Diving in Casa Cenote

Jun 6, 2008

Ever since it was mentioned to us by our cave diving instructor, Steve, we've been meaning to head down to Casa Cenote to check it out. A couple months ago we drove by just to see it, but it was a Sunday, so it was mobbed by locals who were enjoying a nice day in the sun and we weren't prepared to dive there, so we just drove by and went home.

We finally got an opportunity to dive there this week with Patrick and Katy. Patrick just got back from 6 weeks in Austria and Katy just got back from two months in Russia, so this was going to be their first fun dive back in Mexico. Patrick was nice enough to drive, so we piled in his pickup with all our dive equipment and headed down.

Casa Cenote is a long, dog-legged cenote that is connected to the ocean via a cave that runs under the little road separating the cenote from the beach-front houses there. You can literally see the ocean from the cenote and even feel the flow of the water out to sea while you're swimming. Here's the view from the road looking at the Cenote.

It cost us 20 pesos each to dive there (not sure what it would cost to just swim there) and we parked to the side of the cenote and started setting up our gear.

Katy and I were diving backmount, so we were buddies, and Hans and Patrick were both diving sidemount, so they were independent divers. Hans took the opportunity to show us just how sexy a sidemount helmet can look when modeled with perfection.

Once we finally got all our equipment ready, we headed into the water. You have to swim quite a ways up the cenote if you plan to dive on the "upstream" side. (See hubby's blog for more on the whole "upstream, downstream" debate). Once we found the place where we wanted to enter the cave system, we tied off and headed in.

The water was quite interesting. Because it's connected to the ocean, there's salt water entering the cenote from one side and fresh water entering from the other. Unlike your normal Mayan Riviera cenote, there are mangroves surrounding Casa Cenote, so there was also a layer of water about one foot thick at the surface where the water was tannic, stained reddish by the leaves and other organic material rotting. As you enter the mouth of the cave, the water is blurry because the halocline (a natural separation between salt and fresh water, much like oil and water) is being disturbed by the force of the fresh water exiting the cave. So after a few minutes of navigating in low visibility, we finally got well enough inside the cave for the water to clear up.

We chose to follow a different route than Hans had chosen when he came and dove Casa Cenote before by himself. The first part of the cave was a little boring (what?!? I'm spoiled by living here!) but after our first T intersection it got a lot more beautiful.

You could tell by the sheer amount of percolation caused by our own bubbles (percolation is when your exhausted air bubbles cause silt and other debris to rain down from the roof of the cave) and the easy silting of the cave floor that people don't dive there very often. You could also tell that by the looks we got from the Mexicans as we were entering and exiting the water that they thought all our gear was a little overkill.

We ended up inadvertently completing a circuit because we made a left and one intersection and after 20 minutes or so ended up back at the first intersection. So we called the dive and returned the way we went in. We didn't have a map, so we were just going to go on the line until we reached our air consumption limits.

On the way out the water flow was amazing! At one point we all stopped kicking and just rode out on the water flow like we were drift diving in Cozumel! I have never been in a cave in Mexico that had that sort of flow! (It's a fairly common thing in the caves in Florida). I felt like one of those turtles in Nemo, Duuuuuuuude!

It was a nice, chill dive with some very good friends and there's no better way to follow that up than by heading across the street to the Casa Cenote Restaurant for a Margarita and some chips with Guacamole and salsa.
Casa Cenote was cool and I'd definitely like to check out the section that connects to the ocean. I'm not sure if there's a time that you can go when there's not such a strong current out to the sea, it could have to do with the tides, but if there isn't then I may just be satisfied with swimming in the ocean out to where the cave comes out and just taking a look from there.

If you're looking for a cool cenote to snorkel in then Casa Cenote probably isn't it. There weren't many fish, and none that were particularly beautiful, and there aren't any sort of cave formations that you can see. You can, however, see the ocean and go back and forth from swimming in the ocean to swimming in the cenote, so that might make it cool.

If you're just looking for a nice cenote to swim in I would suggest Cenote Azul or Cenote Cristalino (both fairly close to Playa del Carmen). Of course, there's always Gran Cenote or Dos Ojos for snorkeling with beautiful formations.


Michele in Playa said...

Looks great. Rob and I are not divers (yet) but we do like to snorkel and LOVE cenotes. We visited both the Dzitnup cenotes this week while we were in Valladolid. I can't seem to get enough of them.

mexpat said...

I was telling Hans about your nice trip to Valladolid and Cenote Dzitnup yesterday! Can you dive there?