Ponderosa Cenote
  Yucatan, Mexico

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Depth: 46 feet
Run Time: 57 minutes
Water Temps: 78 degrees F (fresh water), 80 degrees (salt water below the halocline)
, June.

Itís hard to believe that you are going diving when you are bumping through the jungle along a rock-infested road (I use the term road loosely). Luckily, Ponderosa is a pretty short hop in to the sweltering (and buzzing) jungle from the main highway running south of Playa del Carmen. The entrance to the cenote is a couple of kilometers or so north of the turn off for Club Robinson, so that would make it about a 15 minute drive south of Playa.

Claudia, our German DIR cave goddess/guide, gave a very thorough briefing at the resort before departure (thankfully in English, although when I heard her give the German version in the car on the way to Dos Ojos a few days later, I was surprised by how much I picked up). Scuba must be a universal language (and no doubt the hand gestures helped ;^)  Included were instructions for anti-silting kick techniques (fins up, baby) and signals. I appreciated not having to stand around and natter once we arrived at the site, due to the swarms of blood-swilling mosquitoes that greeted us as soon as we got out of her truck. Instead I suited up quickly and got in the water to escape the bugs.

Diving in the caverns requires divers to adhere to the rule of thirds. That is, one third gas out, one third for the return (assuming reverse course) and one third in reserve. Luckily, we had no gas-guzzlers in our group and were able to reach the end of the cavern before turning back. All of us wetbacks were diving alumibomb 80ís, whilst Claudia was diving doubles. And yes, she had a long hose ;^)
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ponderosa is a beautiful, quite large cenote. Access to the cenote is fairly civilized: a rocky path from the parking lot and then wooden steps down to a wooden platform. From there, itís an easy giant stride into the water. There is a wooden ladder for easy exit. On a scale of 1 to 10 for ease of shore diving, Iíd give it a 7.5

 

 

 

 

 

Once a buoyancy check was done (you want to be bang on for these dives to avoid hitting the ceiling and breaking off the beautiful and irrepleaceable stalactites and/or silting out the bottom), we dropped down under the ledge and followed our dive guide Claudia as she laid line into another world. The entrance to the cavern is the darker water under the stone ledge in the image below.

 

 

 

 

What made this dive spectacular was the clarity of the water and the beautiful windows up in to the jungle. There were times I felt a bit disoriented, like I should be walking, not swimming - the water was that clear. The viz on this dive was to infinity and beyond: limited only by the range of my UK400 and the curvaceous terrain. Claudia reported that she dove the same cavern the next day, and the viz had clouded out a bit due to some rainfall over night. This shot was taken from about 30 ffw. To me, it looks like it was taken in air.  

 

 

 

These are some of the ancient decorations adorning the caverns at Ponderosa.  The stalactites and stalagmites were formed in air sometime in the millions of years preceding the last ice age. 

Ponderosa is not spectacular in its formations, but it was an excellent first cavern dive, due to large caverns and a lot of beautiful light along the way.

 

 

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