Cave Astronaut: SCUBA Diving Dos Ojos Cenote

Cenote Dos Ojos Yucatan Mexico
Dos Ojos Cenote
Tulum, Mexico

Brilliant blue light from the cave opening slowly faded away. Switching on our dive lights we swam deep into the darkness beyond. A mysterious alien world revealed itself.

Unlike wandering around the famous Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza, cave diving in Mexico has risks. Swimming through dark underwater passages in the earth can be claustrophobic and confusing.

With a roof of rock over your head, floating up to the surface in an emergency is not an option. You must go back out the way you came in.

In the past, this type of diving was only accessible to advanced divers with very specialized training.

But the rule was changed when the diving community made a distinction between Cave Diving & Cavern Diving.

Cenote Scuba Diving Yucatan Mexico
My Cavern Diving Gear

Difference Between Cave & Cavern Diving

To get more SCUBA divers interested in exploring caves, the sport was split into two different categories.

Cave Diving is when divers maneuver their way deep into underwater passageways with no easy access to the surface due to a ceiling of rock above their heads. There is zero natural light visible to the diver under the proper definition of cave diving. Individuals will often swim for many hundreds (even thousands) of meters from the cave opening, using multiple air tanks and a spool of penetration line to find their way back out.

Cavern Diving is similar to cave diving, the difference is that some natural light is visible to you at all times. So cavern divers don’t go as deep into the passages as cave divers do. The cave opening doesn’t need to be visible, just some sort of natural light emanating from that opening. The penetration limit for cavern diving is 200 feet (60 m) from the cave opening. Cavern divers also use a guideline to prevent getting lost, but it’s already attached to the cave floor or wall.

Both cave & cavern diving requires the use of underwater flashlights, as the environment can get quite dark inside a cave. Even if you can see some daylight off in the distance behind you, it may be pitch black in the direction you’re swimming!

Cave divers require a special set of additional certifications that the average recreational diver will not spend the time or money to get.

But cavern diving with a guide is available to anyone with a basic Open Water SCUBA certification, like me!

Dos Ojos Cave Diving Yucatan Mexico
Entering the Cave (photo by Luis Leal)

What Is A Cenote?

To go diving in these caves, you first have to enter the water through a cenote. Cenotes are freshwater sinkholes in the ground.

Sometimes the roof of these passageways will collapse, creating an entrance into the underground river hidden below.

Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula is littered with cenotes that are fed by the largest underground river systems in the world.

The source of this crystal-clear water is rainfall that filters through the earth.

These subterranean passages make up extensive underwater cave systems, like the Sac Actun system which is over 133 miles (232 km) long.

Cenotes are unique natural features to the Yucatan & Caribbean — it’s estimated that there are over 6000 of them in the area. This makes it the best place on the planet to experience cavern diving.

Matt Cave Diving Mexico
Exploring My Alien Environment (photo by FishEye)

Dos Ojos SCUBA Shop

For my very first cavern diving experience, I decided to enlist the services of Dos Ojos Dive Shop. They had a great reputation online and with other local divers.

From the town of Playa del Carmen, it’s a cheap 40-minute colectivo ride to the Dos Ojos Cenote located between Akumal & Tulum.

The area around the dive shop is actually home to many different cenotes, but the most famous is Dos Ojos, which means “two eyes” in Spanish. These caverns were featured in the IMAX film “Journey into Amazing Caves” as well as a horror movie called “The Cave“.

I met with my professional dive guide Salvador Luna at the Dos Ojos shop to get fitted for gear. We then proceeded to drive 2 kilometers to the Dos Ojos cenote itself as he shared some interesting historical facts about the area.

Cenotes were once used by the Mayans for ritual human sacrifice — they believed them to be entrances into the underworld.

The remains of ancient human skeletons are still occasionally found in these underwater caves. Some of them are over 10,000 years old!

Dos Ojos Bat Cave Mexico
The Bat Cave at Dos Ojos

Welcome To The Underworld

If you think SCUBA diving an ocean reef environment is incredible, wait until you dive through a freshwater cave! It’s equally as alien and mesmerizing.

After a pre-dive check and safety talk, we traversed two different underwater routes that day, each about 45 minutes long. The first took us down 30 feet (10m) deep, and made its way from one cenote opening to another (hence the “two eyes” in Dos Ojos).

