You’ve probably heard of cenotes because a couple of years back they were a hit on Instagram. They’re certainly popular and they’re one of my favourite things to do in Mexico, where I am from. In case you don’t know, a cenote is like a natural pool, an opening in the ground filled with water. The interesting thing is that a cenote is not a pool of stagnant water, but an opening in a network of underground rivers, so the water is always clear and cool, always flowing imperceptibly. There are hundreds of cenotes in the south of Mexico, in the states of Yucatán and Quintana Roo and each one is different.
Over the years I have visited many cenotes, both the famous and touristy ones (see Cenote Yokdzonot and Cenote Dos Ojos) and less popular ones (check out this post: Seven Cenotes in Yucatán), but I can honestly tell you I never cease to be amazed by them. For my latest trip to the Mayan Riviera I tried to find less popular cenotes and off-the-beaten-trail experiences, and I fortunately found a project called BejilHa, in the small town of Chemuyil, Quintana Roo, just twenty minutes away from “eco-friendly” Tulum and forty minutes away from Playa del Carmen.
BejilHa is a project dedicated to preserve the three cenotes in their town, and they do so by offering mindful tours for small groups. This was a memorable tour because the guides are people who were born in Chemuyil and who know the cenotes since they were children, so it is quite an authentic experience where I learned much about the town and its traditions, but also about the geography of the place, the flora and fauna of the cenotes and how to move and swim in them. Also, you ride a bike from cenote to cenote, so it’s awesome.
The tour is also especial because you visit a closed cenote, which is more like a cave with little light and a lot of bats, a semi-open cenote and an open cenote, so you get a taste of all kinds of cenotes. For the first one we had to use lanterns and we were guided to some secret caves, so it was a very adventurous experience and one for which I wasn’t prepared, I owe it all to the wonderful guides we had.
One thing that definitely made the experience different was that we were accompanied by a photographer the whole time and he took the most amazing pictures of us. The pictures have an extra cost but it’s super cheap, 300MXN (like 15 dollars?) for over fifty pictures and videos. The tour was also insanely cheap, just 800MXN (40 dollars or so) for visiting three cenotes, a bike rental and some fruit and snacks, it lasted from 8am until 1pm.
If you’re interested in diving into a beautiful cenote and want to avoid the crowded Ik Kil and Dos Ojos, do yourself a favor and book this wonderful experience with the guys from BejilHa. You can find them on Aibnb Experiences as well.
For me it was refreshing to get away from the crowds in Playa del Carmen and Tulum. It is sad to see how most places have just become “insta-spots” and most people are happy to queue, take a picture and leave a place without really knowing anything about it, its history and its people. Traveling is an escape for many of us, myself included, but also an encounter with ourselves, something like rubbing your eyes to acquire a clear view of life again, a wake up call, refreshing because we can live outside of our normal schedules, meet many people and see, for a brief moment, the world through their eyes, wonder about our differences and our similitudes… in short, traveling is much more than all this “doing it for the gram” philosphy. But hey, in Chemuyil you’ll also get some sick photos for your IG while you help out a wonderful group of people. Win win, if you ask me.