This is a seven-part story series on the magic of Merida, Mexico rated as one of the best cities to travel to in 2022.

In Merida, there are tours to reach many of the Yucatán cenotes within an hour’s drive. I had planned to go to at least two cenotes, although I only managed to get to one. My friend highly recommended the Hacienda Mucuyche Cenote, which did not disappoint. Mucuyche is one of the most developed cenotes for tourism, having everything from a gift shop to a restaurant, a bar, a swimming pool with lockers and many other amenities. Frankly, none of that matters once you climb down and you come face to face with the mystery, magic and beauty of this natural pit or sinkhole formed from the collapse of limestone bedrocks. Once you are in the water, you are dazzled, even spellbound, by the colors and the sparkles of the cave and the water. Doing this one time is just not enough.

Getting There …

I rented a car for two days to allow the flexibility to move freely. When heading to the Mucuyche Cenote, I managed to get lost since GPS service in Yucatán is spotty. I made a right instead of a left turn and ended up driving through a poor rural neighborhood, mostly small box homes made of cement in terrible shape. As I drove through this community, I saw no schools, parks, grocery stores, just poverty at its worse. I stopped twice to ask for directions until someone could get me on the right road. As you drive away, it’s hard not to wonder what will become of these families, especially their children. When driving in remote areas, I’ve been advised to download the map from google so that you are not solely dependent on GPS. I had inadvertently downloaded the wrong google map for two other cenotes and not for Mucuyche. Careful needs to be my middle name.


 Some Facts About Cenotes 

So what exactly is a Cenote? … Apparently these are underwater caves centuries old caused by erosion as rain breaks down the limestone rock that causes the ground to cave-in, creating these underground rivers. In Mexico, it is estimated that there are thousands of cenotes. In Yucatán alone, there are over 6000 of every shape and size. There are cenotes in Tulum, Cancun, near Playa Del Carmen for swimming, diving or snorkeling.

A Bit about the Hacienda Mucuyche Cenote

 My friend describes Mucuyche as the Disney world of cenotes, as many are rustic. Mucuyche allows you to spend the entire day using the pool and eating and drinking at the restaurant before and after your guided tour through the cenote. Remember to make reservations as they limit the number of visitors to 40 per tour. Going early allows you to enjoy the natural sunlight that travels through the caves. The beauty of the cenote as you wander deep into the cave is both stunning and surreal. I could not see as much underwater. Regardless it is a mesmerizing experience.

The Endangerment Facing Cenotes

Thousands of people swim through these caves every week. I immediately wondered how can these caves remain healthy and sustainable for generations to come? As humans, we are quite destructive with Mother Nature’s resources, and one has to assume that our bodies could be impacting these caves and the biodiversity found in fresh waters. I was curious enough to research it and to no surprise there are a number of human and environmental problems that over time may affect their existence. A more recent concern is the expansion of a railway project through the Yucatán peninsula that could very well destroy what is one of the largest underwater cave systems, threatening what is also a source of fresh water for the area. Other concerns are pollution caused by agriculture, human waste and the construction of new developments being built near the caves. This is further escalated by the rising tourism market that is causing more development and pollution. Besides their beauty and supply of fresh water, cenotes contain a range of biodiversity species not found it other regions that could very well become extinct. The responsibility of preserving these underwater caves falls on the Mexican government and its people. One can only hope that measures will be put in place for conserving these amazing water caves before it is too late.

Final note, the photos are the best I could produce using my iPhone over a protective see-through covering. There were so many more I could have taken as we swam deeper into the cave, but the cover was not cooperating. Needless to say, I am happy to share them until I can get back there again. Don’t forget to click the center of the photo for a full view.

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