THE CENOTES OF THE RIVIERA MAYA 2016

Steve Penn Gerrard’s environmental work brings out the explorer in every reader! A complete guide to snorkeling, cavern, and cave diving the cenotes of the Riviera Maya. This book includes photographs, maps, and provides details of where and how to swim, dive, and enjoy these beautiful cenotes located on the Caribbean coast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Readers who wish to experience this fascinating work can purchase “The Cenotes of the Riviera Maya 2016” at bookstores everywhere, or online at the Apple iTunes store, Amazon, Google Play or Barnes and Noble. For additional information or media inquiries, contact Page Publishing at 800-204-6099.cropped-cenote2016-0017.jpgDSC01824

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MY PRIMER

MICHAEL MEDUNO

Cave diving in Mexico has come a long way since the 1980s when explorers like Sheck Exley, Ned Deloach, Karen Pribble, and later Mike Madden and Parker Turner first put the Yucatán on the map. Today, three decades later, the so-named Riviera Maya, which runs along the eastern portion of the Yucatán Peninsula in Quintana Roo bordered by the Caribbean coastline has arguably become the Mecca of the cave diving world with over 1000 cenotes from over 300 distinct underwater cave systems containing more than 3,500,000 feet/1,0668,000 meters of surveyed line.

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To put these numbers into perspective, that’s nearly 633-miles or 1066 km of known passageway, and exploration continues to this day. In fact, Riviera Maya contains 9 of the 10 longest underwater caves in the world, and explorers expect to extend the two largest systems Sistema Ox Bel Ha (842,879 feet/256,909 meters) and Sistema Sac Actun (757,136 fee/230,775 meters) to over one million feet each within the next few years.

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More amazing, explorers are still making major finds, such as the 2007 discovery of Hoyo Negro or “black hole—a 200 feet/61 meters wide, 190 feet/58 m deep chamber at the end of some 3000 feet/914 meters of passage, which may be the most important Paleoindian site discovered in the last few decades. And dry cavers are now journeying to the Peninsula to undertake karst explorations of their own, deeper into the Mayan jungle.

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This mind-boggling pace of discovery is one of the reasons that 62-year old educator, explorer, guide, author and underground photographer Steve Gerrard decided to update and expand his original “Cenotes of Riviera Maya” guidebook (February, 2000), which sold more than 8,000 copies. The new edition, “Cenotes of The Riviera Maya 2014” leads the adventurous reader further into the field and details some of the amazing discoveries that have occurred over the last decade and a half. I can think of no better guide.

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Cave certified in 1975, Gerrard has been diving the cenotes of Riviera Maya since 1986. Following a dive at “Carwash” with Mike Madden and Parker Turner, the quiet-spoken explorer made his first exploration dive at Nahoch Nah Chich with Madden and Juan Jose Tucat, where the team laid nearly two kilometers of line in Nahoch Nah Chich, setting the record at the time for longest surveyed line in a single cave dive. He continued to make pilgrimages to what was then regarded as cave diving’s frontier until 1992 when he packed up his gear and moved to Puerto Aventuras. Since that time, Gerrard, who has logged in excess of 6,000 cave dives, and trained more than 3000 cave and cavern students, has dedicated his career to exploring, teaching and guiding divers through the Yucatan underground.

In addition to “Cenotes of The Riviera Maya,” the veteran caver is the author of “Cavern Diving-Safe and Fun” (2007) and co-author of “Cave Diving-Safe and Smart” (2008), published by the Professional Scuba Association International (PSAI). His cave photography has been featured in more than 50 publications.

In “Cenotes of Riviera Maya 2016,” Gerrard describes and highlights over 120 cave systems nearly three times the number of systems in the original guidebook and almost ten times the number of cenotes.

Sadly, the growth of surveyed passageway in Riviera Maya has accompanied an unprecedented explosion of population and its associated development along the Yucatan peninsula. Sewage, nitrate runoff and destruction of habitat have become major problems impacting numerous cave systems, which empty into the Caribbean Sea, and the coral reefs, many of which are dying.

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Gerrard’s book serves both to document the condition of the Riviera Maya’s cenotes today as well as drive home a strong conservation message to protect this unique and fragile environment for future generations of cave and cavern divers before it’s too late.

