as I was captivated by Bolochojool’s incredible beauty. Amidst stalactites and beams of natural light I again stripped down and swam lost in the purity of this underground world.

Going down the ladder at Bolonchojool

Our last stop on this incredible tour was centote Chak-Zinik-Che. Another beautiful spot where once again we swam and snapped a few photos. Then it was time to board our cart for the trip back which involved stopping the cart and taking it off the tracks when 2 or more other carts came our way as there were only one set of tracks going to each cenote. I was amazed at how efficient our guides were and we were quite amused by the whole experience. As the other carts sped past the Pony Express came to mind. Once we arrived at the entrance I took an apple out of my bag and offered it to Pirata who sniffed it and turned his nose up at it!! My family has a guest ranch and I have never seen a horse who didn’t love a fresh green apple. I tried giving it to one of the other horses and they too declined.Jose told me that they didn’t like apples…I imagine that they have never been offered one before that day.

Chak-Zinik-Che cenote

We thanked our guides and made our way to our truck it had been a truly amazing experience.We were hungry and thirsty so decided to look for a place to stop before driving on to Chichen. We came across a sign for a place called Hacienda Tepich. We followed the signs and were quite surprised when we arrived at an actual Hacienda. I will leave that for another day and another blog.I hope that you have enyoyed reading about our Easter Yucatan Adventure so far.I would love to hear your thoughts.

Pony Express

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As I mentioned in my previous blog my husband and I decided to get out of Cancun on Sunday and visit a few cenotes in the Yucatan. There are many cenotes scattered all over the Yucatan and Quintana Roo and gradually through the years we are getting to know them all. We had originally planned to leave Cancun Sunday morning and go to Chichen Itza to visit Il Kil cenote then spend the night in Chichen and on Monday visit Cuzama and then make the long drive home. Hubby wisely suggested that we visit Cuzama first and then drive to Chichen and spend the night and then go to Il Kil the next day.

We wanted to get an early start so we planned to be on the road by 6am and we made a quick pit stop at McDonald’s and had breakfast on the road…not a very healthy way to start the day, I know, but it was convenient. We turned on the radio and much to our dismay heard that it was actually 7am and not 6am as the clocks had gone forward 1 hour and we had forgotten–damn…one hour lost. We had anticipated a 4-4.5 hour drive to Cuzama  but we were pleasantly surprised to arrive after only 3.5 hours; however, I was none too pleased that we had already spent about $40 CDN on toll highways and consumed 1 tank of gas!

Hubby enjoying a sausage McMuffin and egg

We passed through a town called Acanceh on our way to Cuzama  hubby and I were quite amused to see  their “taxis” which were small motorcycles attached at the back to a box like structure with a seat. It reminded me of the “tuk -tuks” in Thailand except the motorcycles are in front and the ones in Acenceh were much more  primitive. http://www.into-asia.com/Bangkok/tuktuk/ Hubby was using our Flip recorder to catch all of the sights as we slowly made our way through town to Cuzama.

Once we arrived we were greeted by a gentleman who explained to us what to expect on out visit. Normally the tour of the 3 cenotes takes 2.5 hours but because there were so many people due to Semana Santa they had extended it to 3 hours. The cost was 200 pesos (about $17 )  for our guided tour on a horse-drawn cart along an old railway track. Our guide, Luis Antonio, and our “driver” Jose ushered us onto our cart to begin our journey with our horse Pirata (Pirate) leading the way. I asked Luis about the railway tracks and he informed me with a nostalgic look that when he was a young boy his father and his father’s friends used to cultivate “milpa” corn and they put the crude railway tracks down to move the corn from the fields into town. After many years of almost drought like conditions they were forced to seek work in Merida to support their families and they had to give up their families’ business. Now many years later the tracks have been repaired and the carts have been adapted in order to carry both national and foreign tourists to enjoy the natural wonders of that area.

Luis and our cart minus Jose and Pirata

We arrived at our first cenote Chelentun after a rocky ride along the tracks that involved Luis stamping his foot down along the cart at every turn to keep us on the tracks…imagine Fred Flintstone driving techniques. Luis told us we had 30 minutes to explore. We excitedly left the cart and made our way along the path to the cenote.On that note I will end this blog and continue it on another day soon.

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I haven’t been feeling very bloggy lately and I guess that could be attributed to the fact that  I haven’t really done anything that interesting for awhile to write about here so I decided to look through some of my photos and see if anything inspired me. I came across a small file of when my husband and I and Erika and Freddy went to Las Mojarras Cenote for the day..

First of all what is a cenote? A cenote is a sinkhole containing groundwater that is surrounded by exposed rocky edges. The Yucatan Peninsula and some nearby Caribbean Islands are where you will most likely find them. Some cenotes are subterranean and others are easily accessible and above ground. Many divers explore the underground cenotes but you can also explore many of them using snorkeling gear. For more in depth information click here:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cenote  Also, you can read about when we went to Rio Secreto ( an underground river) https://ashlied.wordpress.com/2009/10/29/rio-secreto   and Cenote Dzunip in Valladolid, https://ashlied.wordpress.com/2009/10/15/my-weekend-away-part-2

Las Mojarras Cenote is located at Carretera Puerto Morelos – Central Vallarta Km 12.5 Ejido de Puerto Morelos , Ruta de los Cenotes Puerto Morelos TEL: 01-998-848-28-31

Freddie, Cesar and Erika in our Palapa

We decided to go on a Sunday so after packing up our beach chairs, our cooler and bug spray (a must!) we set off in my truck for the day. Las Mojarras is about 35-40 minutes from Cancun and involves turning off the Ruta de Cenotes and onto a dirt road that cuts through the jungle in a zigzag route for the last 15 minutes of the drive. Once you arrive you are greeted by one of the owners and after paying about $12 (120 pesos – a local’s price) you are then taken to your own palapa with a view of the cenote.

 Be prepared to be eaten alive if you don’t take bug spray and insect coils that you must strategically place around your palapa and picnic table. We came packing enough bug ammo for a small army so after setting up we enjoyed a nice picnic and a game of dominoes. Then it was time to explore the cenote. Las Mojarras have a zip line that goes across half of the cenote on one side and also one that goes across the other half on the other side. They also provide life jackets for those that need them as well as floating devices so that you can lay back and float around and enjoy the afternoon sun. You can also jump or dive off a high platform if you are so inclined…which Freddy and I both did!

The Zip Line

The water was very warm which is quite unusual for a cenote so we spent most of the day swimming, flying along the zip line and jumping into the water. A young German couple were also there with their two small children and we were amazed to see how fearless both the little girl and boy were and how much they loved jumping off the high platform.

 When the sun started to slip down the horizon it was time to pack up and make our way home to Cancun. It had been a thoroughly enjoyable day and as I write this I am thinking that it is time to plan another day trip to Las Mojarras Cenote.

Las Mojarras Cenote

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