Xenotes Oasis Maya: a non-stop day

Filed under: Things to Do - by Louise Hennessy

Xenotes Oasis Maya: a non-stop day. But shouldn’t it be, “CENOTES”?

This was our first question (to ourselves of course, lest we give away our lack of knowledge!)

More to do with the marketing theme of the tour company than anything else in this particular case, do not get confused; the idea is the same, just pronounced “sh– E-no-tes”, rather than the correct form of “s-E-no-tes”.

xenotes riviera maya

Having seen photos of harness-clad adventurers descending into a cavern of pristine water in Xenotes Oasis Maya, and  later paddling along happily in yellow kayaks, we were at a loss when it came to the best way to dress for this trip. We have to admit that every trip is accompanied by the “choosing-and- discarding-of-the-perfect-and-most-adaptable-outfit” ritual, and occasionally we hit gold. On this occasion, the only thing we were certain of was about taking our swimming gear, but then the familiar doubt crept in…do we put it on under our clothes or do we change there…?

It’s fairly simple really, as you can change in the modern, rustic-style changing rooms, but if you are like us, perhaps you won’t want to waste a minute of the experience! That said, at the first cenote we visited, we were obliged to wait for the rest of the group as our guide (who by the way, was the image of Millhouse from The Simpsons), checked our safety equipment. We hadn’t done any kind of descent in years, and memories of abseiling off the side of a viaduct came flooding back. In comparison however, this was very light stuff, with only a short distance to descend down, and  was actually more of a steep zip line than anything else.

It is hard to describe the exact tone of the water in what we will name the “cave cenote”. The “bluest possible blue,” comes to mind in attempt to capture its beauty, but it really needs to be seen to be believed. We could quite happily have remained there for hours, immersed in the coolness of the water and marvelling at our surroundings, but there were still another four cenotes to enjoy…

Each one we visited at Xenotes Oasis Maya had its particular charm, the second  one being semi-open and naturally speckled with lily pads, and thus became known to us as the “snorkelling cenote”. Not much by way of fish to see under the water, our masks really served as a means to gape at the depth of the water and admire how the stalks of the plants stretched right up to to surface,  where they floated around daintily.

The third, or more affectionately, “ kayaking cenote”, was actually adjacent to the snorkelling one and had more of the shape of a canal circuit than your typical pool; probably the reason why kayaking is the thing to do here, whether individually or in pairs. Our competitive streak  led us to  opt for the double kayak, and as things would have it, the simplicity of paddling in unison was somewhat deceptive and even quite hazardous in our case;  we found ourselves initially dodging whacks from the paddle of whoever was at the prow, until they got used to the rhythm.

xenotes maya riviera maya

Perhaps by naming the next one, the “zip line cenote,” you can get a clear idea of what awaited us. Two zip lines stretching from opposite sides of a pool of water (less of a rock pool, more of a big pond in this case!) where stunts, splashes and shrieks could be witnessed by every single person in the vicinity. Having decided to embrace the experience wholeheartedly, we just had to accept the fact that we were likely to make big fools of ourselves, just like everyone else; which was consequently rather refreshing!

Mmm…the last one was more of a dilemma to name. Should we call it the “relaxing cenote…,” the “river cenote,” or the “lazy cenote”? Ah, no. This one has to be the “jumping cenote”. Allow us to explain… You may even start to think it’s the perfect way to round off the action-packed day, floating along what appears to be a gentle river, guided to the end by a current, meaning little or no effort from yourself. You get out, follow the path up and round, only to find your group grinning at you and comtemplating a drop of 25 ft down into the water. It’s certainly not obligatory, but as we had recently made a conscious decision to start facing of our fears, we tried not to think twice about it, let out a big scream and just…..…jumped!

Our verdict of Xenotes Oasis Maya: good good fun, not a minute’s boredom; very refreshing to be in and out of the water all day; surprisingly not rushed around the activities (just a bit rushed to finish lunch).

Our observations: really bouncy ride in the van as a lot of road is unpaved, take heed if you get carsick; don’t forget BIODEGRADABLE suncream and repellent, it’s a jungle out there! There is a very strong emphasis on protecting the environment (great news!)so you will be asked to refrain from using anything which is not biodegradable. By the way, don’t bother taking a camera unless it’s completely waterproof and securely attached to you!

Our tip for Xenotes Oasis Maya: if you’ve got water shoes, take them. We padded our way gingerly back to the entrance, on more than one occasion, having had to leave our flip flops there to avoid losing them in the cenotes.

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