Cave Diving, Cave Exploration and Cave Mapping in Yucatan, Mexico
Syndey Opera House and the Famous Bridge

Sidemount Cave Diving Down Stream at Car Wash

After seven months of living in Playa Del Carmen and asking Nando to go cave diving, he finally complied!  Nando had a clear day in his teaching schedule and he could get away from the new baby.  We knew we wanted to go side mounting in some tight passage.  Nando doesn’t pleasure dive in anything but.  We talked about Grand Cenote Down Stream, down stream at Xunaan Ha and the shallow cave at The Pit.  After some negotiation, we decided to go down stream at Car Wash.

Car Wash Cenote is about 7km out Coba Road from Tulum.  It got its name because the taxi drivers used to wash their cars there.  Luckily, they no longer do.  Today, it is a beautiful site with bathrooms, changing rooms and a very nice land manager.  Entrance is $100 Pesos per diver and they close at 5PM.

Car Wash Cenote has two systems connected to it: Car Wash Down Steam and Car Wash Upstream.  Until recently I thought it was one system because you could swim from one to the other.  Well, I was wrong, it is actually two systems.  For the two segments to be considered part of the same system, you must be able to swim between them without being in open water.

The QRSS FAQ on measuring caves lengths states:

“Authentic underwater cave systems must allow a diver to swim to any point in the system without passing through an open water (direct access to the surface) environment. Avoiding an open water portion by swimming underneath a drip line (a rock overhang) to connect two caves is permitted.”

Nando and I had both dove portions of Car Wash Down Stream in the past.  In February, after a dive at Naharon and Car Wash Upstream, my buddy Paul and I did a quick dive in the down stream section.  We hadn’t been there before and hadn’t received any guidance, so we were exploring.  We ended up finding the Chamber of the Ancients section.  That section drops down to 90ft and we did the small circuit in the back. When we returned to the entrance, we discovered earned a deco obligation on our Sunnto computers.  Opps…. Neither of us ever considered we might end up with an obligation.  The lesson is when you do repetitive dives with consistent depth; you really need some awareness and watch your no stop time or plan better.

On this day, Nando and I agreed to make a dive to the Lower White Room first and then if we had enough gas, return the sign, recalculate thirds, and head towards Satin’s Silt Hole.  We reached the end of the line in the Lower White Room in a little under 18 minutes.  A good part of this dive is sidemount only.  The cave goes up into a tight bedding plane full of tanic water.  Then turns left and drops through a restriction and you bust into clear water.  The cave in this section is in excellent condition.  It is highly decorated and stark white.  I guess  its good condition is the result of needing to be in sidemount to reach it.  Unless you go tanks off, you can not reach it in backmount.

On the return we checked out the jump marked by a red arrow just prior to the restriction.  A couple of minutes of hunting and we didn’t find the jump.  I believe it is there, it is on the map, just another opportunity to go searching.

We followed the plan and reached the sign with 1800psi in each tank.  We recalculated and went towards Satin’s Silt Hole.  Looking at the map, I don’t think we entered it.  We swam down the larger passage to the left, tied into the line and found the end, which was another opportunity to jump.

We turned the dive and discovered an unmarked jump.  We had plenty of gas so we elected to check it out.  The line was covered in some super soft floaty silt.  The kind that when you swim by it, it just jumps up at you.  That whole section of the cave is covered in that stuff and it was sidemount cave.  I am sure you can image the result. As the number two man, I got to navigate the cave in limited and zero visibility.  There was at least one restriction that required the removal of a tank.  We turned the dive on thirds as the cave came up to about 10feet.  The exit trip was a little nicer, the silt had settled and I could see where I was going.  It always seems like you have traveled so much further then you really did in the silt out.

Car Wash Down Stream was an excellent sidemount cave dive.  There were tight spaces, restrictions, silt, tanic water, beautiful formations and some inviting no mount leads.  I think it is worth at least one more visit.