Where we’re at: I’m recapping my travels in 2019, including this trip to Mexico in April when I did some cenote diving in Tulum.
One thing was for certain about my second trip to Mexico — I wasn’t leaving that country again without going diving. And while we had a busy week with a beach wedding and exploring the topside of Tulum, I am so grateful for the truly incredible day I spent diving in Mexico’s mystical, magical cenotes.
Ever since completing my PADI Cavern Diver speciality certification in Central Florida, I’ve been itching to head to Mexico’s famed freshwater cenotes. I’d selected Infinity Diving for its great location in Tulum Pueblo as well as its status as a 5-Star PADI Dive Resort.
When the big moment arrived I made my way to their cute and colorful dive shop bright and early so we could finalize a plan for the day. With about 16 cavern sites within 30 minutes of the dive shop, we were spoiled for choice. While the staff asked if I had any request I demurred and let my guide Peggy lead the way, and I’m so glad I did.
Our first stop of the day was Casa Cenote, and we were the first divers of the day in the water there. It’s an incredible dive site first thing in the morning when the visibility is flawless, Peggy had mused. Less so in the afternoon, after students stir up the bottom doing their confined sessions there. I was grateful to have it to ourselves.
The dive started along a peaceful stream, where we slipped under the mangroves, admiring a familiar eco-system from a new angle. Roots twisted and curled into sculpture-like formations all around us — it was stunning, a complete departure from the cavern dives I’d done before in Florida.
And there was so much else to see. We spotted shy crabs, lazy tarpon, and a skittish moray. We also found evidence of the full life cycle within this cenote — a decomposing turtle skeleton, and brain coral fossils showing that this cenote was one part of the ocean.
But our most exciting discovery was still to come. When Peggy briefed me on the dive, she let me know that there was a very good chance that the resident alligator would be around. She gauged my reaction and asked if I wanted to go up to see him or keep our distance, with either answer being perfectly acceptable. I appreciated her low-pressure vibe, and found myself intrigued. We’d say hi, if he was around, we decided.
He was. Going by Panchito or Simon, depending on who you ask, our scaly friend is a regular at Casa Cenote, and isn’t fussed by the divers and snorkelers that splash around all day every day. After a while of observing from a distance, I felt comfortable enough to approach a bit closer and get some photos that had me squealing into my regulator. An awe-inspiring dive, indeed.
Back on land, we tossed our gear in the back of the truck and hit the road again.
Next, we were on to Carwash, a famous dive site very close to Tulum Pueblo. It’s an incredibly popular cave dive, but Peggy assured me the dive accessible to me was spectacular — and she was not exaggerating. I am so grateful for the time I spent with Peggy, a México City transplant who I got to know over our surface intervals and lunch of tamalés from the best tamalé guy in town (honestly, I’d dive with Infinity again for the tamalés alone.)
Peggy moved to Tulum from her hometown of Mexico City long before it was cool, when friends asked her what she was thinking moving out to the middle of nowhere! Now they clamor to visit. I loved hearing her perspective on the Tulum backlash that seems to be en vogue right now, as well as how the destination has grown and changed over the years.
Then it was time to dive again, and we descended into crystal lily-filled waters with snorkelers peeping us from the surface.
We swam toward the cathedral-like cavern, my eyes growing bigger inside my mask as I started to register the size of it. Mayans believed that cenotes were an entrance to the underworld, and at Carwash, it’s easy to see why. The cathedral-like cavern stretches open like a mouth, filled with tooth-like stalagmites and stalactites.
Carefully following the lines set through the gaping interior, we marveled at the enormous haunting vistas, and the petite ruins of pottery left by ancient civilizations.
Departing the cavern, we both still had plenty of air, so we headed towards the denser, deeper lily pad groves. While I’ve yet to dive them myself, with lilies arching over me in every direction, I imagined it was a similar feeling to diving California’s famed kelp forests. Peggy had briefed me that there was sometimes a teeny little gator at this dive site, too, and while I kept my eyes peeled, he remained hidden.
Finally, reluctantly, we returned to land, me more in love with Tulum than ever after a day spent in the depths of it.
The cool thing? While I am cavern certified, you only need to be an Open Water Diver to experience both of these dive sites! Your dive instructor will make sure you have a great — and safe — experience regardless of your training level. That said, if you’re kind of curious about cave diving and want to stick the tiniest baby toe in to see if maybe it’s something for you, I can’t recommend the cavern course with an experienced instructor more highly.
Infinity Diving is in the heart of Tulum Pueblo — perfect for those who take my advice of staying in town instead of on the beach! I loved diving with them for several reasons. They run trips to both the local reefs and the local caverns with a maximum group size of four divers — meaning you don’t need to luck out to get the kind of personalized service I did. Their two-tank dive packages start at $150.
I asked Peggy what sets Infinity apart from the competition and she smiled when she said the passion of the instructors — they dive every day in this area and have been for years, and yet on their days off you’ll often find them fun diving, or taking training courses of their own! Forever learning, forever diving — the infinity mantra.
Guys, two dives was not enough. I think it probably goes without saying this day only multiplied my obsession with returning to Mexico to do more diving, in Tulum and beyond.
What a way to be humbled by the power of nature.
“The lasting pleasures of contact with the natural world are not reserved for scientists but are available to anyone who will place himself under the influence of earth, sea and sky and their amazing life.” — Rachel Carson
Is cenote diving on your bucket list?
Many thanks to Infinity Diving for hosting me. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.