A highlight of visiting the Yucatan Peninsula is swimming in a cenote (se note tay). These natural wonders are underwater sinkholes found in caverns and caves, which are the hallmark of the areas' geography. The peninsula is composed of porous limestone with no visible rivers. The rivers are all underground, formed where fresh water collects. There are supposedly 6000 cenotes all over the Yucatan peninsula. The Maya considered them cleansing and sacred. They also believed that they symbolized the entrance to the underworld . As you can see from the photo above, climbing down into the dark cavern with caution signs decorating the opening ,does give the feeling of entering the netherworld.
This cenote is called X-keken and it boasts a natural sky light that floods sunbeams into the darkness. The effect is stunning, like a glistening underground pond. When we visited, the cenote was filled with locals dipping into the cool water. Outside, the temperature was about 88 degrees Fahrenheit but underground, it was about 65 degrees.
The limestone was extremely slippery but once in the water, I could see gold and orange fish swimming around and bats hanging from the ceiling. I didn't stay in very long but it was an otherworldly experience.
The only time the light was bright enough to really see was on the way out, near the ropes to help you climb the stone steps. With the sunlight sweeping down, it felt like a brief dip into the Mayan world. Catch a quick glimpse of the cenote in this travel video (my first!) that I shot: