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CENOTE DIVING: exploring the 'Hidden World'

Cenote. Pronounced say-no-tay.

Scuba diving the cenotes of the Yucatan Peninsula should be on every diver’s bucket list. Exploring these ancient limestone caverns is a unique experience, one that you will never forget. The team at Manta are here today to give you an introduction to this hidden world.

What is a cenote and how were they formed?

The Yucatan Peninsula used to be underwater. As the marine life and corals died, their remains fell to the bottom of the seabed which compacted over many years eventually creating a limestone layer, around 1 mile thick. During the last ice age the sea level dropped and the Yucatan Peninsula became exposed. Over time what once was reef became fertile soil and then tropical jungle. Rainfall trickling into the porous limestone overtime caused further erosion, creating vast caverns and caves. When the roof of an underground cavern or cave structure collapses, BAM, you have a cenote opening!

What scuba certification do I need to dive in the cenotes?

There are so many accessible cenotes to choose from, each one varying in depth, structure and complexity. This means that some are suitable for novice divers. Even if you’re not the most experienced diver, divers entering the cenotes should have decent buoyancy control to avoid damaging the surrounding fragile environment!

For those who do not hold a scuba diving license, some dive centres will take 'Discover Scuba Divers' or 'Try Divers' to open cenotes where it is possible to avoid swimming in areas with an overhead environment.

An example of an open cenote

Is cenote diving cave diving or cavern diving? What’s the difference?!

Diving in the cenotes as a recreational diver is a form of cavern diving. During a cavern dive, whilst you are swimming in an overhead environment you are always within sight of an entry/exit point and you can see natural light. On the other hand, cave diving involves going deeper into these systems. Visiting these areas requires special qualifications.

The difference between a cavern and a cave

What am I going to see?

Diving in the cenotes is incomparable to diving in the sea or a lake. Here’s some examples of what you can witness:

  • Stalactites and Stalagmites: mineral-deposit formations, created over millions of years

  • Spectacular light displays: arrays of light beams, pouring in from the surface

  • Halocline layers: a shimmering layer where freshwater and saltwater meet

  • Sulphur clouds: hydrogen sulphide which has resulted from the decomposition of organic material that has fallen into the cenote

  • Fossils: as the cenotes used to be underwater, you can find fossilised shells and sea creatures in the limestone

The best thing about diving in the cenotes is that you can witness all of this with ease due to the OUTSTANDING VISIBILITY.

Stalactites and Stalagmites

Is it safe?

Cenote dive guides are trained to dive in this particular environment. They have specialized training and equipment to increase safety. Before your dive, your guide should provide a thorough briefing on safety procedures and you will notice the rules are more conservative than when diving in open water. Whilst no diving activity is completely risk-free, following the instructions of your guide will increase safety and enjoyment for the whole group!

Signing up for your first cenote dive may feel a little daunting, but you won’t regret it. The enchanting tranquility of this hidden world will take your breath away. Contact Manta for more information by emailing or book directly online on our website!


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