Ox Bel Ha
Refreshed from our day off we arrived at Zero Gravity and Danny asked us whether we would like to dive in Ox Bel Ha. The dive he had in mind would enter at the cenote that they are using for the current exploration. He checked the decision carefully with us as the
cave itself is, early on, large dark and rather featureless – a cave diver’s cave. We were both well up for it.
We arrived in what was a hippy type holiday destination, no electricity, candles and sandals everywhere. Nice guys who run the site allow Zero Gravity to park there and run gear to cenote Yax Chen at the back of their facility. It is a long way and a craftily adapted wheelbarrow is used to get the scooters and stages to the water. The cenote was very large. From where we jumped in it is as a five minute scooter to the entrance of the cave which we agreed we would not count towards burntime, accepting that the cave was big enough to tow should there be a small shortfall on exit.
We would travel from cenote to cenote, underground, through dark caves which were featureless like the florida power caves I’ve seen, into beautiful smaller areas where the cave being so close to the surface had shards of sunlight coming through small holes in the walls.
Google Map Maker
The map above shows the chain of cenotes we visited, ending at Cenote Eden which is the small one after the almost perfectly round one I think, some 10,000 feet in (interestingly the markers in the cave are inaccurate). The Cenotes have all been named by the team, I can’t remember all of them but Cenote of the Sun is one, and running out of ideas, the L Shaped Cenote is another. I’m guessing you can work out which is which.
Going through the cenotes we sometimes had to go under the mangroves roots, in a natural green tunnel. I would have been fine with this until Danny pointed out that crocodiles are extremely common there. That made me stick close to the team!
Early in the cave, closer to the fresh water, there were a large number of Tarpon veven quite a long way into the cave away from daylight. They are really big fish and can make you jump if you come round a corner and find one coming towards you.
We dropped scooters at the jump to arizona where the current exploration is still ongoing, and swam on. At one point Danny gestured to us to look at the fine particulate in the water. Only it wasn’t particulate. There were thousands upon thousands of tiny cave shrimp - small enough to be mistaken for poor viz. I saw more cave critters on that dive, in that stretch of tunnel than I have seen on all my cave dives put together.
I’d been keeping track of cenotes and thought we were coming to the end of our dive when I saw the 10,000 marker (which reads 8!). I saw the cenotes start to come into view, it’s blue green light shining like an open door at the end of the tunnel and looked forward to getting there - perhaps surfacing for a chat and a rest before coming back (then thinking about crocodiles and forgetting that plan!) I then felt water running down my arm. My drysuit dump valve had failed and was flooding my suit.
I closed the dump valve, and pulled out my wetnotes to write a note to that effect as I swam on for a bit, assessing whether it was permanent or temporary. It was clearly not going to get better so I signalled the guys, thumbed the dive and showed them the note I had written so hat they knew what was going on.
I heard them groan in complete sympathy and we headed out. It was not too bad. Mexican water is warm enough and whilst it was going to be another 4 hour dive I was pretty happy that all would be well. Coming out, I did occasionally need to add gas and then dump gas from the suit as the tunnel went up and down from cenote to cenote. I just managed it as best I could and it was not that uncomfortable.
When the scooters eventually came into sight it was quite a nice feeling to let them take over again, it had been a long swim. This portion of the dive left me with my biggest, most beautiful visual picture of the trip. Al was leading out and entering a cenote from a huge tunnel which we had just returned along. The visibility was almost infinite and I could see the cenote from top to bottom (around 15 meters) and side to side (around the same) with Al scooter into it. Back in the tunnel it was like looking at a picture, or a movie. I wasn’t there - just an observer seeing the awesome power of nature that can form such a huge cave, and feeling privileged (if not a little chilly) to be able to see it.
We went though that cenote and into the next tunnel - only to find Danny signalling from the back of the team. One of his stages had a dodgy clip and, having hip clipped it for streamlining, it had come off. We back tracked to look for it, checking into the cave ceiling. Not spotting it we headed back into the cenote checking the surface. Al was the one who spied it, wedged just inside the cave in the ceiling. It was an empty cylinder s not required for gas planning but nice to get it back. This little episode plus the cenote travel at the beginning of the dive did cause a casualty though. Al’s scooter which had been giving very slightly unreliable charge readings all week, ran out 5 minutes from home. We had discussed this possibility so Danny towed Al and I took Danny’s empty stages and Al’s scooter. Following behind they got further and further away as I was rather loaded up. Never mind I though, we are in open water now and round this corner is the platform. At that point I remembered the crocodiles and got a move on!
The dump valve was indeed shot. The nice thing about Zero Gravity is within ten minutes of getting back to base a new one was found and fitted to my suit overnight so we could dive the next day.