Why Mexcian Cenotes Will Be The Best Swim Of Your Life
Water and I have been the best of friends since the beginning. My mother was a lifeguard in her youth, and her brother a Navy Seal, so it only makes sense that I took to any pool, ocean or lake like a fish. After being tossed in as a baby, I quickly learned certain survival skills. Mainly: keep your head above water and you won't die. I went on to become teacher's pet in gym class during the swimming quarter, telling the class to "follow what Joslyn is doing" when it came to floating drills and laps. Being the only Black girl in the group, I think he was impressed that I even knew how (this theory was solidified later when he told the whole class that Black men can't float because their bones are too dense...FALSE) and I was happy to know there was some sport like thing I was decent at. For the record, lots of black people know how to swim and those that don't ARE able to once they learn. Anyhoo...
And so clearly, I went on in life swimming wherever I could, jumping off of docks in Cape Verde or swimming way too far out in Martha's Vineyard. I'm not that bold of a swimmer anymore, but arriving at the Gran Cenote in Tulum, Mexico tossed any old lady inhibitions I had developed to the wind. It was the crispest, cleanest, clearest pool of pure azure that I had ever dipped my toe in.
Nestled in caves and other rock formations, Cenotes (se-noh-tes) are natural pits and sinkholes formed by collapsing limestone bedrocks, exposing deep earth groundwater pools. Mexico has done a lovely job and allowing the public to swim while preserving the pristine nature of the pools.
That being said, upon arrival (a quick 5 minute cab ride from the hotel) we were asked to shower. There was a designated outdoor area with shower heads operated by a manual lever where you drench yourself in clean water to wash way any debris, sand or and lotions that may compromise the delicate ecosystem. They're serious about this. I missed a spot on my shoulder that had some sand from the beach we'd just left and I was made to go back and shower again. A cheeky little peacock joined me in the shower and drank the water that was spilling onto the rocks. I'm not a huge bird person so I wasn't keen on getting too close but he seemed used to the attention.
Once squeaky clean, we headed down a flew flights of wooden stairs. When the pool came into eyesight we literally gasped in awe. I couldn't wait to get in there! we purchased a locker (I can't remember the price but no more than $10 USD) and a life vest (my husband isn't a strong swimmer) and dove right in.
Gran Cenote is amazing. The way the reflections from the water sparkle on the cave walls is mesmerizing. Little docks and step ladders allow you to climb or jump in. The water was fresh and tasted super clean (no I wasn't just sitting there drinking it, some got in my mouth during a splash). There are different depths so in some areas you could walk, or sit on top of rocks in the water and just relax.
The caves that have formed are pretty dark and ominous at first glance, but lead to sunny little pools filled with lily pads and soft sandy bottoms. Many visitors rent masks and scuba gear and go deep under to observe the turtles and fish. If you're in a cave, look up, you'll probably see dozens of bats snoozing or screeching from being woken from their beauty rest. Little fish may nibble at your knees and toes so it's best to keep moving.
I think i swam unassisted for 2 hours straight and didn't even feel tired until I got out. I had to drag Shannon out because he was swimming in so deep that he was lost with the darkness, he was really into those bats! I wish we could've stayed longer but we were on a pretty tight itinerary.
While this one is closest to the city center, there are all kinds of cenotes all over Mexico. Some much further underground. I urge you to read up on them here, as this is how I chose Gran Cenote. Happy swimming!