July 10, 2016 Cenote Zacil Ha Diving Zacil Ha through the Room…

July 10, 2016 Cenote Zacil Ha

Diving Zacil Ha through the Room of Tears is one of the finest cave dives I’ve ever done. To get there take 109 out of Tulum toward the Coba ruins. You will pass signs for Gran Cenote and Vaca Ha on the right. After about 7-8 km watch for the sign to Car Wash on the left. Just past Car Wash, slow down: The sign and the driveway for Zacil Ha is just a bit further on the left. Drive down the road to a little turn-around where you will find the mini-resort. There is a hut on the left where you buy your ticket: 150 pesos.

The attendant may direct you to drive through a small gate and park behind the hut for easier access to the water. Or not…

On my map, and when you observe the cenote, you will see that the best entry are the stairs on the far side of the water because there is a rope at the bottom of the stairs to tie off your tanks. The cave is found under the far wall–the wall with the statue that is down and left. Enter the cave here. The cave line is perhaps 15 feet down the slope and easy to find.

Follow the line to the left not more than one minute before coming to the unmarked jump. In fact, be vigilant because you can easily swim right by this jump–there is no arrow marking this intersection. The rabbit hole is down and left and is round with white edges from tanks bumping the entrance.

Spool out forty to fifty feet of line through smallish twists and turns to the new line. The Room of Tears is obvious when you enter it: it is very beautiful. As you can see on my map I turned left at the first intersection and then turned right at the second intersection and came to my thirds at a third intersection.

The dive is like a combination of Xulo and Caterpillar combined with white walls and stunning formations punctuated by occasional restrictions. The passages also move up and down–70 foot max, 46 foot average depth. Like always, mark your intersections well. I passed one jump that potentially could be misread coming the other direction meaning that you could make a blind jump and not realize it so stay on your business.

Watch for more info on this dive because I’ll be taking a stage along next time and exploring much more of Zacil Ha.

June 29, 2016 Dos Pisos: A long traverse done as a…

June 29, 2016 Dos Pisos: A long traverse done as a circuit.

Perhaps the best long dive that Zsolt and I have done on this trip was a circuit at Dos Pisos from the south entrance to the north entrance. We did the dive using a single stage.

Drive south of Tulum on 307. Watch for the mile markers on the left side of the road (yes this is awkward since they face away from you). After you pass mile marker 220 slow down and begin watching on the right for a sign that reads: Dos Pisos. There are two signs. The one by the road is worn and hard to read. Another sign, closer to the tree-bush line, is clearly written. Turn right here.

Proceed into Rancho Campensino following the road to the right past houses and buildings. We paid 200 pesos per person at the houses–a guy was there that came out to the car.

Continue on road that trends left past black, rubber water pools and past several intersections. Watch for the signs (signs at every intersection) but I think we always turned left. Eventually you will come to the end of the road. On the left there is junk: mattresses, pole structures, kitchen stuff, etc.

On the right are tables for dive gear. Park here. The trail starts between the tables and goes about 200 feet down to the cenote. The water is clear and the entry is easy. The cave line starts left of center, and back, in sort of an alcove and is above the water line.

The passage starts in a tube-like structure that extends maybe 100-200 feet with a flat bottom passable by back mount or sidemount-stage and then opens into large, diverse passages–this is a great stage dive.

The main line has many jumps and a few T intersections so bring a lot of cookies. We surfaced in clear water on in the north cenote under broken boulders and could see the jungle beyond the rocks. The traverse is upstream and there is a flow that reminds me of the north Florida cave, Peacock.

The passages have white formations and walls in contrast to a brown bottom and constantly change from one section to the next. In the shallow parts, there were massive root sections dropping from the ceiling.

The dive was over two hours and one of the best dives we’ve had in the Yucatan.

June 23, 2016 Nohoch Nah Chich After weeks of humping tanks in…

June 23, 2016

Nohoch Nah Chich

After weeks of humping tanks in and out of holes, enduring bug ridden walks, this cenote offered fairly plush access to the water.

Travel north on 307 watching for the sign (right side of fourlane) for Labnaha Expeditions-Caracol, etc. Move to the left lane in anticipation of the “retorno” for the U-turn. On the left side of the highway you will see the sign for Caracol. Make the U-turn and then turn right down the dirt track marked by the Caracol sign. You will eventually come to a right hand turn marked by a sign that reads: Rancho Felipe (Nohoch Nah Chich). Follow the driveway to a compound with buildings and covered parking. You will see a table on the left for dive gear. The stairs to the water are on the right. Pay the attendant 200 pesos per diver.

There are lots of tourists here. They have a zip line and snorkeling so you will be sharing the nice wooden deck at the base of the stairs with the throngs–this is not an issue. The wooden deck is large and the owners have dedicated the closest set of stairs into the water for the divers.

Gear up and swim along the platform keeping the deck on your right to its end. Continue with a left-wise direction for about 75 feet. Move on a diagonal left again to the main line. Finding the line was tricky, but the depths are shallow, and we didn’t use much gas. We did use a reel and put in a primary line.

