The Caves of Mexico
The vast majority of cave diving in Mexico occurs in the Yucatán Peninsula. Where there are literally thousands of cenotes, sinkholes or entrances to the underworld in the area. In the Yucatán Peninsula, any surface opening where groundwater can be reached is called a cenote, which is a Spanish form of the Maya word d’zonot.
These cave systems formed as normal caves underwater, but upper sections drained becoming air filled during past low sea levels. During this vadose, or air filled period, abundant speleothem deposits formed. The caves and the vadose speleothem were then re-flooded and became hydraulically reactivated as rising sea levels raised the water table to become flooded once more. These caves are therefore polygenetic, having experienced more than one cycle of formation below the water table.
The underwater speleothems in the Yucatán Peninsula are fragile. If a diver accidentally breaks off a stalactite from the ceiling or other speleothem formation, it will not reform as long as the cave is underwater so active cave conservation and diving techniques are paramount to preserve these amazing dive sites for years to come.
The beginning of the 1980s brought the first cave divers from the U.S. to the Yucatán Peninsula, Quintana Roo to explore cenotes such as Carwash, Naharon and Maya Blue, but also to central Mexico where resurgence rivers such as Rio Mante, and sinkholes such as Zacaton were documented. In the Yucatán, the 1980s ended with the discoveries of the Dos Ojos and Nohoch Nah Chich cave systems which lead into a long ongoing competition of which exploration team had the longest underwater cave system in the world at the time, with both teams vying for first place. The beginning of the 1990s led into the discovery of underwater caves such as Aereolito on the island of Cozumel, ultimately leading to the 5th biggest underwater cave in the world. By the mid-1990s a push into the central Yucatán Peninsula by dedicated deep cave explorers discovered a large number of deep sinkholes, or pit cenotes, such as Sabak Ha, Utzil and deep caves such as Chacdzinikche, Dzibilchaltun, Kankirixche that have been explored and mapped. To this day these deep caves of the Yucatán remain largely unexplored due to the sheer number of cenotes found in the State of Yucatán, as well as the depth involved, they can only be dived using advanced technical diving techniques with the use of rebreathers and scooters or DPV’S. At the end of the last millennium closed circuit rebreather (CCR) cave diving techniques were employed in order to explore these deep water filled caves.
Each year thousands of divers now descend into these centoes to become amazed by the beautiful crystal like formations and blue clear waters. While tourism has been on the rise for nearly 30 years projects and conservation in the area is now key to ensure the preservation of these caves.
Mexico underground participates in cave conservation projects and scientific surveys to help promote the health both locally and globally of the underworld here in Mexico and how important it is to the local people and the tourist industry here in Mexico.
For information on some of the more famous caves and cavern tours we offer guided tours please visit Cavern / Cave Tours section on our website