They have a saying among the Yucatan underground, “You don’t know, if you don’t go.” My advice to divers is to get yourself down there, but be sure to read this book first!—M2

CENOTE PET CEMETARY, Q. ROO, MEXICO

CENOTE PET CEMETARY   *name was changed to Cenotes Sac Actun”

16Q 0457252 UMT 2246664CENOTES SAC ACTUN

The land owners are Felipe and Irma Fernandez.    The maximum depth for the Blue Abyss Room is 225 feet/68.6 meters.

Cenote Pet Cemetery got its name from cave explorers Mike Madden and Eric Hutchinson who when finding and surfacing in the cenote for the first time during a cave exploration dive on October 12, 1994.  They were searching for a connection between cave systems Dos Ojos and Nohoch Nachich where they found many animal bones laying in the cenote, thus Mike named it Cenote Pet Cemetary.  In addition, the cenote was first discovered in 1985 after Hurricane Elena as the Mexican Army was accessing the damage by air and came upon it.  The landowners have renamed area the Cenotes Sac Actun. 

The most popular dive is to the Blue Abyss from Cenote Pet Cemetary.  This room was first discovered during exploration dives of Christmas week of 1992 by Mike Madden and Bill Main.  They found the top of the room as they had reached their air turnaround on their final day of diving.  Returning on Tuesday, February 2, 1993 using Mako DPV’s from Cenote Nohoch Nah Chich, Mike Madden and Steve Gerrard explored the room to a depth of 225 feet/68.6 meters stopped by breakdown rock.  Several attempts were made during the years since by a variety of cave explorers. It is currently being pushed by Polish cave diver Krzysztof Starnaweski during recent years.

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Drive to the entrance road to Cenote Dos Ojos (The Ejido Jacinto Pat) located ½ kilometer south of the Xel Ha Highway 307 Bridge.  Drive west on the Ejido Pet Cemetery sascab road. Follow the road past Cenote Dos Ojos and continue for three more kilometers. When the road turns left follow it south ad continue.  Along the way you will see several huge concrete block signs with Sac Actun painted on them. Continue on road until the very end. You will find a large parking area marked by a cave diver sign and several long wooden tables for setting up your equipment. Park your vehicle.

Behind this area is a short sandy path leading to a large cenote that is naturally impossible to enter. The land owner has constructed a quality set of wooden stairs leading down to the water. There is an area with benches to place tanks.

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It is highly recommended to do this dive to the Blue Abyss Room with a stage bottle. Why? For most folks, when you reach the Blue Abyss you will be close if not at THIRDS with your air or gas supply. The stage bottle insures that you have plenty of air or gas to enjoy the Blue Abyss Room, particularly if you plan to swim deep into the bottom of the room.  Enter the water and perform the pre-dive rituals. Face the cave opposite from the wooden steps and deck and swim underwater into the cave. You are looking for a yellow braided nylon guideline. This line is set up as an irregular circular path that winds around a huge cavern and snorkeling area. There is a huge air space with two wooden decks and a ladder leading to the surface through a small shaft. Electrical lights have been installed for snorkeling groups.

You will probably find two parallel yellow braided nylon lines. Choose one and swim clockwise or counter clockwise (left or right). Either way you will be swimming and following the yellow line for about 7 or 8 minutes. You are looking for two large quality directional arrows. There is a stalagmite nearby where the yellow line is anchored.  From this point you will tie off a reel or spool and swim into a huge cave passage. The permanent line is about 25 feet/7.6 meters away tied to a stalagmite.  Follow this string for 200 feet/60.1 meters and your find two directional line arrows pointing back to the Cenote Pet Cemetary. There will be a slate tied to the permanent line pointing towards Cenote I-Hop, which is 400 feet/122 meters. There will be another string one foot away. This line leads into the Dark Side of the Moon area. To your left, 40 feet/12.2 meters away is another string. This is the line to the Blue Abyss. Tie off a reel or spool and connect into this guideline.  Swim approximately 300 feet/91 meters and you will encounter the King Pong restriction. It zig zags through a forest of columns. Yes, you can swim through this minor restriction with your stage bottle. There is NO silt! Continue swimming and eventually you will drop off your stage bottle when appropriate for your team. When you reach a 90 degree turn of the permanent guideline to the left there should be two large quality directional arrows. You are now at the jump for the final 300 feet to the Blue Abyss. It is a 15 foot/4.6 meters distance, down to the right. Tie in the connection with a spool or reel. This passage is highly decorated. Halfway to the Blue Abyss you encounter one more minor restriction. It is crack that slopes downward. Be gentle. You should reach the Blue Abyss in 45 minutes or less.

