From Punta Allen to Cancun, the Riviera Maya shows beauty at a glance: biodiversity, vibrant beaches and archaeological sites harmonize the landscape. But the Mexican peninsula still had a secret to reveal.

Far from the sunlight, in the depths of Tulum, the largest system of flooded caves ever recorded has been discovered. Underwater explorers of the Great Maya Aquifer project found that two of the largest cenotes in the world, Sac Actun and Dos Ojos, are part of the same system.

Sac Actun, the mother of all cenotes.

Sac Actun, the mother of all cenotes.

 

Sac Actun, history underwater


The exhaustive exploration of the tunnels revealed that a passageway connects both cenotes, so the total dimension of the underwater labyrinth is 347 kilometers. Besides, the researchers found hundreds of archaeological objects belonging to America’s first settlers, as well as remains of extinct animals.

“This immense cave represents the most important submerged archaeological site in the world,” said Guillermo de Anda, a researcher at Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History and director of the exploration.

The maximum depth of the cenote is 20 meters.

The maximum depth of the cenote is 20 meters.

 

Between the found objects stand out prehistoric vestiges of the Mayan culture, like ceramic vessels and funerary objects. The researchers also discovered human remains, and animals, such as elephants, tigers, ancient horses and giant sloths.

Subtítulo: Mayan Cosmogony

For the ancient Mayan culture, the cenotes were an essential part of its cosmogony. The word cenote comes from the Mayan voice dzonoot (hole with water), and represented the third level of the Mayan universe, after the sky and the earth.

“It’s a mighty and magical region where the supernatural reigns, where gods and deities lived, where good and bad coexisted, and it was also where men came from,” narrated de Anda.

The Dos Ojos cenote now is part of Sac Actun.

The Dos Ojos cenote now is part of Sac Actun.

 

Before the discovery, scientist believed that the Ox Bel cave system, south of Tulum, was the largest in the world, with 268 km of interconnected tunnels. Meanwhile, the cenotes of Sac Actun (262 km) and Dos Ojos (83 km) were the second and fourth, respectively.

There are plenty of cenotes in La Riviera Maya. Xcacel, Aktun-Ha or Zacil-Ha are some of the most beautiful to visit. Swim in their crystal clear waters and discover the secrets that lie beneath the surface.

Xcacel Cenote.

Xcacel Cenote.

2 February, 2018
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