Angelita

Quintana Roo, Mexico


Angelita means 'Little Angel' and its name is not a coincidence. It may be just a sinkhole in the ground filled with water but what's inside makes it spectacular.


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The cavern was formed by a rock collapse and over time the sinkhole began to trap both fresh and salt water. Halocline happens when less dense fresh water from the land forms a layer over salt water from the ocean. For underwater cave explorers, this can cause the optical illusion of air space in caverns. Haloclines are observed in underwater caves located near the ocean, like Cenote Angelita.

 
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I came here with Ximena, my visiting friend from Chile, just for a swim. We were actually looking for the nearby lagoon Nopalitos but it is now closed to the public (rented for private use only) so we went to this cenote instead.

The access to the cenote is through a short jungle walk, like most of the cenotes in Yucatán. At first sight the cenote looks very deep. And indeed it is. A little bit scary just for a swim. If you dive here, you have to switch from fresh water to salt water at a depth of about 30m and you see a hydrogen sulphide cloud that looks like a riverbed beneath. The total depth of the cenote is 57m.

 
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I asked the divers we met during our visit about their experience, as I personally don't dive. They told us that they could even taste the sulphur and that seeing dead trees down below was the highlight of their dive. They compared it to a ghost story, trees showing through the fog. The bottom of the cavern is like a creepy forest complete with tree limbs. It felt to them like floating through a foggy forest! They also felt they experienced the surreal illusion of an underwater lake and island. The diving instructor took them straight to just below the cloud, where they spent a couple of minutes, then they ascended slowly in circles following the round shape of the hole. I truly envied them their experience.

 
Photo by Tom St George at  yourshot.nationalgeographic.com .

Photo by Tom St George at yourshot.nationalgeographic.com.

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The entry fee is 100 pesos if you just want a swim. But in all honesty, it is best to come here specifically for diving; if you want just a swim or snorkel, go to the less deep cenotes Cristal or Escondindo, just a few km up the road.

For divers it is 300 pesos but you are most likely to come here via a diving agency and they will add the cost of the diving instructor and have a set price of their own. You can't dive in cenotes without a qualified guide. Be aware that there is also an extra charge for photography although your diving agency may cover that cost within their quoted price.

 
The map photographed at the cenote board.

The map photographed at the cenote board.

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A diving group approaching the cenote.

A diving group approaching the cenote.

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We chatted with Alicia at the reception house as I always like to know about people's lives wherever I go. My friend Ximena loved this chat even more than the cenote itself. Alicia lives here with her husband and looks after the cenote (they are not the owners). They have a farm on the cenote land and Alicia proudly showed us their animals: pigs, goats, lambs, chickens and turkeys. They rear the animals for sale but also for their own consumption. Turkey is popular nowadays as a Christmas meal in Mexico (as is rabbit). Alicia's niece was helping, sweeping their house, while Alicia was cooking lunch on an open fire, as all Maya do. Hammocks hanging indoors just completed the cliché picture of a Maya jungle house.

 
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Alicia’s home by the reception and her farm.

Alicia’s home by the reception and her farm.

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We also loved the little church in a Mayan wooden house with a palapa roof (made of palm leaves), with an altar to the Virgin Mary. Here in Mexico she is known as Our Lady of Guadalupe (Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe), as her image is venerated within the Minor Basilica of Our Lady Guadalupe in Mexico City. The basilica is the most visited Catholic pilgrimage site in the world. A lot of Mexican families have their own little altars to Guadalupe at home, so they can worship her privately. Basically, Virgin Guadalupe is embodied deeply in every Mexican heart. Along with Coca Cola! Although I am not sure which of the two worships comes first, in all honesty.

 
The jungle church with a palapa roof.

The jungle church with a palapa roof.

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Picnic areas.

Picnic areas.

How to get there:

The cenote is located 16km south of Tulum, on highway 307 towards Muyil and Chetumal. There is a road sign on the highway, very easy to find. You can get here by colectivo bus (minivan) from Tulum.

Parking space on arrival.

Parking space on arrival.

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Mix & Match:

You can combine this cenote with a visit to the nearby ruins of Muyil.