Cenote Carwash is a very popular site among divers as well as snorkelers. Its name comes from taxi drivers who used to wash their cars there. It’s more elegant name is Actun Ha, which means “cave water” in Mayan, and being located 15 minutes West of Tulum, it is an all-time favourite for both cavern tours and more challenging cave dives.
Upon arriving on the site, one would never suspect that the calm waters of the shallow pond, with its old and slippery wooden steps and its rope offering a welcome rest to Sunday swimmers, open the door to a fascinating underwater world. As soon as my head dips below the surface, I can follow the mushy, organic soil towards a few dead trees.
When I guide cavern tours or go for a cave dive, they provide me with a perfect primary tie-off – there is no permanent cavern line in this area, and we therefore need to set our own line from the open water area for our dive groups to follow.
The cavern area is very big with a wide cavern entrance and a maximum depth of 18 meters: some beautiful, big stalactites along with smaller decorations and speleothems decorate the passages. Deep inside, a cave sign marks the authorized limit for non-cave certified divers.
My usual guiding route passes in front of the sign and close to a big column. Original Mayan pottery can be found on the far left side in a more protected area, for divers to see.
My favourite part of the dive is swimming back towards the open water area: the silhouette of the stalactites and cavern outline against the backdrop of yellow, green and red light painted by the tannic acids percolating the waters are nothing but mesmerizing.
A tour of the open water area ends the dive on a nice touch, greeting the turtles and fish hiding out in the water lilies – and on a lucky day, the resident caiman.
The Author: Kira is a PADI MSDT, Full Cave Diver and holds an M.Sc in Marine conservation and Biodiversity.