The Mayan Natural Swimming Pools: 4 Things to Know When You Visit a Cenote

The Mayan Natural Swimming Pools: 4 Things to Know When You Visit a Cenote

NATURAL WONDER: THE RING OF CENOTES

WHAT IS IT
Cenotes are picturesque holes in the ground filled with gorgeous turquoise-colored freshwater, commonly found in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. Some cenotes are part of a massive underground network of rivers and caves that remain, for the large part, unexplored. Others are just afternoon swimming holes or cave-diving destinations.

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT
The Ring of Cenotes is one of the most beautiful natural formations on planet Earth. These natural wonders took millions of years to create, making them aesthetically, historically and scientifically remarkable.
They played an important role in the Mayan culture as a sacred place for religious sacrifices and as the only resource for fresh, sweet water in the local Yucatan jungle. Without cenotes, the Mayan civilization may not have prospered.

 

HOW THEY WERE FORMED

START
Researchers have found a buried impact crater that occurred 65 million years ago. The impact carved out a bowl-shaped crater nearly 100 km in diameter, affecting the circulation of groundwater on the Yucatan Peninsula. (1)
 
CREATION
The Yucatan Peninsula is a gigantic slab of limestone with freshwater rivers located underground. This groundwater dissolved the limestone over millions of years and consequently produced caverns and caves. Sometimes the ceilings of these caverns collapse, which creates a sinkhole, aka a cenote. (1)
 
TODAY
There’s approximately over 6000 cenotes in the Yucatan area, which form a ring that coincides with the rim of the Chicxulub crater and is the only visible feature on the surface that indicates the huge crater below. (1)

SACRED TO THE MAYANS

PRIMARY WATER SOURCE
The Yucatan area has very few rivers and lakes, but plenty of cenotes that served as the primary source of freshwater for the Maya civilization. This explains why we often find major Maya settlements close to cenotes.

HUMAN SACRIFICES
Cenotes represented the entrance to the underworld (or afterlife). It was common to throw precious objects (including jade, gold, copper, incense) and humans into cenotes as offerings to the cult of the rain gods, Chacs. A survivor was believed to bring a message from the gods about the year’s crops.

RECOGNITION IN MODERN SOCIETY

SUBMITTED TO UNESCO
The Ring of Cenotes have been suggested as a Criteria VIII inclusion, which features “outstanding examples representing major stages of earth's history, including the record of life, significant ongoing geological processes in the development of landforms, or significant geomorphic or physiographic features.” (2)

5 THINGS TO KNOW

PERFECT PLACE TO SNORKEL
The water that gathers in these subterranean cenotes is a crystal clear turquoise color with a very pleasant temperature. The only wildlife found are small fish, making it safe and a perfect sight for snorkeling.

HARD TO FLOAT
Cenotes are filled with freshwater without any traces of salt, which makes it difficult to float. Wear a life vest… because better safe than sorry.

RESPECT THE MAYAN CULTURE
For spiritual purposes and as a way to show respect to the Mayan culture, it is customary for shamans or healers to bless and cleanse visitors before entering a cenote.

BIODEGRADABLE SUNSCREEN
Chemical sunscreens and insect repellents may contaminate the water and potentially harm natural life of the cenote.

CAVE DIVING
Cave diving has become extremely popular. An official diving certification isn’t required, but common sense is. Friendly reminder that accidents happen so look twice before choosing where to plunge. Safety first.

JOIN US

SPREAD THE WORD
A cenote is the natural swimming pool we wish we had in our backyards. Share with your friend who loves clear and crisp mineral-rich water.

SOURCES


(1) Yucatan Today
(2) Forbes