Swimming in Caves

May 21, 2013/Ainsley

I actually don’t have a ton of pictures from our trip – which you might argue with me after seeing the next few posts – but what I mean is that I didn’t take pictures on a lot of the days. My pictures from Cozumel are from my sister-in-laws phone, as well as the pictures from the beach I posted last week. I didn’t take one single photo of us at the resort pool or playing in the sand. I didn’t take any pictures of our day at the beach in Playa del Carmen. I didn’t take any pictures of us painting our pottery. I just lived in the moment hopefully capturing everything in my head. Sorry for you guys. I did, however, take pictures of our cenote/Coba excursion with the girls.

A cenote (se-know-tay) is a hole (typically a large one) made by erosion from underground water. The group we toured with are in the process of trying to map out the cenotes and see whether they connect by underground caves. It’s their belief there is a river flowing underneath the Mayan Riviera. At this time they have connected quite a few (using GPS and diving equipment). What they know is that cenotes are made by fresh water that is moving. Moving water equals a river, not a spring. And if you go down far enough, there’s a place where the sea and the river connect in a murky kind of layer that doesn’t really mix…. they placed dye in the water there and it came out at a cave at the ocean. Wild, huh!

Anyway, we are not in science class so I’ll get to the point. You can swim in these cenotes. Many of them are in underground caves. Some you walk through a passage and down into the cave before finding a swimming hole. Some start with an outside swimming hole that moves into caves around the perimeter. We’ve swum (is that a word?) in both.  In fact, Henry and I went cave snorkeling last trip and thought Natalie would enjoy it. We were a little nervous Ainsley would freak out and one of us would be sitting on the sidelines with her while everyone else was in the cave.

But first things first. Our Italian guide (I know, Italian-guide in Mexico who spoke four languages and was very educated about agriculture) took us on a small, mosquito-infested hike through the woods showing us different vegetation indigenous to the Mayan peoples of long ago. He showed us different herbs, different trees, and different growing fruits and told us what they are used for (digestion, infection, etc). He showed us papaya trees growing in the jungle…..


This is the typical picture my husband takes of me….. from behind and walking. Not sure what that means.


Here’s Ainsley showing us some flower the guide was talking about….


I actually found his talk very interesting (mexican oregano is big with broad leaves – he said because the humidity gets to the plant. I’ve never seen oregano like this, but it smelled just the same). I loved seeing how the girls wanted to be up front and center to catch every word.



Then he brought us to the first cenote. See how the rock is carved out from the water? That’s a cave. The water keeps going under there and it opens into an area where the ceiling is a bit higher. There are stalagtites and stalagmites in there too so you have to be careful where you swim. (The water has a lot of calcium and phosphorus in it that eats away at the ground above them – that’s what makes the cave affect.)


Natalie jumping to Henry…. the water was pretty deep right here…. even Henry could jump in without hitting his feet.


All of us in the swim hole together.


Ainsley would not jump in so I helped her in by a set of steps built in the side of the swim hole. She also did not want to go in the cave without me holding her, but I wasn’t strong enough to carry her and swim, so she was stuck with dad. There was some crying, whimpering, and panicking, before she settled down and held on to her father for dear life.  Once inside, you have to swim for about 10 meters before reaching a rock shelf that we could stand on and the ceiling got very tall… there was a family of bats living in there and wouldn’t you know that scared little thing, Ainsley, wanted to take a peek at them! I thought the neatest thing was when the guide turned off his flashlight and we looked back toward the opening and could see the light peeking through from the outside. We all voted on swimming back without the flashlight, even the girls who were the ONLY children on the excursion (note to self).

Then we hiked some more to some outside cenotes, where Ainsley and I sat on the sidelines while Henry and Natalie swam. I love her face in this picture.

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A shell Ainsley found.



We ended at a large cenote where they had built a little thatched-roof pavilion for shade and rest. We bought a coconut that one of the Mexican guys hacked open with a machete. Once we drank all the coconut water, we gave it back and he hacked it up some more and carved the flesh out for us to eat. The girls didn’t like the water, but did like the flesh.

I have no more pictures of the cenotes. No nice family picture in front of the scenic Turtle Cenote. Nothing cute by the hammock. Not even any of us eating the coconut. So there you have it, the girls first time swimming in an underground cave. The end.

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