in addition to running around mexican beach wedding parties in a javanese sarong, i have been spending much of my time over the past few weeks deep in the heart of yucatan. more precisely up to 15-20 metres deep, diving around in underground, water-filled cave systems called cenotes. the most extensive cenote system is ox bel ha, of which approximately 170 km have been explored. there are a number of different theories as to how these limestone cave systems have developed, due to the ice ages, rising and falling sea levels and/or meteoric impact. they are filled with both fresh- and saltwater, the two being separated inside the cave by haloclines. from the outside, they look like circular ponds at the bottom of sinkholes in the jungle, though some of the more popular ones nowadays have platforms for swimmers, snorkelers and divers.
while today's tourists pay to jump in, some of the ancient inhabitants of the yucatan peninsula ended up in the cenotes in a more involuntary fashion, as the maya sacrificed the occasional human by throwing them into the cenotes together with sacred artifacts to placate the rain god chaac.
but so much for the dry facts. as an experience diving in the cenotes is what the italians would call troppo bello, too beautiful, one of the most magnificent things i have seen so far, especially the light effects produced by the haloclines.