Cave Diving, Cave Exploration and Cave Mapping in Yucatan, Mexico

Don Pablo and the Nota de Permiso: Dive 426

I wanted to dive Cenote Angelita since I learned about it a couple of years ago.  Each time I would visit Mexico, I would get talked out of going by the people I was with.  The logistics of going to Cenote Angelita are comparatively challenging.  And I know the locals/guides, have gone a million times and find it a bore.  So, when I found a poor sot that was willing and wanted to go, I was super stoked.  Olly is a buddy of mine who was a local open water instructor and has now gone back to England.  He had Cenote Angelita and Gran Cenote on his bucket list.  So we scheduled them for a sunny Sunday.

As soon as I knew I was going, I had to tap into the network and find out the details.  I learned from a good friend, Pietro of Karst Diving, that Cenote Angelita is 17KM out of Tulum and you have to visit Don Pablo in Tulum to pay your respects and fees, collect the key and get a Nota de Permiso.  Now I was starting to see why the logistics might be challenging.  As you may know, I don’t speak much Spanish and I didn’t know where the Don lives.  To find Don Pablo, Pietro drew me a map of the south end of Tulum.  I was looking for a Mayan style house across the street from a furniture store and around the corner from a church.  The map was beautifully illustrated in a Word document.  Pietro gave me rough verbal directions to the Cenote.  Luckily, they only included one road and two sweeping turns to the left.  With the directions firmly in hand, I figured things would go somewhat smoothly, Olly speaks Spanish.  He passed the test to get his FM3 visa, right?

Sunday morning dawned and as a precaution, I asked Allie to translate a couple of phrases for me:

  • Querria la llave para Angelito?
  • Puedo tener una nota de permiso para entra?

I wanted to make sure I could communicate to the Don what I wanted.  I figured those two questions would get me as far as I needed to go.  The only problem would be if the Don decided to answer with anything other then, “Si!”.

Olly and I drove all over Playa to pick up his assorted pieces of gear.  Just as I was about to pull out of Playacar to head south, I realized the map, my tables and translations were missing.  We looked in the car for a couple of minutes then went back to my place to get them.  They were on my desk in the last place I looked for them.

Security at Angelita is questionable at best.  I was instructed to remove EVERYTHING from the car and just leave it open.  If I didn’t leave it open, it would be opened by force.  When we arrived in Tulum, we stopped by Xibalba, and left the last couple of extra items like our tool box, cell phones and wallets.  Thanks Robbie and crew!  We drove through Tulum looking for the Don.  When we were on the prescribed block, the directions turned out to not be as precise as I hoped.   Olly asked some locals where the Don lived.

When we found him, he was sitting at his table with a compadre and two 40oz bottles Sol beer.  It turns out there was a mob of OW divers at Angelita the day before, and the Don was kicking back celebrating.  The Don was sufficiently drunk and almost unintelligible.  We asked for the key and he tried to tell us, “Tienen llave”.  Of course, neither Olly nor I could make out what he was saying for the first 15 tries.  He then asked who the Guia was, and I responded in the affirmative.  He put his hand out and I handed him some money.  He took the money and never offered us the proper change.  He just pocketed it and then took 15 minutes to write a very deliberate 7 word Nota de Permiso.  Olly and I just stared at each other patiently, trying to not laugh.  Neither of us were brave enough to challenge the Don with our Spanish.  Once we had the note in hand, we bid farewell and abandoned any hope of recovering change.  We were just excited to have the sliver of white paper with his signature.

The Cenote entrance was exactly where it was supposed to be.  We handed the note through the gate to the land manager.  He stared at us for a minute and then opened the gates.  We were finally there!

Cenote Angelita is a 5-10 minute walk into the jungle.  Once you are at the water’s edge, you need to scramble down a muddy root covered slope to the water.  This can be a challenge with a couple of bottles.  You can giant stride into the water.  Exiting you have to use a rope that has been there for the last 10 years and pull yourself out.  No easy feat after spending a bunch of time at the bottom. Remember, DON’T DROP ANYTHING!  It will go to the bottom, some 180 plus feet below.

Olly and I geared up and in the process ran into Marcia, he was teaching Advanced Nitrox and Deco Procedures, he pointed out the four foot crocodile sitting on the broken surfboard sunning itself.  We entered the water and did a lovely 181ffw dive.  The Hydrogen Sulfide cloud is very cool!  It was a little broken up because of all the divers in the water earlier in the day but a thrill none-the-less.  The dive went according to plan and during deco we toured the entire Cenote.  Angelita was worth all the work.  However, when I go back, I am going to go earlier in the day.  I would like to get to the cloud before it is disturbed by divers.

With Angelita in the bag we returned to the car to find everything safely intact.  The couple of Pesos I left in the console as an offering were still there.  On our way out, the gatekeeper requested a ride back to Tulum, which we obliged.  The rest of the day was filled with eating half a chicken each at Pollo Bronco and then a very nice cavern tour at Gran Cenote.

All and all, it was a lovely day with a very good friend.  We will all miss you Olly.  Hopefully, you will come back soon.


1 John K { 06.04.08 at 8:04 am }

Nice adventure Hans. Glad you did the work so that I might benefit next visit.

2 Hans { 06.09.08 at 9:42 pm }

Glad you enjoyed the read. Angelita is an awesome dive site. However, there are some other places with hydrogen sulfide clouds as well. There is a lake with a deep pit in the middle a couple of miles down the road from Mayan Blue. Also, my understanding is that the Pit in Dos Ojos also has a very nicely intact Hydrogen Sulfide cloud.

Once I have some more solid information, I will post some more about it.

Look forward to seeing you in the future John!