Light from the cenote opening slowly fades away as you push forward into the veins of the earth.

Snaking our way around columns of rock, I followed Salvador with my dive light scanning the environment for strange fish, cave fossils, and other oddities.

Proper buoyancy control is very important when cavern diving in a cenote — you must maneuver through the cave formations without damaging them.

Cave Diving Dos Ojos Mexico
Deep in the Underground River (photo by FishEye)

Unique SCUBA Adventure

One interesting feature you’ll see on a cavern dive are the pools of air that collect on the cave ceiling above you. They look just like puddles of mercury!

Some crystal stalactite & stalagmite formations can be lit up like candles with your light.

Our second dive lead into The Bat Cave. This route floats through tight passageways full of cathedral-like pillars of limestone. It’s almost pitch black swimming in this section and felt like a true cave diving experience.

You then surface into a dark cavern with a small skylight over your head.

The whole chamber is absolutely filled with bats!

Scuba diving Dos Ojos Cenote was a strange (but cool) travel experience. ★

Watch Video: Dos Ojos Cenote Dive


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(Click to watch Dos Ojos Cenote – Scuba Diving Mexico on YouTube)

TRAVEL PLANNING RESOURCES FOR MEXICO
Location: Dos Ojos Cenote, Mexico
Company: Dos Ojos SCUBA Shop
Cost: $100 USD (2 tanks plus entrance fee)
Book A Flight: Learn how I find the cheapest airline flights
Rent A Car: Discover Cars is a great site for comparing car prices
Find A Hotel: My tips for booking affordable accommodation
Protect Your Stuff: WorldNomads.com can insure your trip & gear
Recommended Guidebook: Lonely Planet Yucatan
Suggested Reading: The Maya: Ancient Peoples & Places

READ MORE MEXICO TRAVEL TIPS

I hope you enjoyed my guide to Scuba Diving Dos Ojos Cenote! Hopefully you found it useful. Here are a few more wanderlust-inducing articles that I recommend you read next:

Have you ever heard of cenotes before? Would you swim in caves? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

THANKS FOR READING

Hi, I’m Matthew Karsten — I’ve been traveling around the world for the last 9 years as a blogger, photographer, and digital nomad. Adventure travel & photography are my passions. Let me inspire you to travel with crazy stories, photography, and money-saving travel tips.
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Comments (41)

  1. Great pictures. How did you made these clear pictures? I have always big problems to make nice pictures in the water. That’s why I never wrote about my diving.

  2. I agree with 100% cavern diving is a must if you’re visiting the Yucatan.
    I have to say though when we hit the bat cave, There was only one or two bats on the ceiling. Perhaps time of day?

    Mike D

    • Probably more time of the year. I was there a couple days ago and there were a dozen at most though my guide says in summer there are many hundreds in there.

  3. Thank you so much for all the information! It looks so interesting and I’m glad you enjoyed yourself. Next year I’ll be in Mexico and would love to go diving in Dos Ojos. Is there any general advice you could give me please on pricing, where exactly to get certified so I can dive, etc? Your help is greatly appreciated! Cheers!

  4. Hi Matthew,
    I am Soooo excited to have found your page!! I used to just LOVE adventures also!
    Luckily, I have your videos to watch so that I’m able to enjoy the adventure vicariously through you!!
    Thank you Soooo much for making these videos!!
    Jackie

    • Glad you’re enjoying the videos Jackie! My mission this year is to do many more of them. I’ve got tons of footage, just haven’t put it together in to anything yet.

  5. Great video. I was lucky enough to dive both the pit and dos ojos this year and what a great experience it was! Both sites spectacular in their own way. The pit was probably the most intimidating and exciting dive I have ever done. The half way submersion into the bat cave at dos ojos was a very special moment! Keep up the good work.

    • Yes! Fantastic Video Mathew! It is not that easy to get such good footage with all the minerals and movement in the water. Great Job! What type of camera did you use?

  6. I’m just writing about this now. Did this back in February and also went 38 metres into the Pit. My favourite was the Bat Cave but the Pit was intense. Something eery about being so deep and swimming through wavy sulphuric gas. Almost like a dream….

