Gliding Thru Hidden Worlds: Riviera Maya, Mexico

By Cacinda Maloney

Rio Secreto, Yucatan Mexico

Rio Secreto, Yucatan Mexico

He instructed us to turn off our headlamps and lay back with our eyes closed. I felt a chill come over my body as goosebumps began to arise within my diveskin. I did what was instructed, but hesitated for a bit. Lying there in the stillness, I heard a drip, drip, drip in the stillness. With his voice guiding me, I slowly opened my eyes to the black stillness that I had found myself inside of. He and his partner had turned off all the lights they had and the participants turned off their headlamps and now we were in the pure darkness.

Rio Secreto, Yucatan Mexico

Rio Secreto, Yucatan Mexico

There are not too many places on earth like this and once again, as a wanderer, I suddenly found myself in this situation. Here where the earth that has not seen the light of day, cool water that was crystal clear, and mostly untouched by man. This is where I found myself at 8 pm at night last month, inside of one of the most unique cenotes in the world: “Rio Secreto” Translated literally “the secret river” in the Riveria Maya region of Mexico’s Yucatan.  It was utterly spectacular!

Rio Secreto, Yucatan Mexico

Rio Secreto, Yucatan Mexico

Rio Secreto, Yucatan Mexico

Rio Secreto, Yucatan Mexico

I had many adventures that day, making this my fifth and last cenote of the day, but honestly Rio Secreto was the most glorious and unusual experience I have had in quite some time.

I made it here by a bus by the hair of my chiny chin chin and only had a three minute turnaround with the dropoff in my van from my other four cenote adventure tour with Xenotes I had on the very same day. It was an action packed day and one I will never forget.

Due to its geological composition, the Yucatan Peninsula absorbs the water, when it rains and that water seeps through the soil and begins to dissolve, giving away to caverns that can be partially or completely flooded. These caverns collapse due to erosin and so a cenotes  is formed.  These things take hundreds of thousands of years to form. There are open, semi open, ancient and cavern centotes classifications.  I had a chance to go inside all four types on my recent trip to the Yucatan Peninsula.  Before you know it, I was snorkeling rappelling, kayaking and zip -lining in these gorgeous natural swimming holes!  It was one crazy experience after another! It happened to pour down rain when we got there, but who cares?  I was getting wet anyway! It eventually cleared up, but I was pretty much stayed wet all day!

Xenotes Oasis Maya, Mexico

Xenotes Oasis Maya, Mexico

The adventure tour with Xentoes, which I highly recommend, had four stops:  four cenotes.  Each one is named after what the Mayan call the guardians of the jungle and symbolize natural elements: fire, water, earth and wind. Cenotes were considered a source of life for the Maya as they provided water and represented an entrance to the other world of the gods. The word cenotes comes from the Mayan world “dzonot”, which means cave with water. Through prayer and offerings, our guides have asked these guardians for our permission to walk on their land and at the same time to take care of the land.

K’aak’ – is the fire cenote

The first one called K’aak’- it is the fire cenote. Here you will row the kayaks down the river, around the tiny island and back.

Xenotes Oasis Maya, Mexico

Xenotes Oasis Maya, Mexico

Xenotes Oasis Maya, Mexico

Xenotes Oasis Maya, Mexico

 but the only way in is off a zipline, so get ready to hang on!

Ha’- is the water cenote 

The second one called ha’- it is the water cenote. Here you will snorkel and see the floral and fauna surrounded by rock formations.

Xenotes Oasis Maya, Mexico

Xenotes Oasis Maya, Mexico

Xenotes Oasis Maya, Mexico

Xenotes Oasis Maya, Mexico

Xenotes Oasis Maya, Mexico

Xenotes Oasis Maya, Mexico

Xenotes Oasis Maya, Mexico

Xenotes Oasis Maya, Mexico

Xenotes Oasis Maya, Mexico

Xenotes Oasis Maya, Mexico

Xenotes Oasis Maya, Mexico

Xenotes Oasis Maya, Mexico

Iik’  – is the wind cenote

The third one is called Iik’ – it is the wind cenote and is the most unpredictable of them all.  Here you will find zip-lines that are one of the funnest you will ever experience! Grab a line and zip right into the water!

