For once in my life, I arrived in a new country with my travel plans were entirely in someone else’s hands. And we really did jump into the deep end at the start of this trip… literally, at least.
Our very first day in Mexico was very relaxed, as some of our group had been travelling for nearly thirty hours. We went to explore the famous cenotes (natural sinkholes) along the coast of Quintana Roo, the area in which we were staying. We wandered through forests, watching out for certain trees (some have spikes, some burn you if you touch them, some are home to ants that bite… nature’s badass here) and certain animals (we saw a boa constrictor, amongst other things). After a quick walk, we found ourselves at the first of three cenotes, and dived straight in.
About the same size as an Olympic pool but infinitely more fun, the fresh water cenote is full of fish that swim right beside you. The water is beautifully clear, allowing you to completely misjudge the rocky bottom and gracelessly slip several feet under the water, as I did. Aside from this, our hour in the first cenote was one of the most relaxing times in my life. In the water you are completely surrounded by trees and natural rock formations, and the only thing interrupting the natural soundtrack of birdsong is the human noise of the few people around you. Our small group were the only ones in the water for the majority of our time there. If you have an underwater camera, and snorkelling equipment, you won’t regret bringing it.
The second pool was mostly sheltered within a cave, with a few rays of natural sunlight providing us with a dim light that made for an even more serene setting than before. Where the rays pooled the water was a stunning lapis lazuli blue, and the reflected light on the rock walls danced as we entered the water. A single boulder marooned in the middle of this cenote became the perfect diving spot, as the water here was at least ten feet deep. An iguana (we christened him Ian) kept a watchful eye on us from the steps down to the waters edge as we larked about and explored, and watched scuba divers emerge from one of the most famous cave diving sites in the world. The underwater tunnels here are vast and innumerable, stretching out along the entire coastline of Quintana Roo, meaning the extraordinary cave diving experiences here are unequivocal. For that same reason they are also extremely dangerous, and you’re not allowed to dive here without a guide.
We also got the opportunity to explore a third cenote and cave on foot. This one had little natural light and a low-hanging rocky ceiling, with tree roots trailing down from the few gaps that there were above us. Inside by the waters edge were many small religious offerings and remnants of past ceremonies. Several candles were still lit, giving the cavernous space a peaceful and spiritual atmosphere. We were told it was believed by the Maya that the ancient rain god Chaac lived at the bottom of cenotes, and consequently many people still come to these places for prayer and rituals.
On our slow return back to the visitor entrance it began to rain, but it was warm and refreshing after a long swim. We were given a little hut to dry off in and some fruit to snack on, before being whisked off to drink beer in a rooftop beachside bar. It was a fantastic first day experience and began my love affair with Mexico – I highly recommend it to you.