Diving the Cenotes of the Yucatan, Mexico

March 28th, 2009

Diving the Cenotes near Playa del Carmen, Mexico.

Dive guide, Nicholas of www.cenotexperience.com.mx

Nicholas is a Cave/Cavern dive guide who got hooked on diving only 6 years ago and moved to the area in order to make a living doing it full time. We had contacted him several weeks before our trip to discuss a dive day with him and decided on Saturday, March 28th. Since we are both experienced divers, Nicholas decided that we should go ahead and dive a cenote that most of the dive ops do not take divers to see. The harbor at PDC had been closed for 3 days so he expected all the famous cenotes in the area to be busy, but Dream Gates would not. This cenote was only opened to the public this past year and is quite pristine and highly decorated with stalagmites and stalagtites. Nicholas met us at the ferry pier and we walked to where is truck was parked nearby. After about 30 minute drive south of PDC, we arrived at the entrance to the property and off we went down a bumpy dirt road. Dream Gates cenote is situated in very thick jungle area. Though hard to see at first , a metal staircase was visible from the parking area. The opening of the cenote was maybe 50-60' across and the metal staircase descended down to a wooden platform inside. A pulley rig on the side of the stairs is used there for lowering tanks in and out which was nice. It was really warm and muggy at the site and Nicholas told us that after April, most cenote sites are unbearably hot and mosquitos attack like vultures. We were glad it wasn't summer yet!

My Video: Cenote Dives at Dream Gates

Dive 1: Dream Gates-Upstream

After carrying our gear down the stairs and gearing up, we climbed into the cool water. Following Nicholas, we slowly descended into the opening and staying within sight of the line we entered the first large room in a series which loop around in a large circle. The exit opening was always in sight and we were never more than 25' deep for the entire dive. Wow! The formations from the roof of the cavern and formations all around the room were amazing and far more gorgeous than photos can ever capture. I was in awe of the beauty and spent the entire dive saying "wow" through my regulator. Some of the formations reached all the way to the floor and formed huge columns. Other formations looked like sculptures and others looked like skulls and faces. It was very cool and very eerie at the same time. We made a large circle and reached the beginning point then turned and went back through the site the other direction. This was the same place but looked completely different. Since the Rule of Thirds was in affect and Ron and I both were good on air, we had just reached the first third point when we hit the turn around point which was also the entrance. We looped around and followed the line right back the way we came. We finished the dive with approx 1000psi and around 52 minutes underwater.

After the first dive, we climbed up the ladder to the truck to eat the lunch Nicholas had provided - water, juice, and sub sandwiches. No restrooms are there at this site so the bushes are your friends. We spent about an hour topside chatting and Nicholas took us down a path to show us the two small eye holes which we would be seeing on the second dive. Both openings are only 2-3' across and one has a ladder leading out of it. We returned back to the truck and after switching out tanks, we geared up for the second dive. This dive started at the same area but lead around to another opening.

Dive 2: Dream Gates - Downstream

Entering the water at the same point, we swam around the collapsed area of the cenote to another opening. This section of the cenote is called "downstream" as this is the direction which the water is flowing towards to ocean. Though not quite as decorated as the first section, this dive had more color and a different feel to it. About halfway we entered the domed area with the two openings. We surfaced and removed our regs and admired the room which was much larger than we expected. Birds and bats were flying around inside the air dome and the water appeared greenish. Nicholas explained that the color comes from the decomposing plant life. After a few minutes we descended again and off into a huge room full of gorgeous stalagmites and stalagtites, columns and formations that looked like giant jellyfish to me. Wow! Tiny fish live in both areas of the cenote and followed us using our lights in order to hunt and eat tiny shrimp. Nicholas also stopped at one point to show us a blind fish that lives deep in the darkness of the cenotes. Once again we finished the dive with plenty of air and about 50 minutes underwater. Awesome, awesome, awesome dives!

After the dive we changed clothes and loaded the gear into the truck. Nicholas dropped us back off at the ferry pier at approx 3pm. It was a fantastic day and the cenotes were even more beautiful that we had expected. We will definitely have to go back soon and visit other sites: Dos Ojos, Gran Cenote, Ponderosa, Chac Mool, and several other cenotes open for Cavern Diving. Nicholas did a fantastic job and we highly recommend him to anyone interested in diving the cenotes of the Yucatan. We will use him again.