Xenotes Oasis Maya, Mexico

Xenotes Oasis Maya, Mexico

Lu’um – is the earth cenote

The fourth and final one is called Lu’um – it is the earth cenote, where you will rappel 30 feet down into a cenote thru a heart-shaped hole in the roof.  It has amazing rock formations inside, where you can swim and just hang out and have fun.  Remember when I rappelled in Costa Rica down that 100 foot waterfall?  Well, this is no where near as scary, and much more fun than that was!

Xenotes Oasis Maya, Mexico

Xenotes Oasis Maya, Mexico

Xenotes Oasis Maya, Mexico

Xenotes Oasis Maya, Mexico

Xenotes Oasis Maya, Mexico

The way out is easy, just climb the stairway! Xenotes Oasis Maya, Mexico

Each of these cenotes are connected by a network of underground rivers and vary in shape, characteristics and type of cenote, yet each is a unique experience within itself and all are virtually unique to the Yucatan Peninsula.

I whole heartedly recommend both these adventure cenote parks.  They have done an amazing job to be both eco friendly and extensively eco aware of their environments.  The guides at both places were fun, knowledgeable and reliable.  Rio Secreto is a completely different experience than Xentoes.  I tend to think that Xenotes is much more adventure, athletic and fun, whereas Rio Secreto is unique, unbelievable and educational.  Both are perfect for families or going solo, although they may have age restrictions, so please check.  Also, the guide at Rio Secreto told me that he has taken groups and individual autistic and cerebral palsy kids down in the caverns, so it is doable for them as well.

Here are a few other articles I wrote about Mexico:

Cancun’s Underwater Museum

Foodie Heaven: Benazuzu, Cancun Mexico

Xcaret, What is it?

Step Back in Time: San Miguel de Allende

The Circus is in Town; Zihuatanejo, Mexico

Zihuatanejo, Mexico:  Unplugged Paradise

Oh the Colors of Mexico: Zihuatanejo

My Secret Lover: San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

It is True: I have Two Lovers

Stone Island, Mexico

Arizona’s Beach: Rocky Point, Mexicopu

Arizona’s Beach: Rocky Point, Mexico, Part 2

Arizona’s Beach: Rocky Point, Mexico, Part 3

 

 

 

Disclosure:  This trip to Rio Secreto and Xentoes was in conjunction with my work with the Cancun Convention and Visitors Bureau.  The screams, yelps, “oos and ahhs”,  are all my own!

Photo Credit – Original top photo is from Rio Secreto’s Photo team

 

 

2017-06-09T11:12:50+00:00

11 Comments

  1. Tracie Howe October 10, 2014 at 3:14 pm

    Wow! What an incredible experience that must have been! I will have to put this on my bucket list. I’d love to explore these places for several days or weeks! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Heidi Wagoner October 10, 2014 at 8:16 pm

    I love cenotes! We went diving in Dos Ojos. It was incredible and so glad we did it, but not sure I would do that again. I was a bit scared.

    We also went swimming in Ikil Cenote and that was the best ever!

    I have such a soft spot for Mexico. I have spent plenty of time there in my life.

    • Cacinda Maloney October 11, 2014 at 2:58 pm

      You are brave! I also went diving in the cenote Kulkulkan a few years back. I love the cenotes in Mexico too!

  3. Sand In My Suitcase October 13, 2014 at 5:54 pm

    ‘These cenotes look awesome! We’d love to go scuba diving or snorkeling in a cenote.

    • Cacinda Maloney October 13, 2014 at 6:34 pm

      I completely recommend it! Xenotes for adventure and activity and Rio Secreto for amazement!

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