Cenote Zapote – See Hells Bells in All Their Glory
Cenote Zapote is one-of-a-kind. The cenote gains its official name from the Zapote trees which grow around the vibrant jungle entrance. From above ground, it could be any one of the Yucatan Peninsula’s incredibly beautiful water-filled sinkholes, surrounded by stunning jungle and with the sounds of birds and insects rising from all around you…
But when you dive beneath the translucent blue water, sinking deeper into the depths of the cavern, you will eventually find the alien-looking rock formations which give the sinkhole its other name – Hells Bells Cenote.
No one seems to know what led to these formations – or why they cannot be found elsewhere. One thing is for sure – they will be one of the sights you will always remember about cenote diving in Playa del Carmen.
How to get to Hells Bells cenote
Cenote Zapote Eco-park is easy to find – and eponymously-named cenote is one of three located inside.
To get there, you will want to travel north from Playa del Carmen until you reach Puerto Morelos. There, turn left onto the so-called Routa de los Cenotes and travel west for around 20 km. The sign should indicate that you’re heading to Central Vallarta and Hol-Box too.
When you hit the 20 km mark, you should see a turn off with a large Zapote Eco-park and Kin-Ha Natural Park sign. The gravel road is around 6 km long and the turning for the cenote clearly marked.
Cenote Zapote – diving, eco-park – check the prices for Cenote Adventures
There are great facilities at this cenote – as you might expect from an organised park. There are some car parking spots, bathrooms and toilets, open-air showers and two platforms for jump-diving into the cenote.
Regarding the latter, you will want to spot these early (and possibly have a go) before preparing your gear on the far side of the cenote and orientating yourself so you know where to surface safely away from divers afterwards.
Surrounding the cenote, Zapote Eco-park is well worth taking the time to explore. There are some wonderful flora and fauna, some hints of Mayan culture and the opportunity to go on a walking or biking tour of the area. That is on top of the zip lines and other adventure activities!
We will provide you with all the necessary equipment for this dive.
Certification: you need to have advanced dive qualifications.
The topography of the cavern
Hells Bells Cenote is shaped something like a giant hourglass. If you dive down to 20 meters you pass through the centre of the “glass” and emerge into a large chamber hidden beneath the floor of the cavern “top” above.
In this lower chamber, you will reach a cloud of hydrogen sulfide at around 35 meters. Stray fingers of dead branches and trees can be seen poking up through this misty bottom.
But it is in this cave where the “Hells Bells” can be seen – truly bizarre rock formations which you will find nowhere else. Everything is illuminated by an eerie greenish-blue light from above.
The surface of Hells Bells is perfect for swimming. The tropical jungle above is lush, there are green lilypads dotting the water and you can hear birdsong from the surrounding trees.
The light and the cloud
The deep layer of hydrogen sulfide lends a creepy air to the lower part of the cavern. When paired with the “Bells” themselves and the strange light, the effect can be disorientating for the inexperienced.
But most people would argue it is the very strangeness makes diving in this cave such a unique experience.
The lower portion of the cave is in an overhead environment, so do make sure you’ve done the proper training.
The very bottom of the cenote is beneath the hydrogen sulfide cloud. Very few people will go down through it. If you do, be aware that it will be completely pitch-black. There is a line laid out around the debris cone and fallen trees at the very base.
Q. How deep is the cenote?
A. The base of the hydrogen sulfide cloud can be as deep as 42 meters down, but you can get beneath it to see the true bottom.
Q. What time of day is best to dive?
A. Any time of day is good to dive here, although you will want to be aware that the park may get busier after early morning. The middle parts of the day give the sun the best chance of shining down to deeper depths and producing a more impressive light show, however!
Q. Is the cenote fresh water or salt water?
A. This cenote is fresh water.
Q. Can I bring a camera?
A. Yes. Whether you are on the surface of Cenote Zapote or diving, bring a camera. It is a wonder of natural beauty. Please mind that there might be a Gopro usage charge for some cenotes
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