Cave Diving!

Everybody has left for Chichen Itza by the time I get up so I go to 100%, a place I found yesterday with really good food, large drinks and nice prices. Their breakfast is really good as well so if you find yourself in Playa del Carmen, look that place up!

Then off to the dive center where I meet the other diver Charles and our divemaster Aurelien, a really nice French guy. We start gathering equipment and Aurelien claims that it will be really cold, maybe 25 degrees Celsius, so I’d better take double wetsuits. Not wanting to argue I comply, but obviously while calling him a sissy under my breath. All packed up we’re off to the caves. Aurelien explains on the way that since it’s so windy today the cenote we’re supposed to dive is probably really crowded today and he suggest another one. Tajma Ha, that will probably be less crowded. Since he probably knows best Charles and I take his advice and we head over there instead.

On site we go through the dive and rules that go with it. Apparently you’re not allowed to use a snorkel, and really what would be the point, we’re in a cave after all… We’re also only to use the frog kick instead of the normal paddle technique since there is much less chance of stirring up sediment with it. We also go down to have a look at the entrance and it doesn’t look like much, a beautiful little pool with crystal clear, sweet, water and tiny catfish swimming around. Well, time to gear up, Charles is taking his sweet time, mainly because he’s not used to handling his own equipment. The dives he’s been on, that part has been taken care of for him.

After some fiddling (my o-ring needed changing for instance) we’re able to enter the water at last. I’m wearing my GoPro Hero2 camera since I didn’t want to use my regular one when the dive is so technical. We go down, find our buoyancy, and off we go! Looking back towards the opening we went down through is breathtaking, the light shoots down like a giant blue laser beam and all else is darkness. We go through a passage and the cave opens up in a huge room with stalactites in the ceiling, the sense of space is awesome, and the claustrophobic feeling I though might set in just isn’t there for some reason. It’s not scary at all, just beautiful!

The cave goes up and down as can be seen on my dive profile below, so you have to decompress a lot and mind your buoyancy. I’m a bit on the heavy side since we weren’t sure of how much weights I should have but it goes mostly fine, I guess that dry-suit diving pays off. Down at 13 meters or so is the halocline, this is where the sweet water meets the salt water (all cenotes are flow into the sea in one way or another, that is where the salt water comes from) and since they don’t mix they form a layer that is disturbed when you go through it. It look much the same as when you go through a thermocline (same thing but with two different water temperatures) but much more pronounced. It looks like if you put on glasses with the wrong prescription, all blurry. This lasts for a few seconds until you’re fully under the halocline, and then you can look up and it almost looks like the surface up there. It’s really weird. What’s also weird is that the water is warmer under the halocline since it’s sea water.

Tajma Ha cenote dive profile

As we go upwards once again Aurelien points out some fossils along the way. Suddenly we can see the first opening, the Sugar Bowl, the light comes down at an angle and spookily lights old tree roots. We surface to hear Aurelien talk about how the caves are formed and we also see some bats in the ceiling. After a while we submerge again and take a slightly different route back, even though the parking lot was full of other divers we’ve only seen a few so far, which I guess is testament to Aureliens skill in picking a good route for us.

We have a quick snack and some water as we prepare for the next dive. This time it will be more technical Aurelien says, since he’s seen that we don’t have any trouble with our buoyancy. He will take us through tighter passages and areas with more sediment this time.

And sure enough, the second dive takes us on a different route with some very tight passages where you really have to make sure your kicks aren’t too wide and your buoyancy is juuust right. It’s hard, but fun and not as scary as I’d thought it’d be. After a while we reach the turning point, the Esmeralda, this is another one of the openings but it is full of debris and stuff so we never surface. The view is more than enough though, you just can’t get enough of the light pillars coming down and bathing everything in an icy blue sheen. On the way back there is more of the tight passages, with the added challenge of passing through a halocline at the same time. Fun, but exhausting!

Before going back to the hotel I book two more dives for tomorrow, one twilight dive and one night dive. Waiting for the others to come back from Chichen Itza I black out on the bed totally exhausted from the diving. I regain consciousness a while before the others come and bunch of us find ourselves at the already proven 100% where we fill up on their giant drinks. Johan is very upset about the fact that they don’t have any taco tubs or medium sauce, but what can you do?

Breakfast: 120 mxn
More diving: $150
Dinner: 200 mxn
Drinks: 100 mxn

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