I have wanted to dive for as long as I can remember, but whether my first diving ideas involved caves is doubtful. To the uneducated caves seem like dark and forbidding places, full of danger and quite probably some dreadful creature waiting for dinner. And yet I think given the right location pretty much all divers could be tempted, and I know just the right location: Mexico.
I first visited Mexico in 2001 as a backpacker, clutching a Lonely Planet list of things I had to do. I thought a dive into one of the cenotes would be just that, one dive easily done and easily ticked off – how wrong I was. An initial dive turned into a course, which turned into a return trip and another trip and finally a whole month doing nothing but cave diving. I sometimes wonder how that happened.
In fact the reasoning is simple, Mexico is a cave divers dream. If you were asked to design the perfect caves to attract divers they would probably include: warm water, amazing visibility, fantastical formations and easy access. Mexico ticks all of these boxes and I’d say that no matter how fantastical your imaginings the real stalactites and stalagmites will be better still – they are incredible.
In my study at home I have a series of framed photographs of the Mexican caves on my walls, a constant source of inspiration, especially on cold winter days. I can stare at the pictures and instantly remember how I felt when they were taken. I remember knowing how important the photos were going to be in helping other people understand why I enjoy cave diving so much, but at the same time also wishing that Danny our cameraman would just float off somewhere so we could simply enjoy the spectacle.
To other divers who visit my house the pictures often seem like something from another planet. The clarity of the water makes it look as though the divers are either suspended from strings or photo-shopped into place. I often get the comment ‘well of course I’d go cave diving there’, almost as if they don’t really believe the pictures are real.
What is more amazing is the fact that we didn’t have to go to one specific place in one specific cave in order to get great shots. Within a very short stretch of coast road we had access to 20 or more locations, each of which would have provided 100’s of opportunities for fabulous backdrops. It may sound a little trite but the place is literally dripping in stalactites.
Which makes me wonder why more people don’t visit.
Mexico, or more specifically the Yucatan peninsular (sometimes called the Riviera Maya) is perfectly set up for GUE divers. The three GUE cave diving instructors located there (Chris Le Maillot, Danny Riordan and Fred Devos) are all fantastic hosts as well as being awesome instructors. They will ensure you have a great time, regardless of whether you just want to do a guided cavern dive or explore 10,000 feet into a cave with multiple scooters.
And you don’t have to take everything with you if the airlines are being stingy with baggage allowances. Chris, Danny and Fred have everything the GUE diver could need, including standard gases, lights, scooters and more – the set up is superb. Chris even has flat he rents out to visiting divers. Could you ask for more?
Having been there several times people often ask me what my favourite cave is, but it’s an impossible question. The enormity of the main cavern at Carwash is astounding; the beauty of the entrance to Grand Cenote almost takes your breath away; the fragility of the formations at Nohoch nah Chich seems almost unbelievable and the sensation of surfacing whilst still being underwater when doing the River Run is something that has to be seen to be believed. Simply put there are so many wonderful dives it is no surprise why few divers are content just to visit one. In fact writing this has made me wonder when I’ll be back there again – sometime soon I hope.
Written by Jamie from Halcyon NZ