This year, my other half and I are focusing on doing things we haven’t tried before in our favorite destinations – one of which is Playa del Carmen, Mexico. We have been to Playa numerous times in the last ten years but had yet to do a Cenote snorkel trip. While staying at Mahekal Beach Resort, we booked a guided Cenote Snorkel Tour through the on-site Vida Aquatica dive center, which included transfers, a very knowledgeable guide (Roman), snorkel gear, wetsuits, and a light lunch, all for USD $100.00 per person.
We got fitted for our wetsuits at the Vida Aquatica Dive Center office (near the fitness center in the middle of the resort) and departed Mahekal in the morning. Our destination was Chikin Ha, which means west water in Mayan, about 36 miles from the resort. Discovered in 1997, Chikin Ha is one of the thousands of cenotes that dot the Yucatan peninsula. Arriving at Chikin Ha, Roman paid our admission (included with the tour) and we were off to changing rooms. (There are restrooms and changing rooms but no lockers for valuables, so leave those in your in-room safe back at Mahekal.) You will be asked to take a rinse in an outdoor shower, so as to remove any perfumes, lotions, etc., which are dangerous to the cenote fish and reptiles.
Our first snorkel was Chikin Ha cenote, which is about 2-15 meters in depth. We snorkeled here for about 20 minutes in a large half-moon cenote with a massive undercut ceiling and crystal-clear water. This is the main dive entrance for underwater cenote/cavern diving. It’s an easy entrance, via steps (which can be slippery). Once in the water, Roman showed us many holes and variations in the limestone and fossils in the cavern roof, and we felt and saw the halocline where fresh water mixes with Saltwater and spotted numerous cichlid fish – a common freshwater fish in many aquariums due to its pet-like demeanor.
From here, we took our fins off and walked to another cenote, X ‘tabay. Its name was inspired by a Mayan legend about a snake who lives in the Ceiba (or ya’axché tree, which grows near a water source, and usually has sharp spines) and becomes a beautiful woman at night. X’tabay is shallow and full of plant life. We saw a few turtles and many fish. This cenote is supposedly the most picturesque on a sunny day.
Our final cenote to visit was Ta ‘ak Bil-Ha, meaning hidden water in Mayan. This one is not open for snorkeling but rather is a collapsed cenote cavern that you can climb down into. Divers emerge along that edge of the waterline, as they traveled to Ta ‘ak Bil-Ha underwater from Chikin Ha cenote. Many stunning trees grow around the cenote and you can see their root structures. There is a ceremonial center where a Mayan purification ceremony takes place.
A box lunch of a chicken sandwich was included and much appreciated after snorkeling and hiking through the park.