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Yucatan Cenotes - Underwater Sinkholes

Posted: Tuesday, August 07, 2012
  • Cenotes Underwater Sinkholes
  • Yucatan Cenotes - Underwater Sinkholes
  • Yucatan Cenotes - Underwater Sinkholes
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Though an initial glance at the words may suggest the Yucatán cenotes are places that print illegal $100 bills, further investigation reveals that "cenote" is actually pronounced "suh-NOH-tee", and refers to a naturally occurring underwater sinkhole filled with crystalline fresh water. The series of chimerical blue abysses dotting Mexico's southeast peninsular state are the results of inward collapsed limestone bedrock; today, 2,400 Yucatán cenotes have been studied and registered, though the area houses upwards of 6,000. The conventional image of a cenote is a large circular mouth, 30+ feet in diameter, with edges providing clean downward drops to the slowly infiltrating rain water at its base. But most cenotes require their explorers to navigate a few obstacles, stooping and crawling to access the coveted pool.

In ancient times, the Mayans put the 100+ foot watery drops to use during sacrifices to their gods, the most famous being the Sacred Cenote of Chichen Itza. Today the peninsula's cenotes serve more as tourist attractions and sirens to adrenaline junkies and cave divers. A particularly well-known pit outside Pisté in the Municipality of Tinúm, called Ik Kil, was even a stop on the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series in 2010 and 2011.

Particularly alluring for those less inclined to get their jollies by diving head-first into a precariously deep hole might be the antique wooden buggy tour of the major cenotes of Cuzamá, a city in central Yucatán. The tour winds through the area's sisal hemp plantations, stopping along the way at three massive cenotes for relaxing dips and vertical descents to ear-popping depths. Road travel time runs approximately 45 minutes, with a minimum stay of 30 to 40 minutes at each cenote, depending on the day's crowds. Cenote stops include the stalactite- and stalagmite-speckled Chelentun ("laying down rock"), Chansinic'che ("tree with small ants"), and Bolonchoojol ("nine drops of water").

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