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For side mount divers, a popular route is follow the cavern line clockwise (left side) for about 4 – 5 minutes and there should be a quality large arrow pointing back at 6 feet/1.8 meters depth .  To your left you are looking for a white string tie to rock 20 feet/6.1 meters away.  Follow this line for 300 feet/91.4 meters and you will encounter the No Mount restriction.  Detach one tank (one bottom clip) and carefully push the bottle ahead easily through the restriction.  Follow this string for approximately 22 – 25 minutes and the line will end.  Jump 8 feet/2.4 meters across with a gap reel or spool and turn left and swim 40 feet/12.2 meters to the 90 degree turn of the permanent guideline and jump right to the Blue Abyss line.

The dive site fee is 500 pesos.

The bathrooms are probably the BEST in the Riviera Maya.

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CENOTE JACINTO PAT or known as THE PIT

CENOTE THE PIT 

16Q 0457215 UMT 2247298

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The land owner is the Ejido Jacinto Pat.   The maximum depth is 391 feet/119.1 meters.

The cenote steps were constructed during the winter of 2012 and the road and parking area later into 2013.  It has become a very popular cavern dive for open water divers, side mount diver and cave divers.  It is evolving into a popular training site for technical deep diving.  Brilliant turquoise shafts of light plunge more than 100 feet straight down. Unlimited visibility, a hydrogen sulfide cloud, anthropological remains, and cave formations make a cenote scuba dive in this fresh water sinkhole unlike any other experience. People have called this the best dive of their lives.

Besides the deep dive there is a downstream and upstream passages.  As you approach the far wall at 40 feet/12.2 meters to the left is a passage that will take you directly to Cenote “The Link” or Don’s $100 Cenote.  There are many offshoot passages along the way. To the right is the passage that will take the cave diver 4500 feet/1372 meters downstream to Cenote Tikim Ich and on to Cenote Dos Ojos West.

 There are bathroom facilities.

The dive site fee is 250 pesos.  You pay at the front entrance at Highway 307 and receive a ticket to present at the cenote.

It was first discovered by Dan Lins and Kay Walten during the fall of 1994. Other explorers were Martin van Baal, Steve Bogearts, Andrew Georgitsis, Paul Heinerth, Jill Heinerth, Toine Peters, Krzysztof Starnanski, Nick Toussaint, John Walker, and Gary Walten.

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THE CENOTES OF THE RIVIERA MAYA 2016

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This book will be available during September, 2016.  This 260 page review of the cenotes of the Riviera Maya of Mexico’s Caribbean coast located south of Cancun discusses detail information, educational value and historic references of the growth of this area during the past twenty years.  Published by Page Publishing of New York City, this book will be presented in both eBook and hard copy formats.  It will be available on Amazon, all major book publishing companies and distributed throughout North America, South America, Europe, and Asia.

CONTACT ME AT:  stevepenngerrard@hotmail.com

CENOTE DZULO (XULO) (CUEVA GOLONDRINAS)

Jeff Highley and Scott Banks of Long Beach, California enjoying a GREAT dive at:

CENOTE DZULO (XULO)
(CUEVA GOLONDRINAS)
W 87.6276 / N 20.0614

The land owner is Senor Dzulo (the correct spelling) who sadly passed away during the spring of 2014. His family now operates the dive site. The family calls this cenote Cueva De Golondrinas – “Cave Of The Swallows”. The maximum depth is 89 feet/27.1 meters.

There are bathroom facilities available.

There is a dive site fee paid here.

Photos By STEBER PENN GERRARD www.deephorizon.info

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