The word “cenote” derives from the Mayan word “Tsonot” which means “hole with water”. Throughout time and especially in pre-Hispanic times, the Mayans considered these places as sacred, that is, as an entrance to the other spiritual space called the underworld or “Xibalba” (“Metnal” in Yucatec Mayan).in some of them it has been found ancient and precious objects such as pieces of jade, amulets, wooden objects among others, it is also believed that human sacrifices took place in these holes as in the case of the sacred cenote of Chichén Itzá. These cenotes were also used as a supply of water, of this vital and precious liquid. But these natural formations have their origin long before the development of pre-Hispanic peoples.
The Yucatan Peninsula is a limestone rock plain that formed in shallow waters in the Cretaceous period approximately 150-65 million years ago. It has been emerging little by little, being exposed to the different variations in sea level since the ice age. For approximately 2 million years this surface has reached up to 100 m. Tall. The existing sea level is the same as it was approximately 5,000 years ago.
On the other hand, approximately 65 million years ago, a 10 km wide meteorite struck the surface of our planet, taking place such an impact in the northern part of Yucatan, known as the Chichxulub meteorite, as the name of the Yucatecan population near from the place of impact. It is believed that this meteorite was responsible for the extinction of dinosaurs and other species.
As a result of this impact, a network of sinkholes formed under the peninsula, which we call “Cenotes”. These cenotes or water cavities during the last ice age, the water in their interior dried up and later the rains filtered dragging the different minerals into these cavities, forming stalactites, stalagmites and columns, which later ceased in their formations when the cavities filled with water in an interglacial period.
Today 4 types of cenotes have been classified:
There is the type, Cántaro (Pitcher), cavern, vertical walls and watered down or superficial.
In the Cántaro type, its entrance is through a hole in the surface, which when entering you can see a much larger chamber or vault, where the water is. It has very interesting rock formations, such as stalactites, stalagmites and formations that appear capricious figures.
In the Cavern type, the entrance is through a cave, from where you advance to where the body of water is, They usually have stalactites, stalagmites and columns and some zaciveces there are exposed minerals, there are also tunnels of several hundred meters .
The vertical wall type is like a large cylinder without a roof. Some reach up to 25 m. from the water to the surface, They are spectacular and wonderful.
And finally we have the Aguada or superficial type. This type of cenote is usually found very close to the coasts, some are found within mangroves enriching the habitat of the coasts.
At present day about 2,000 cenotes have been recorded, however it is estimated that there are more than 7,000 cenotes throughout the peninsula distributed within the jungle, still unexplored.
Today we can enjoy these wonderful places, swimming in its cool and crystal clear waters. These cenotes are tourist attractions and gifts of nature. So if you plan to visit one of these places, we recommend you observe certain rules in order to protect and preserve them.
Enter the cenotes carefully, the entrances can be slippery, they are made of wood or stone.
Do not use sunscreen or sunscreen or insect repellants, as these pollute the water and remember that cenotes are interconnected with other cenotes. You have to shower before swimming in any cenote.
Do not swim in dark places and near sharp or pointed rocks.
Do not touch the stalactites or stalagmites, or the columns, they are ancient formations and their formation is altered by human contact (they are destroyed)
Don’t jump from high places
Do not enter the water if you cannot swim, or else wear a life jacket. There are cenotes that have depths of up to 50 m.