    • Cool Matthew! Diving in cenotes is quite an unusual experience for sure. It really feels like another world.

      I’d love to dive the Pit one day.

  7. I don’t know how your site and youtube channel isn’t more popular man your adventures are wicked, hope to follow your footsteps soon, thanks for helping me see my future.

  8. Unbelievable the visibility down in the cenotes. Definitely have to make it up from Costa Rica to do that one of these fine days. Do they require you to have any advanced training or minimum number of dives for diving these areas?

  9. What an amazing adventure that was! Loved the pic by Luis Leal – makes me want to dive right in. Thanks for sharing.

  10. Reallly Beautiful Matt! Love your posts! They always have great stories or amazing pictures! Cave/Cavern diving would be pretty scary! You are a brave brave man!

  11. As amazingly beautiful as that looks, I can’t help but be reminded of James Cameron’s film Sanctum. I’d dive it (if I was certified) but man… :)

  12. Cool video! I have to share it. Snorkeling is about as far as I’ll go also, but Dos Ojos was still a great experience. My son loved watching the divers come out of the tunnels underneath us.

  13. As a scuba diver, this is definitely something high up on my to-do list! Love that first photo from inside the cenote with the light streaming in. So cool you got to do this!

  14. I wish I could claim ownership of that one Lawrence, but it was taken by Luis Leal, owner of the Dos Ojos dive shop.

    He’s a great underwater photographer!

  15. Loved this post. I’d give my right arm to do this! I used to dive, but haven’t done any for years now. It got to be so expensive. Thanks for the vicarious adventure though!

    • Anytime Linda. Diving can be expensive sometimes, but not too bad in Mexico. Only $10 to rent gear with these guys!

      A cenote dive is a bit more expensive than an ocean dive, but you’re paying for quite a different (and challenging) experience.

  16. Hey Matthew –
    Great video. You mention that you shot it with an S95 in an underwater housing. Did you use any external lights with it?

    • Not for the video. Just used our hand-held dive lights.
      The photo of me underwater was shot with a Canon G11 in an underwater housing, with a special waterproof external flash.

  17. Although I can see the appeal of this adventure, this is one I think I would skip. Snorkeling is about my limit for underwater adventure; however, I enjoyed the post, pictures, and video.

    • Glad you enjoyed it Ted. I like to consider myself pretty adventurous, but I have to admit this activity had me a bit nervous. Although after a few minutes, I couldn’t get enough of it. :)

  18. Talk about a buoyancy test! What did you think of the rental gear? I just finished my open water last weekend. Hoping to check out some cenotes next summer but I’ve heard horror stories about renting gear.

  19. You are very brave. Although it looks absolutely spectacular I don’t know if I could brave a cave or cavern dive. I’d probably get a panic attack – I nearly got a heart attack snorkeling in the Galapagos when I thought a shark was diving underneath me. Turned out it was a sea lion. :-)

  20. I just got my open water certification in La Paz and I’m so excited to start using it when I travel. I may have to head back East to check out the cenotes.

    • You totally should! There aren’t many places in the world to do this, so it’s definitely worth the trip. :D

  21. Very cool Matt. Watching this in Ubud, Bali and getting psyched to hit the reefs in the Gillies in a couple days. Great video. Did you shot that with your GoPro? Cheers!

    • I shot the diving portion with my Canon S95 & an underwater housing that Canon makes for it. The GoPro doesn’t do well in low light like this, plus it’s actually blurry underwater without a special flat-lens attachment.

    • Weightlessly floating around those stalactites & stalagmites was interesting. You have to pay attention to both what is below you, as well as above. I actually hit the cave ceiling at one point because I wasn’t paying attention. It’s like a maze.

  22. I’ve heard about the Cenotes and have wanted to dive them for years! The way the light shines through is just beautiful. I don’t think it would freak me out as I did the blue hole and was cool with that. Cost is about what I expected.

  23. Wow this looks absolutely spectacular…one of the cooler things I’ve seen in recent memory. I would love to try something like this – it’s good to know you don’t need to have that advanced certification anymore. That certainly makes it much more accessible to folks like me!

    • Yup, I was psyched I didn’t need any extra classes to do this. Super cool experience, made me want to go even deeper in the caves! :)