Diving at Cenote Xunaan-Ha

Oct 8, 2008

On Friday we took a day off and went over to Cenote Xunaan-Ha with Anna, Patrick and Katy to do a little cave diving and practice some of our drills from our cave class. I really like Xunaan-Ha for a couple reasons: it's near Chemuyil, so it's a short(ish) drive, the water in the cenote is very clear and doesn't have muck on the surface (like Chac Mool does), the cave is small and bright, and the people that work there are the friendliest cenote caretakers I have met yet.

When we got there the caretaker had just thrown out a handful of ripped up tortillas for the coatis. I had never seen a coati (well, maybe in a zoo or something, but certainly not in the wild). They're in the racoon family and are about the size of a cat, but with a much longer tail. Their noses are flexible and they sort of move out of the way when they put their mouths to the ground. The cenote caretaker told us that they live in a large group and sleep in the trees. She also said they're pretty fierce when they need to defend themselves, and judging by the length of their claws and teeth, I believe her.

Anna and I wanted to do a little more practice with the reels and Anna needed to perfect her backwards fin kick. I needed to do another lost line drill, too. We decided to do a short cave dive with Hans and then practice our skills in the open water. We got suited up and ready just as an ATV tour group pulled up. Luckily, they were just there to swim, not dive, so we just hopped in and went on our dive.

Hans has been looking for the downstream side of the cenote since we discovered Xunaan-Ha. Most cenotes have an upstream and a downstream cave. The upstream cave is usually brighter/cleaner and generally more travelled. The downstream is often darker because rotten leaves and other debris float downstream and color the formations brown. Hans had previously poked his head into what he thought was the downstream cave entrance only to discover that it wasn't. He brought his sidemount gear so that he and Patrick could do a little exploration.

Anna was told that she wouldn't pass her full cave class if she couldn't do a backwards fin kick. Patrick, cave instructor extraordinaire, gave her a lesson on the mechanics of a backwards frog kick on the back of his truck.

Then Anna tried it a little on her own. Sorry Anna, but these photos were just too funny to leave out.

It was a nice dive and Anna and I both accomplished what we were looking to accomplish regarding practicing. I did another lost line drill and found the line this time, although I was wearing Katy's new 7 mm wetsuit, so I was quite a bit more bouyant than I am used to being. If I get a suit like Katy's I'll need to probably wear a little weight. I had trouble being truly negatively bouyant.

Of course, Friday was the first sunny day in like 8 days and we went underground. I am starting to look so pale that I look like a new arrival here! Anna and I are planning to remedy that with an afternoon on the beach tomorrow.


Michele in Playa said...

We used to have a couple of pet coatis. They tore our house to peices but I really enjoyed having them. They have moved on to an animal sanctuary in Akumal where they will still get plenty of human interaction. There are actually quite a few of them living in Playacar.

Jean said...

I was never taught the backwards kick in cave class. Tried many times on my own and have a lot of difficulty mastering it. Is this a skill that's mandatory in all Mexican full-dive courses? I guess with the lack of current (compared to Florida) it's a very useful skill to have.

mexpat said...

Jean- It's not mandatory for the cert generally, it just depends on your instructor. Steve Bogaerts was my instructor (and Anna's) and it's mandatory for his class and for Patrick's class. I think if you go with Matt from Protec it's not mandatory.

We did our Cavern and Intro in Florida and no one ever mentioned anything about swimming backwards. Since the caves aren't decorated there (at least the ones we were in, like Peacock Springs) we were also taught to kick off the roof of the cave or grab and pull. That is strongly discouraged here where the caves are so delicate.

Mamacita Chilena said...

That seriously looks like paradise.

Cat said...

Looks like fun! Wish I could be there. Those coatis looked huge - more like dogs than cats! It was nice to see pics of Anna - where are you and Hans? ; )