FAQ ABOUT CAVERN TOURS
What is a cavern tour ?
Those tours are usually called “cenote tours”, but what they really are is “cavern trust me dives”, meaning that the guest-divers are not trained to execute this king of dives by themselves, and therefore, rely on a guide.
How did it start ?
Cavern tours started in the late 80’s as a promotional stunt for cave diving. At the times, the Riviera Maya was extremely seldom developed. Playa del Carmen was a tiny fisherman village with no main road, and cave divers and explorers struggled to make a living. They started to embark sport divers coming from then well-known Cozumel and made them discover those marvels, while promoting the sport of cave diving.
What is a cenote ?
The natural gateways to the underground rivers are the thousands of collapsed cave ceilings that the Mayans call “Dzo-not”, the now world famous “cenotes”. The collapses, called sinkholes, occur over millions of years of a very slow geological process.
How safe is it ?
This kind of diving has proven extremely safe in the area during the last two decades, and shows impressive records of safety. Respecting very strict safety rules and limitations, it is in fact possible to visit the famous cenotes, guided by an experienced cave diver and without being cave trained. This is due to the huge size of the caverns of the area, where we find cavern guidelines especially laid to keep divers within safe distance of the exit, and the daylight area.
Can I get stuck or lose visibility during a cavern tour ?
Cavern dives are done in very large passages, where crossing and turning are always possible. Lowering the visibility to zero or getting stuck is virtually impossible in such large passages.
Where can I do it ?
The Riviera Maya is one of the very few places in the world where recreational/sport divers can safely discover the beauties of the underwater caves without being especially trained.
What can I see during a cavern tour ?
Divers first get struck by the endless visibility in those crystal clear waters. You will be then stunned by the beauty of the fragile calcite formations, the flowstones such as stalactites, stalagmites and gigantic columns. You will see amazing changes in the colors and textures of the waters, according to their specific content of salts, calcium and other minerals. The rocks also are stained by hundreds of thousands of years of contact with minerals, sulfuric and tannic acids.
The sun light falling into the translucent waters creates dream curtains of light descending to the bottom of cavern sometimes over 30m deep…
Hydrogen sulfite will sometimes lay in still, thick white clouds giving the feeling to fly over them, and the layered salt and fresh waters, that refuse to mix, create an unbelievable effect, like a layer cake of differently colored waters!
Who can guide ?
Any Open Water Instructor who is also a certified cave diver can claim being a guide, and if this may be true, it is obviously a better choice to rely on a highly trained professional who knows the area extensively. There are many operators, more or less legal and/or qualified in the area. Prices can vary greatly and the offers are seemingly same. By choosing your operator, the level of training of your guide as well as its experience should be your primary concern.
What is the guide/client ratio ?
Each guide can guide a maximum of 4 divers.
Who can do it ?
Any 18 years old certified Open Water Diver with good buoyancy control or 15 year olds diving with their parent or guardian.
Is it difficult ?
Obviously a good mastery of buoyancy skills is a prime necessity. You must be able to avoid bouncing and dragging fins on the ground, for your safety and for the conversation of the very fragile cave systems. It is not difficult, you only need to be a descent diver.
What kind of equipment do I need ?
You will use the normal recreational equipment, without snorkel, gloves or knifes. We will provide you with the necessary lights if needed.
Can I take pictures ?
Clients can take pictures, but the guide cannot, he must remain focused on the guiding. Some landlords will charge a fee to take a camera on their land. It is also possible to hire the services of a professional underwater photographer.
What should I take to the dive site ?
Apart for the dive gear, you should the minimum. A towel, personal hygiene items, maybe your cell phone to take pictures, small amount of MXN Pesos for small buys on the dive sites and for the entrance fees. Don't carry excessive amounts of money or valuable that you don't really need.
Also, chemicals such as repelents and sun blocks are strictly prohibited.
How do we go to the dive site ?
We will pick you up at your hotel and drive you by pick-up truck to the dive site, and drive you back at the end of the tour.
How long are the tours ?
At CDT Mexico, things are done slowly and right. No rushing, no tight schedule, this is the pleasure of diving with a small operation. Tours usually starts at 8am and finish between 2pm and 4pm, depending on the distance to the chosen dive site.
Which amenities do we find on the dive sites ?
Access to the majority of dive sites is very easy and convenient. Most of the cenotes offers simple but sufficient facility, as for example concrete tables to put your gear together, safe stairways if necessary and sometimes toilets or even snack bars for a few. It is our pleasure to inform you about every special dive site on demand.
Is there cell phone coverage on the dive sites ?
This will depend on the dive site. Half of the dive sites will be covered by network. It is our pleasure to inform you about every special dive site on demand.
Can I eat/buy food on the dive sites ?
You can eat on every dive sites. Some sites serve food, but most are not.
Can I take my own food on the dive sites ?
Yes, you can. And we will have the pleasure to organize it for you on demand! You are not allowed to bring alcoholic drinks with you.