What's Down Below

by Mari Pintkowski  (May 2012)

As I wander the sandy paths that encircle the buildings and surrounding jungle at La Selva Mariposa, I am in awe at what I see, hear and smell around and above me. The colorful birds, the delicate butterflies, the chirping, invisible insects and the tropical fragrances all wrapped up in a living blanket of green are something I never take for granted. It is hard to believe that the bustling tourist Mecca of Tulum is only a 15-minute drive away.

My gaze moves off the path and onto the rocky limestone shelf peppered with sink holes beyond. I suddenly become aware that there is another ecosystem 30 to 60 feet below me just waiting to be explored. Everyone who lives in the Yucatán Peninsula has a dream to find a crystal, blue cenote on their little piece of paradise, but for most it is only a dream.

If you are new to this region, you may not realize that the Maya called these magical, unique-to-the-world geological formations dzonot. When the conquistadors arrived they translated this to cenote. The ancient people also believed dzonots were sacred because they represented the entrance to the underworld. The surface of the Yucatán Peninsula is a porous limestone shelf with no visible rivers; all the fresh water rivers lie underground. Being porous, caverns and caves formed where the fresh water collected. Cenotes vary in type from being totally underground to open air, more like a lake or pond.

At Km 6 along the Cobá Road, you will see Rancho Santa Cruz. This multi-purpose tourist site is still a work in progress, but is now open to the public. They provide horses and a location where hipo-therapists work with people with disabilities, a playground for small children, a zoo with local animals, a chapel, clean bathrooms, volleyball court, a (soon-to-be) snack-bar with tables, chairs and umbrellas and a beautiful circular cenote and underwater caverns with an island in the center. 

Dreams can