Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula reaches out between the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, where it might have formed a land bridge connecting Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and the Antigua island chain during the last ice age. We may be looking at the fallout from a giant comet that crashed down eternities ago; however the Yucatan Peninsula cenotes are of more immediate interest.
The Yucatan Peninsula Cenotes
Yucatán – where the ancient Maya reigned supreme before they dispersed like morning mist – is covered over by a gigantic sheet of limestone through which rainwater has percolated creating a gigantic reservoir of almost unbelievably clear water just below the surface. Every few centuries a small piece of this ceiling collapses due to erosion. This , and swimming in crystal clear water that is almost as old as time itself.
Swimming Pools of the Spirits
. The Mayan warrior nation believed that rain gods lived there, and they built their temples nearby so they could worship and make human sacrifices. When you swim in one, you may sense their spirits calling from their heaven. Respect the beauty of these natural swimming holes. Leave nothing – not even suntan cream floating on the surface when you leave.
There is a large volume of pure water down there, perhaps as much as all the fresh water on Earth’s surface put together. Below it the cave system connects to the ocean, meaning that if you plumb the depths the water turns to saline. Not all Yucatan Peninsula cenotes are the same. Cantaros have vertical walls, but Cilindricos are bell-shaped. Aguadas are shallow water basins, while Grutas are semi-dry, deep underground caves
Shadows of History
Cenote watering holes, for this is what they are outside of tourism, contain many secrets, including human skeletons as old as 13,600 years and the remains of giant Mastodon Elephants that lived around those times. While most people who intrude are in search of a cooling swim, there are also an intrepid few (should I say foolhardy) who dive for treasure.
Rumours abound of Maya jewellery sacrificed to rain gods. This is probable, as some of it has been found. There is also a persistent rumour that the Mayans hid vast quantities of gold in limestone caves to prevent the Spanish conquistadors from seizing them. I hope they never find the treasure. Some things are best left the way they are.