Quintana Roo, Mexico
Tamkach Ha is for thrill seekers. It is a fully enclosed cave with artificial light, one of three cenotes around the Cobá lagoon.
Tamkach Ha in Mayan means 'deep water'. The name is very fitting because the depth is apparently between 4m and 35m and you can jump off the high platform. There is an also an eerie feeling being so deep in the ground, just you and the water.
Please note that Tamkach Ha is also spelt Tankach Ha, Tancach Ha or Tamkach Há.
The entrance is literally a small hole in the ground that you descend into. Once down the steep stairs, there is a small bench for you to put your things on. Bring just the essentials down with you, because the floor is often wet from the pool water and the bench space is small.
There are two platforms to jump from, one is about 4m high and the other about 7m. You walk up the spiral staircase to the level you want. The height of the jumping platforms indicates that the waters here are deep, and indeed, the water mostly looks black rather that turquoise because of its depth.
I came here with my friend and a few Czech friends of hers in 2016. She took the best photos of this batch, while I was swimming. We did not have the courage to jump off the high platform (photo below) but others did and enjoyed it.
Like so many closed cenotes in Yucatán, this cenote has blind black fish. They are harmless; just enjoy watching them. They remind us how we can adapt to the environment because they lost their sight and their sense of time, when adapting to the darkness of the caves.
Cenotes (pronounced cen-o-tays) date back in history as ancient Mayan watering holes and are very important to Mayan culture. You can find one in Belize (the Great Blue Hole), one in Zimbabwe, three or so in the US, Canada and the Dominican Republic but Yucatan is their 'motherland' and there are literally thousands of them here. Some say that they were caused by the Chicxulub crater some sixty millions of years ago. This is the crater where a meteorite hit the earth and wiped out the dinosaurs. The crater covers the north-western corner of the Yucatan Peninsula and extends into the Gulf of Mexico.
Cenotes are sinkholes in limestone land. Actually, the terrain of Yucatán is like Swiss cheese because of all the cenote holes in it. Some are inside caves; other cenotes are open or semi-open. They are protected and respected, for having historical significance to the traditional indigenous roots of this area. They represented an entrance to the underworld (Xibalabá) so they were sacred as a place of worship (to the rain deity Chac). But they were also a source of fresh water, and the rural Maya drink from them even today.
After swimming, on your way back, try to spot a shop in Cobá village (before you reach the lagoon) that sells batik. It is unique as all other vendors in Yucatán make fabrics by traditional weaving techniques. The artist Victor uses motifs from Mayan mythology.
The village on the ruins side has a lot of vendors with traditional souvenirs. The word in Spanish for souvenir is recuerdo – reminder. Most shops offer silver filigree jewellery, hammocks, colourful woven fabrics, chili habanero sauce, pyramids made of wood or stone, Maya calendars carved in stone, honey, Xtabentun anise liqueur, colourful ceramics, wood carvings of Maya gods or embroidered native dresses. But this batik shop is just different.
After shopping, you can have lunch in the Cobá lake restaurant (on the lake side of the ruins). Sitting upstairs on the veranda of La Pirámide restaurant will keep you cool. Nicté-Ha next door is more popular with the tour groups.
Both restaurants have an identical buffet lunch with tasty chicken in banana leaves, cochinita pibil, fruit, salad and a small dessert (for an identical price of 150 pesos, as of March 2017).
How to get there:
You need to turn left when leaving the Cobá ruins car park and go alongside the Cobá lake for about 10 minutes (you will have to come in your own car). Half of the village is situated on the other side of the lake. You will reach the sign pointing to three Cobá cenotes.
At the next fork turn right and after a few minutes you will reach a little palapa house on the left side of the road, which sells tickets to all three cenotes (55 pesos each as of 2017).
You will need to bring your own refreshments as the staff will only sell you the entry tickets.