Cenote Tour of Merida

Our time in Merida was pretty relaxing and spent mostly in the city itself, but we did decide to rent a car for a day.  We thought about keeping it for a few days, but kept it to one day and decided to prioritize what we really wanted to do with that one day.  There were a couple of haciendas we wanted to check out, some ruins that we heard were great, a museum that was supposed to be amazing, etc. - but when it came down to it, we wanted to spend some more time at some cenotes, so we decided to do that first and then see what time it was (spoiler: it was like 3:30pm by the time we left the cenotes, and the sky had gotten DARK.  Pouring rain started on the drive back to Merida).  We had looked into a bunch of cenotes, and decided to check out the Cenotes of Cuzama.

We got to the rental car agency, put our lucky $200 on the dash, and headed out.  While Google hasn't always been the most accurate with their locations for Mexico, they were thankfully spot on for this one.  The drive took us through some small towns and wasn't too bad (maybe an hour and fifteen minutes?).  The only real problem with the drive was that when you get into Cuzama, all of these kids on bikes want you to follow them so that they can ask for a tip.  Which is fine if you're doing that - but we are shaking them away, telling them no, and they don't stop.  We eventually got to more of a dirt road which they clearly didn't want to go down, and we just kept going.  We got to the correct spot where we could park, walk 10 feet, and get into a cart pulled by a horse down some old tracks - for up to 4 people, it's $350 pesos (a little less than $20).  It's just one track, so if people were coming in the other direction, one of the carts had to stop and the guide had to pull it onto the dirt/grass so the other could pass.

Our ride for the afternoon.

The first cenote, Cenote Dzapakal was amazing.  You have to walk pretty far down some ladders to get into the cenote, and it is DARK.  They have one electric light rigged up so you can see a little, but it's incredibly dark and incredibly cool.  I have a love/hate relationship with heights - they don't bother me when I'm up that high, but having to descend is the problem when it's super steep ladders (this is why I could not do the viewpoint at the biosphere reserve).  So in the case for these cenotes, going down the ladder was first which made it MUCH better - because if I could make it down, the hard part was over.  Climbing up doesn't stress me out.  Anyways, this first cenote: Adam went down the ladders first, and when you get to the water, it is SO clear and SO dark that you can't really tell where it starts.  The water is cool, as it's dark and doesn't get any sunlight to warm it up, but it was pretty refreshing.  It was a pretty small cenote, no more than 15-20 feet across, but we were the only ones in there at that time so it was perfect.  Adam was more freaked out than me once in the cenote because of the darkness; I was fine once I was at the water.

The other tricky thing about this one is that there is no "beach" area, you have to jump straight from a platform 3 feet out of the water into a dark pool, then climb out by rope.  There's no real gentle introduction to this one, you have to go for it!

About halfway down to Dzapakal. 
This doesn't capture the darkness or difficulty seeing where the water starts you have in person.

Further up, a sense of the stairs and how far down this thing is.

Video from the first cenote.  You can get a sense for how small and dark it was!

After spending 15 minutes or so in that cenote, our guide walked us to the second one, Cenote Santa Cruz.  This was easily the least exciting and cool of the three cenotes.  There were two other people in there, and we didn't spend more than 15 minutes in this one either.  It was much more shallow than the other two - you could stand in most of it, as opposed to the other two.  It was significantly bigger than Cenote Dzapakal, but nothing particularly stood out. It was also very cloudy whereas the other two were crystal clear, so although you can see a few fish near the surface there's much less exploring underwater to do.

The paths between the first two cenotes.  Clearly the least favorite cenote was the second one as I'm going through a ton of pictures and videos and can find none of that one.

For the third cenote, Cenote Chelentun, we got back on the horse drawn cart and rode for quite awhile.  This one was Adam's favorite.  It was huge, super clear, blue water, and very refreshing.  There was a large group of maybe 30 people there when we got there, but they left within 10 minutes - at one point, Adam went to use the restroom and I was completely alone for about 2 minutes, in this perfectly clear, still water.  A few small groups came while we were in there, including some very local kids who had no fear, climbing 10 meters up the wall and jumping from a tiny ledge!  We stayed in this cenote for a couple of hours, exploring all the parts of it.  Amazing.

Me jumping into the perfect water.

Cenote Chelentun

From a different angle

Some video for perspective.

We got back to our car around 3:30pm and decided to just head back to Merida instead of checking out some haciendas.  Right call, because it started pouring during our drive back.  We made it back to our hostel without any issues, both thankful that we had spent the day in the cenotes.

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