Pronounced “say-no-tay” the natural fresh water pool or cave is caused by subsiding limestone bedrock exposing the fresh groundwater. This natural geological feature is characteristic of the Yucatan and Quintana Roo states of southern eastern Mexico.
Millions of years ago this region of Mexico was a giant coral reef submerged serval feet under the ocean. During the last Ice Age around 12,000 years ago the sea level dropped by 300 ft. causing the coral to be exposed to the sun and the encroaching Mayan jungle soon grew over the colossal reef. Nowadays we know that beneath this jungle the limestone bedrock is over a mile thick and home to the largest underground water system in the world. These vertical; water filled shafts and caves became underwater passages and shaped an interconnecting cave system up to 180km. deep in some areas such as Cenote Ox Bel Ha.
Historically cenotes were believed by the indigenous Mayan people to be “Sacred Waters”, where the Gods lived and acted as a portal to speak to their spirits. They were referred to as entrances to the underworld know as Xibalba, and people would leave offerings to the Gods and spirits and treat the areas with the utmost respect since they also acted as their primary fresh water source; supporting communities and still to this present day.
When visiting any cenote, it is very important to pay attention not to pollute or contaminate the water or surrounding area. This means not littering but also not entering the water if for instance you have already applied sun-screen, mosquito repellent or anything inorganic to your body which will be washed off into the water. This is a very important precaution since the nature of the cenotes being inter-connecting, we know that any contaminate in the water will be spread throughout all of the cenotes and not just isolated to one life-supporting body of water, but thousands.
Life Source Retreat take our retreat guests on a cenote excursion during each one of our retreats to a host of local-run and environmentally protected cenotes, none of which are more than a 20 minute drive from the beach and Alaya Hotel. Don’t miss out on the chance to swim in one of these beautiful and refreshing natural waters!
By Catherine Maguire