The Cenotes

8 Feb


Cenotes are natural pits (sinkholes) deep in the limestone bedrock underlying the Yucatan Peninsula. The exposed groundwater creates beautiful deep turquoise pools. Two of these drew us to visit one, Cenote Zaci in the middle of the city of Valladolid and the other a more remote cenote in the woodlands beyond the ruin of Ek Balam.DSC01446Cenote Zaci is a partially collapsed cavern about 150 feet in diameter. The depth of the water varies from 90 feet in the shallows of the pool to about 325 feet at its deepest. The vault filled with bats and swallows rises 100 feet above the surface of the water. And the groundwater is cold, very cold. But that does not deter swimmers. In the heat and humidity of the Yucatan the water is a refreshing relief. Though surrounded by the noise and traffic of the city it is an island of cool and calm.


The word cenote comes from a word used by the low-land Maya,  ts’onot, and refers to any location with accessible groundwater.


The flora of the Cenote Zaci is poplars, ferns, philodrendren and colorful orchids bright against the light-colored limestone. Algae and moss cover the rocks of the trails down and make them treacherously slippery. Stalactites line the roof of the vault, formed by trace minerals in the inexorably dripping water.


Our visit to the cenote at Ek Balam required a journey to reach it. Rather than walk in the heat we were ferried through the woods in a pedicab. Those of you who know Dana, know he is an especially large passenger. I felt sorry for the eager pedicab driver as he toiled, peddling in the 90 plus heat.


When we arrived people were jumping into the cenote, most of them very young. This young man jumped off the top edge of the cavern to the water about 50 feet below. We were notably impressed.DSC01292

His entry was a beautiful thing.DSC01293

Dear Readers….We are back from a week-long sojourn in Valladolid, a small colonial town on the way from Merida to Tulum. Network connections with the bandwidth to handle our photographs can be sketchy when on the road. We were not able to produce our columns from Casa Hipil, our lodging in Valladolid…thus…our hiatus. We had some wonderful adventures. Watch for them in future columns.

One Response to “The Cenotes”

  1. Fred February 11, 2016 at 2:33 am #

    Cenotes is truly one of the most beautiful thing i have ever seen in my life.
    Without a doubt it has to be seen to truly comprehend the phenomenon.

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