The name might be uninspiring. But the dive is anything but. Cave diving in the Pit Cenote in Mexico is one of the best dives on the Yucatan Peninsula. With a stunning 100-foot pillar of light illuminating the halocline and gas cloud layers, the effects of the illumination in this underwater cave really have to be seen to be believed. There’s a reason why it’s known as the “Dream Dive” around the Ko’ox club.
On sunny days, the light show in the vast cenote is absolutely mesmerising.
El Pit Cenote is located 15 minutes drive from the Ko’ox Diving Shop. It is around 22km north of Tulum and 54km south of Playa del Carmen along the road which links the two towns.
The cenote itself is located in Dos Ojos Natural Park, itself well worth exploring. All you need to do is follow the signs for Dos Ojos Cenote along the highway and turn off when indicated. You’ll soon see the small building where you can register and pay the small entrance fee.
Once you’ve signed in and paid, carry on into the park along the road past Dos Ojos Cenote (although this is also definitely worth checking out if you have time) until you see the sign for “The Pit”.
After this, the road becomes more of a track than anything else, but don’t worry – you’re going the right way! Around 10-15 minutes further on you’ll reach the small facilities around the opening down into the first cavern. Here you can park and there are dive tables for each parking space so you can put your gear together.
A closely guarded secret until quite recently, access to the cavern is becoming easier all the time. As recently as 2010 there was very little support for anyone other than the most intrepid of divers. A hike through the jungle was necessary to reach the entrance, whereupon you’d have to swing down a rope or go through a short but difficult climb to get into the water. Today, however, there is greatly simplified access and increased facilities.
Diving in El Pit cenote with Ko’ox is a 1-tank dive and the temperature of the water is a cool 78°F. Snorkeling is also possible and comes highly recommended.
We will provide you with all the necessary equipment for this dive: 5mm wetsuit, boots, fins, mask, BCD or a plate with harness and wing, DIN regulators scuba pro, Hog, aqualung, apex, dive computer, lights and a Go Pro camera. But like many cenotes in Mexico, when diving El Pit we do recommend that you bring biological bug spray.
Classification: you need to have an advanced open water certificate or show proof that you have done deep dives.
From the surface, The Pit is an oval-shaped hole in the ground with steps leading down into the water. While still on or near the surface you can see stalactites on the ceiling beneath the overhang and make out where a waterfall may have flowed through the wall when the water level was far lower than it is now. You can also see some small remains left behind by an archaeological team which found some bones and a skull in the cave dating to around 10 000 years ago.
Underwater, El Pit is one of the deepest cenotes in the area – it’s the deepest part of the huge Sistema Dos Ojos, which is the third largest underwater cave system in the world. Shaped something like a giant hourglass, the first cave drops to around 120 feet in depth. It’s been remarked many times that you could fit an entire jumbo jet inside this first cavern with room to spare. When you’re down there, the empty space feels truly immense. After you pass through a narrower section, you reach another chamber – the Wakulla room – which falls away to nearly another 300 feet below the surface. This isn’t usually part of the dive which you’ll have with us, though – the main points of interest are in the first cavern:
Around 40-60 feet down in the first chamber is the halocline, the line where the fresh water and salt water meet. Here your view gets very interesting because of the way the light beams break apart in different ways as the waters meet.
You might have some difficulty taking pictures when you’re actually inside this layer as camera lenses don’t seem to handle the effect well, but if you’re looking up from beneath the halocline, it’s easy to take a beautiful image or three – or a dozen.
The light show in El Pit is one of its biggest draws. And to the naked eye, the play of the light is wondrous.
Below the halocline, around 100 feet down, is a cloud of hydrogen sulphur. This makes for a murky, eerie sight as you pass through it, made even more so by the floating detritus like branches and fallen rocks which can loom out of the gloom. A small distance beneath this layer is the rocky bottom of the first cavern.
The halocline and acid cloud layers lend some serious interest to the dive. But the light which penetrates the cavern from the top right down to the cloud layer 100 feet beneath is truly awe-inspiring. Best seen on sunny days and admired from some distance below the surface, the view is one of the best to be found cave diving in Mexico.
Q. How long is the dive?
A. Around 40 minutes.
Q. How deep will we go?
A. Though the cavern stretches some distance beneath, we will go down to 120 feet. This is deep enough to see the stunning pillar of light which is one of the most talked-about features of El Pit, as well as the intriguing halocline layer and hydrogen sulphur cloud.
Q. How far can I see when we get down there?
A. Visibility in El Pit stretches to around 100 feet and often more.
Q. Is there an entrance fee?
A. Yes, there is a small entrance fee for the upkeep of the facilities.
Q. Can I park?
A. Yes, there are parking spaces.
Q. Are there a bathroom and showers?
A. Yes, there is an ecological bathroom and showers.
Q. Can I buy food and drinks there?
A. No, there’s no shop at the cenote.
Q. How easy is it to get into the cenote?
A. These days, very easy. There are some nice stairs leading down into the water and a small area of decking to enable easier access. A rope and pulley system ensure that equipment can be raised and lowered out independently. It’s considered polite tip the person providing this service.
Dive time: 40 minutes!
Depth: 120 feet!
Temperature: 78 degrees Fahrenheit!
Tanks: 1 dive
Calcification: Advance open water or show proof that you heave done deep dives.
Bathrooms: Yes, ecological!
Entrance fee: Yes!
Visibility: 100 feet or more
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