Thursday, November 15, 2018

Yucatan sinkholes

This was the big adventure of the trip (as if cave diving isn't an adventure in itself). We were going to be Under the Jungle's guinea pigs for their trips to sinkhole land in the Yucatan. We wrapped up our day of diving at Dos Palmas early and struck west for Izamal.

Izamal is a beautiful city near Merida and one of Mexico's pueblo magicos. It is known as the Yellow City as most of the buildings in the city are painted yellow to honor the visit of Pope John Paul II who visited there in 1993. It is also called the City of Hills - these hills are actually the remains of ancient Mayan temple pyramids.

We spent the evening walking around the city center, exploring the cathedral and visiting a native Mayan art museum.
Dinner was at Kinich, a restaurant that specialized in Yucatan cuisine which is redonk delicious and, strangely enough, features Dutch cheese in a few of the dishes.
After a night at an adorbs B&B, we began the drive into remoter parts of the region to finally get to what we came here for - sinkholes!!

Our first destination, Chin Dzonot, took us through small villages, jungle roads, barbed wire gates and, eventually, fields of cow poop. We learned some valuable new cave diving skills that day with some new equipment - how to use poop boots and get through those fields without slipping and falling. For extra credit, I did the same walk in my drysuit and only slipped once.
The tanks had to be lowered down into the water using a rope and pulleys as we scrambled down a wet slope to get to the cenote itself.
After gearing up in the water with bats flying about overhead, we dropped down into green murk. Close to the surface, the tree roots and stalactites backlit by the dim green ambient light made for a creepy but insanely cool atmosphere. Once we got to the debris cone, we struck out towards the circuit line that Rory had installed during his exploration and pretty much stayed on it for the entire dive. This was one of the tightest cave dives with lowest visibility that I've ever done but, even so, the black rock with gold striations were really pretty. We tried taking some photos but the conditions didn't cooperate. There were lots of sponges and isopods near the debris cone which were fun to light up.
-> 49min, 90ft, 77F

We had the cutest little puppy keep us company the entire time we were on the surface. We almost brought him home. I mean, look at him. I can't even.
Once we caught our breath after all the squealing over the pupper, we headed out of the cow fields towards our second destination, Cenote Xoch. This one was a lot more civilized even though access to it was down a set of ladders through the rock.
The dive here was mostly in blue water along the sides of the sinkhole which belled out a couple of times as we went deeper. There was also a really cool swimthrough which had me scraping my tanks and drysuit inflator as I went through. A few catfish, shrimp and freshwater sponges kept us company during the dive.
-> 46min, 92ft, 77F

We were done diving for the day but Nat's local contact took us to another gorgeous place, Cenote Ucil. This one is small but super deep and is used for freediving competitions and trimix training.
This was an absolutely amazing experience overall and I can't wait to go to more of these. Under the Jungle is actively exploring these sinkholes and is constantly adding to their list of ones to dive. Can't wait to do this again!

 - U