GRAN CENOTE (SAC AKTUN)
El Gran Cenote is located about 4 km from Tulum on the road to the Mayan ruins of Coba.
Gran Cenote is a large beautiful garden cenote with gentle white sand beach type areas along with easily accesible caves for snorkeling and diving. With a circumference area of 202 meters, it is very popular with families and first time cenote swimmers. Visitors pass through well kept gardens before descending a natural rock and wooden plank stairway to the wooden platforms and gardens below.
At the bottom of the stairs, first timers tend to veer to the right where you´ll find a shallow snorkeling area with a soft white sand bottom. With a snorkel mask they can see large stalactites up close and personal. Non swimmers can wade to the other side of the cave where they can walk around a natural open hole to the jungle above.
Snorkelers can swim around the edges of the cenote, viewing depths up to 10 meters. Be careful to always keep an eye on the solid rock ceiling above so as to not bump your head. If you hold your breath and descend below, be sure to decompress your ears once every meter in which you descend. Upon returning to the surface, be sure to always raise your hand above your head when breaking the water´s surface to avoid banging your head! Views include columns of stalactites and stalagmites of all shapes and sizes which resemble cities of skyscrapers. Large balls of roots and vines seem to grow out of the underwater ceiling, connected to the large jungle trees above. Schools of fish tend to follow, eating up the plant debri which swim fins and paddling feet tend to stir up. Little green turtles paddle around near the garden´s edge.
The center garden includes chit palms, ferns, water lillys and elephant ears. Bench seats of jungle hardwood are nice for sunbathing or bird watching. Swallows make their homes in the walls of the cenote while turquoise mot mot birds flash communicative signals with their long feathery blue tails. Keep an eye out for toucans if you happen to be visiting during January or February.
More advanced swimmers can enter the large cave to the left which leads 15 meters back into darkness. Hundreds of stalactites invite you to move slowly, finding your own private hiding place. At the rear of the cave it is possible to hold your breath, dive below, and return to the surface inside a dark cave with little room above your head. Interior silence makes you feel like you have entered another world.
Gran Cenote is part of the Sak Aktun ("white cave" in Mayan) system of underground rivers whose current flows from deep inside the Yucatan peninsula. Amateur scuba divers find white walls, crystal clear waters and stunning formations. Certified cave divers can explore various routes deeper inside the incredibly decorated cave.
Entrance fees for snorkelers is $120 pesos. Swim fins, life jackets, masks and snorkels are available for rental. Entrance fee for scuba divers is $200 pesos.