The main line takes you through massive rooms and chambers with formations that are magnitudes bigger than any cave we’ve been in. The cave is shallow so the dives are long. Our dive was a 100 minutes. Pay attention because you will pass through ‘Heavens Gate’–see photos by #MauroBordignon on facebook.

We had a great dive here and it was refreshing to have such an easy entry to the water. The rooms and formations were magnificent, the spaces vast. Sometimes it felt like we had no lights, because there was just water and a thin, white line before reaching another set of structures.

June 19, 2016 Cenote Calavera Calavera is perhaps the easiest…

June 19, 2016

Cenote Calavera

Calavera is perhaps the easiest of the cenotes near Tulum to find. Drive west of Tulum on 109. Calavera is the first right hand turn after the police check point which is perhaps one-half mile from the intersection of 307 and 109. There is an obvious white gate with an arch where you pay 200 pesos per person. Turn your car around and back into a spot as directed by the attendant.

Take the trail that starts on the right side of the building you are parked near. The Cenote is about 50-70 yards back along the track you will find to the right. Watch your step leading to a large hole in the limestone because there are tank traps along the way that could swallow your foot or even your entire body.

There is a rickety ladder and ropes that you can use to deliver your tanks to the water. Be careful since you can get hurt here if you are careless. After racking up its easiest to jump into the water from the top of the hole to don the tanks.

From the ladder, and over our right shoulders, we found a line that led down to a cavern line and the “stop” sign. There is a large hallway in front of you. To find the main cave line descend into hallway and look up, and left. The gold line is there with a red arrow. We used a primary reel to connect the cavern line to the main line.

We did two dives in a remarkably beautiful cave system. Large rooms, amazing formations, halocline, thermocline–you got it all here. However, for us this was a check-off dive meaning that we’ve done it, and probably won’t return.

Here’s why: The approach is tedious. Humping tanks and managing the the rickety ladder were not fun. The bugs did make us feel lighter though, since they threatened to carry us away.

The route had many junctions. This coupled with the halocline made visualizing the T’s a challenge. Some of the T’s literally sit at the interface of the fresh water and salt water so to confirm your markings (cookie) you had to drop underneath the interface and gently pull the line down to be sure about the direction of movement. I can see how poorly trained divers die in these caves because if your navigations skills are less than up to par you could get lost and swim in circles until your gas is gone and you drown.

On our second dive we came to the end of the line that was near the cavern zone. Here we found that someone, perhaps several someone’s, had written in the cave floor leaving initials and other drawings. Perhaps a cavern guide is bringing his clients to this point or open water divers are doing this on their own. In any case, it was a bummer to see this.

June 19. 2016 Traverse of Xulo to Caterpillar One of the…

June 19. 2016

Traverse of Xulo to Caterpillar

One of the coolest dives in Xulo is to make the third double arrow jump to the left toward Caterpillar. The passage is smallish through low bedding planes punctuated by highly stalactited swim throughs. After about 40 minutes on this line the diver will arrive at a T. If you make a left turn eventually you will reach Caterpillar at a jump within 8 minutes of the cavern zone.

Zsolt, Mark, and I had made dives from both cenotes in the classic style leaving cookies at our thirds which overlapped perhaps ten minutes beyond the left hand turn at the Xulo T. The natural thing to do was to link up the dives into a traverse or circuit.

When we asked about the line that connects the two cenotes we were told about a restriction that used to be blocked by a large stalactite which has since been broken. I am bringing this up because initially when Zsolt and I made a dive from Caterpillar we had actually passed through this restriction and didn’t realize it because we were expecting something smaller. We were expecting a hole that would require the removal of one tank which we never encountered on the dive. This actually led us to believe we were on the wrong line for a while which turned out not to be true.

This traverse is a must do and here is the beta: I staged the Xulo side and dropped the tank 30 minutes after making the Caterpillar jump (third double arrow on Xulo side) because I intended to do the traverse as a circuit. Swim to the T and go left. The passages are low and broken with fissures that eventually squeeze you into a canyon that drops to approximately 30 feet for some distance.

It is in here that you will pass through two side-ways restrictions that require some finesse not to damage cave. I believe that the second restriction is the one spoken about on some blogs where “two divers could shake hands.” This is the tight spot where the stalactite was broken and the passage is now passable without removing a tank.

After this restriction the route opens up more though the passages are still low. The line zig-zags and makes 90 degree turns eventually spitting you out at the Caterpillar jump which is at the base of a very steep slope approximately 8 minutes (less even) from the cavern zone.

Gas-wise the circuit was easily done on thirds using a stage though others with better gas consumption may not need the stage (The day before my dive we encountered a pair of divers who did the Cenote circuit without a stage).

On the map shown above, ignore the notes about making a right at the T. Going right ends in a highly decorated restriction that required the removal of at least one tank and may be no-mount–there is no way through it without breaking cave so we never passed through.