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Top 5 Cave Diving Locations in Tulum, Riviera Maya
Getting your open water dive certification can be an end in itself, or it could be the beginning. If you’re looking for new adventures and want to explore some stunningly beautiful and deeply mysterious environments, then cavern or cave diving could be for you. You’ll find underwater caves across the world, but for the biggest and best you’ll want to travel to Mexico. Here’s a round-up of five of the best cave diving experiences in and around Tulum and the Riviera Maya.
Gran Cenote is the main entrance of Sistema Sac Actun, a maze of over 130 interconnected caves that make up the second-largest underwater gallery in the world as well as being the longest cave system. The cavern offers great visibility at the entrance where you might spot a turtle or two, around the lily pads. Travel further in to admire the stunning white stalactites and stalagmites, visibility in the Gran Cenote is generally good to exceptionally good.
As you’d expect at such a well-developed and world-famous tourist destination all needs are catered for, with lockers, changing rooms, and showers at the site. As of 2017, this cenote is only open to technical divers so you will need your cave diving certificate to explore. Well established dives in the Gran Cenote include the Cusana Loop and the Paso del Lagarto.
Cenote Nohoch Nah Chich
Also known as The Giant Bird Cage, Nohoch Nah Chich is considered to be one of the most beautiful Riviera Maya cave diving locations. Until the discovery of Sistema Ox Bel Ha, Nohoch nah Chich was also officially the worlds biggest underwater cave system. Stalagmites and stalactites abound and the crystal clear waters makes it a favoured site for underwater photography. The system offers lots of options for long, shallow dives. Cave diving certification is required to explore the Nohoch nah Chich.
Cenote Chan Hol
The name translates as small hole, and Chan Hol is certainly one of the smaller cenotes used for Tulum cave diving. It’s also one of the more recent editions to the diving map, having been first explored only in 2004. Since this time discoveries in Chan Hol include a pre-ice-age skeleton (now recovered) and ancient Mayan water pots, which can still be seen on a shelf just inside the entrance. Early dives at the site were difficult due to tight access and silty water, conditions have been improved and Chan Hol has much to offer to divers with cave certification who wish to explore within the light pool or beyond.
Cenote Dos Pisos
This is another site for which cave diver certification is required and one for which an advanced level of diving skills is recommended. The entrance is narrow so the sidemount configuration is preferred to grant easier access. Sights to enjoy in Dos Pisos include, the Room of Roots, an underwater grotto penetrated by roots from overhead trees, which form a unique wooden curtain. Beyond the Room of Roots, two distinct tunnels one on top of the other can be found, it was this which gave the cenote its name, which translates to ‘two floors’. One of these passages extends down to 24 metres, which, it should be noted is beyond the depth covered by cave diving certification. However, there’s plenty to see at the more shallow levels which are well within the proficiency of a qualified cave diver.
Since being used as a location for the film ‘Amazing Caves’ Dos Ojos has become one of the best known cave diving locations in the world, many divers also consider it to be the best. Dos Ojos, translates to ‘two eyes’ and when viewed from the air it can be seen that the cenote has two portals, all diving begins from the east eye however. From here there is a choice of two lines to follow.
The first route, the ‘Barbie line’ follows a 520 meter circuit, with a maximum depth of 7 meters. The shallowness of the line, clarity of the water and good light penetration make this the preferred choice for anyone wanting to enjoy the bright white rock formations for which the cenote is famed.
The other option, the ‘Batcave line’ penetrates beyond the light pool, as the name implies. The reduced light levels, and narrower passages make this a more technically challenging dive.
Cavern or Cave Diving
There’s sometimes confusion about the difference between cavern and cave diving but the distinction between them is actually pretty simple. Stay within sight of the entrance to a cave, at a point where natural sunlight penetrates and you’re cavern diving. Move beyond the light and you’re into the cave environment.
If you arrive in Tulum Mexico with your cave diving certificate you’ll be able to book directly onto the tours and adventures of your choice. If you don’t yet have an overhead environment certificate, the clear and warm waters of the cenotes offer an ideal learning environment.
As you’d expect there are plenty of dive schools who’ll provide you with the necessary training to take your diving to this new and thrilling level. Assuming you have your advanced open water certification, have a minimum of 20 logged dives and can demonstrate good buoyancy, cavern diving training takes around 4 days. You can complete a full cave diving course in 7 days.
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