CENOTE CARWASH (AKTUN HA)
Car Wash (Aktun Ha) is famous for its delicate rock formations. Before the discovery of Sac Aktun and Nohoch, it was considered the area's most beautiful cave.
Cenote Aktun Ha is no longer used to wash taxi cabs along side the highway to Coba, hence it´s popular name of Car Wash, but it is a wonderful place for swimming, snorkeling, diving, picnicking, sunbathing and responsible partying. Located along side the road, 8 km from Tulum pueblo, swimmers and snorkelers will find what looks like a large pond, more than 150 ft (50 m) across with an average depth of 3 meters. A wooden path and deck line the water while an 8 ft (2m) platform allows kids and adults to have fun of jumping in.
A layer of algae pervades at varying levels depending on when you visit. Sometimes it is down deep so the entire cenote is like a large crystal clear swimming pool, sparkling with a lush green bottom. Other times it´s near the top making it a bit scary to jump in, not knowing what is underneath. But once you hold your breath and dive below the cloud, the underworld is filled with plants, eerie submerged trees and deep caves off to the sides.
Schools of various types of fish and fresh water turtles inhabit the waters. On the right, or west side the upstream cave drops out of sight to a depth of 15m. Large stalactites can easily be seen with just a snorkel and mask, but cave divers get to explore the dark depths which amount to 185m of underwater space. To the left is another peaceful park and natural rock sitting area. Underwater the plants adhere to the rock walls of the cenote until the cave and water current disappears below and downstream.
Upstream, cavern divers find chestnut colored columns below the shallow depths of fallen trees and roots. The light falling through the algae layer above creates an amazing show of varying hues. Tunnels of rock lead to underground and underwater rooms such as the Room of Tears and Adriana´s Room.
The facilities at Car Wash make suiting up and getting in the water easy for divers. The parking lot is only a few meters away. A professional guide is recommended from maximum security and enjoyment. A main line has been installed but it begins deep inside and can be difficult to find.
Cenote Aktun Ha (cave filled with water in Mayan) is an excellent example of the natural collapse formation of these virtual sinkholes. The Yucatan peninsula including Quintana Roo and the pueblo of Tulum, is literally made up of a limestone shelf. Varying levels of solidity creates not so solid rock a little like swiss cheese. Calcium deposits from filtered rainwater filled with the nutrients from the jungle above form stalactites and stalagmites. With the changes in water levels based on tides and the Caribbean Sea level which changes with every tropical storm, areas of thin limestone eventually collapse.
This was proven many eons ago in the case of Cenote Aktun or Car Wash. But only a few years ago when Hurricane Wilma hit hard, the water level rose 2m and covered the highway road. The water took months to recede to the ocean.
Entrance fee for swimmers and snorkelers is $40 pesos, divers pay $120 p. Feel free to bring your coolers filled with your favorite refreshments...