Perhaps my favorite part of studying abroad in the Yucatan is the cenotes. Cenotes are natural sinkholes the result from the collapsing of limestone bedrock the exposes groundwater underneath. While I love the beach, I have to say that I think cenotes are much more beautiful. First of all, because the beach here is the Golf of Mexico, the ocean is so warm it’s like bath water! After a long humid day, I do NOT want to swim in water that also matches the warm temperature.
However, cenotes are wonderfully refreshing to swim in. The water is cool and fresh. Sometimes it is a little bit too cold, but most of the time it has been wonderfully perfect. I have swam in Lake Eerie, the Atlantic Ocean, the Pacific Ocean (off the cost of California), and other small lakes in Ohio. All of these have been completely frigid to enjoy. I like to think of myself as a water connoisseur.
I have been to three cenotes while studying abroad in the Yucatan. With my vast knowledge of water temperature, I think cenotes are probably the perfect temperature of water that I have ever swam in. Another amazing feature of cenotes is their clarity. Most of the time it is required to rinse before you enter a cenote and sun screen is not permitted, but also not needed because most of the time they are underground or in a very heavily shaded part of the forest. The clarity of the water is incredible. You can see fresh water fish swim around the cenote or the bottom. However, the bottom is very difficult to decipher. Sometimes, the bottom is so deep that it cant even be touched without diving equipment.
Sometimes, I am terrified when entering or swimming in a cenote. Entering a cenote can be very tricky. Stairs or ladders are what are usually used for entering. However, the stairs and ladders are usually a bit slippery or wet and a lot of care is needed while entering. Second, I am pretty good at swimming, but usually the cenotes are too deep to have places to touch. There are usually ropes strung across in the water that allow for swimmers to use for a break from swimming or treading water. Also, most cenotes have caves that surround the edges. These terrify me because there are bats that live inside the high reaches of the caverns and sometimes it’s dark in these mysterious places.However, what scares me the most is the depth. Recently, I was in one that had a depth so profound I wasn’t even able to see the bottom. In fact, the bottom can’t even be seen without diving equipment. I don’t know what kind of fish or creatures are able to live in these bodies of water, but the idea of not knowing freaks me out a lot.
Cenotes were once used as places for sacrifices by the ancient Maya. Sometimes, when divers have studied the depths of cenotes, they have found cave drawings preserved in the walls. The history is definitely something that fascinates my interest because it is incredible that these bodies of water were once used thousands of years ago. I am incredibly lucky to have this opportunity to experience something so incredibly wonderful. I cannot wait to experience more cenotes as my journey here progresses.