Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Diving in Playa del Carmen

A major highlight of our trip to Playa del Carmen was our time spent underwater. We lucked into a fantastic dive shop I found online: Pluto Dive right in town. They had excellent guides with detailed briefings, it was an incredibly professional outfit, and I'd highly recommend them - and dive with them again!

Four of our dives were reef dives, two each at Cozumel and at Playa del Carmen. Surprisingly, the dive with the most to see was right down the beach from our hotel in Playa del Carmen! We saw turtles, eels, amazing corals, lobsters, king crabs, stingrays, and tons of other beautiful things.

The most interesting aspect of diving in the Mayan Riviera, though, are the cenotes. These are open water entry pools into a gigantic underground system of freshwater caves and caverns. There are thousands and thousands of them, and many divers have simply fallen in love with cave diving and never left the area. They are filled with stalagmites, stalactites, crystalized minerals, and fossils, and the play of light and other visual effects is mesmerizing.

I snapped a couple of pictures of the entries into our cenotes. First is Kukulkan, named for the "Plumed Serpent" god in Mayan mythology. The entry is actually quite large, and it opens into quite a wonderland below. Interesting trivia: the largest underwater stalactite in the world is located in this cave, though it is in an area that can only be reached by certified cave divers. If you look closely, you can see a diver descending in the second picture.

The second cenote was even more beautiful. It is called Chac-Mool, after a type of Mayan stone statue, which is also the name of its system of cenotes. We accessed it down this stairway, fully geared up, and put our fins on after climbing into the water. Down below, it opened up into some of the most beautiful caverns I could even imagine!

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