If you’ve been waiting for inspiration to strike before you take those scuba diving lessons, here’s something for you. In Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, visit Cenote Angelita (“Little Angel”) and then get ready to experience a dive unlike any other. Just a ten to fifteen minute drive south of Tulum will lead you to Cenote Angelita—an advanced scuba diving cenote (water-filled cave) that houses a surreal surprise: an underwater river that flows through the ocean!
How is this possible? you might be wondering. Well, when limestone bedrock collapses, it sinks and forms a pit. Acting as a reservoir, this pit then fills with a mixture of fresh groundwater and saltwater. Eventually, organic matter ends up in the trench, and when it decomposes, it produces a halocline (a cloud of hydrogen sulphide) that separates the freshwater at the top from the saltwater below.
Divers can actually swim right through this cloud, which magically resembles a flowing body of water. With fallen leaves and branches lining the “river,” you can’t help but think you’re in a mystical forest.
Here’s how Maya Diving describes it: “From the surface, you look down and all you can see is deep blue water. You all give the ok and begin your descent, at first you see nothing but blueness all round then slowly at about 18m/60ft you begin to see what looks like a strange wispy bottom appearing below with a few ghostly, bare limbed tree trunks and branches sticking out.”
“As it becomes clearer you begin to feel the first effects of narcosis at the same time as you see an expanse of wispy fog below. At the top of the cloud you stop and look around, everything appears surreal and a spooky feeling takes over amplified by the effects of the nitrogen in your brain.
“Now you descend through the cloud, for a minute you can’t see anything except for the brownish glow of your lights and maybe you bump into a branch or two in the murk then you are through and realize that there is a black abyss below you still, the water is very clear, but your light doesn’t illuminate anything below, the beam is swallowed up in blackness. You are already at 33m/100ft and you go a little farther down and move away from the slope of the cone of debris in the middle and look up at the dim glow of light coming through the foggy layer above…”
“Now that was a diving adventure that you will never forget.”
Underwater photographer Anatoly Beloshchin has taken some spectacular shots and a video of this naturally occurring underwater river. Unreal, isn’t it?
All images via Antaoly Beloshcin unless otherwise stated.
This article has been edited and updated.
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