Cave Diving, Cave Exploration and Cave Mapping in Yucatan, Mexico
Hans and Allie smiling for the camera

Dive 376 – Cenote Cristalino, SISTEMA X’TABAY

Cenote Cristalino is an alternative entrance to the same system that Ponderosa belongs. Cristalino is just before the entrance to Ponderosa on highway 309. The parking for the cenote is just off the road. The entrance fee was $40 pesos. I chose Cristalino because I am still not signed up to get into Ponderosa and I wanted to check out the eastern end of the system. The gate keeper at Ponderosa can be an extreme PITA and it is expensive at $100 pesos.

The walk to the Cenote takes about 5 minutes down a nice path. The Cenote is beautiful and was mobbed with locals. The Cenote is broken into a couple of sections by groves of mangroves. I had decided I wanted to tend to the north and west when I entered the system so I made a left at the waters edge and setup. I was the entertainment; there were lots of people intently staring at my gear as I mounted up. I can only imagine the spectacle as I put on my sidemount tanks and purple helmet. Little kids kept asking me where the cave was in Spanish. I gestured under the ledge.

My hopes ran high because I had assumed that the Cristalino area would have been less traveled then the Ponderosa area, and I was expecting it to be in better shape. I had made this assumption because access is a little more challenging and it is a decent distance from Ponderosa. Unfortunately, I was disappointed.

I started my search for one of the lines. As I headed southwest along the edge of the collapse, I came upon a sit cloud. I thought, “hmm… weird… where is this silt coming from? There aren’t any other divers here.” I never got my assumption confirmed, but I did find the end of a line. I tied in and made my way. The very first thing I noticed was the damage to the ground. It looked like someone dragged themselves out through the mud. It is really sad the damage we are doing. People are clearly careless or completely unaware that the passage they are in is way too small for them. The line looped around and terminated at Cristalino. On my return, I jumped to the right on the second arrow. Swam to the end of the line, jumped and went right. I made it about 50 minutes out when I turned the dive. It was a rather uneventful dive. When I got back to the loop, I had some gas so I made a short trip out the first jump at the double arrows. The dive is beautiful, once you get past the majority of the damage near the Cenote. There was a decent amount of percolation. The highlight of the dive was the extensive break down. There are lots of big cracks and slivers of rock balancing. There was some bedding plane. I enjoyed the dive and I am planning on going back so I can work my way over to Azul and then up to Ponderosa.

I am happy to report that my Dive Rite MR11 burned for the full 98 minutes of this dive. I am going to burn it down for another 120 minutes or so to check its total burn time now. Maybe it was really just a faulty charger.

A benefit of Cristalino is it is open till 6pm and no one was chasing me out. I do a lot of my diving in the late afternoon and evening. I appreciate the flexibility of being able to surface when I want. And the locals are really cool. When I was walking down to the Cenote with my gear someone offered to carry one of my tanks. He insisted and I obliged. After the dive, I left one of my tanks near the water’s edge, so I could make two trips. When I got to the car and turned around, one of the locals had carried it up to the car with out my asking. It was really surreal and it made me feel really welcome. In almost all cases, Mexicans have proven to be extreme friendly and hospitable.