Cenotes are a much-loved way to cool off and take some leisure time in Cancun, but pollution of the natural swimming holes has led to the need for a cleanup operation after high levels of contamination have been found in some. Cleanup is underway in 10 or more of Cancun’s cenotes located in and around the city. In one case more than 500 lbs. of waste and contamination were found and collected in one single cenote.
A cenote is a naturally occurring sinkhole that is surrounded by limestone rock to form a type of pool or swimming hole. The sinkholes are filled with water from underground and from rainfall. The rain is filtered through the limestone, which often results in beautiful crystal-clear waters and an even cool temperature throughout the year. They are a favorite place for locals to go to cool off, and more and more often visitors are seeking out these cenotes too.
While there are around 20 cenotes within close proximity to Cancun itself, there are thousands in the Yucatan peninsula waiting to be explored. Many visitors to Cancun tend to stick to those that are closer to the city but out of the 20 or so near Cancun, 11 of them are currently recording high contamination levels. Fortunately for those that love to explore these little gems of nature, there is a massive cleanup effort currently taking place.
The same type of cleaning operation took place in 2021 and huge amounts of waste were collected but more has been added since last year. Biologist David Espinoza, from the General Directorate of Ecology, reported that in some of the cenotes throughout Cancun and the rest of Mexico things like Styrofoam, metals, gravel, and pottery have been found. He also explained that often when water from the ocean is filtered into these smaller bodies of water it carries other pollutants like grease, decomposed garbage, and motor oil.
All of these various pollutants have led to the high levels of contamination in the water, which is what then resulted in the development of a cleaning brigade to deal with the problem. According to Espinoza, the cleaning crew consists of volunteers from various organizations, such as the General Directorate of Comprehensive Solid Waste Solution, and the Civil Protection agency, as well as from universities and environmental organizations.
In 2021 nearly 2,000 lbs. of garbage was pulled out of one single cenote. Some of the trash collected included appliances, furniture, and even tires, along with smaller waste as well. Local officials say that the cleaning brigades have been successful but more work needs to be done. They also hope to raise awareness of the problem in the local community in an effort to prevent the problem from getting so bad in the future.
For those that wish to visit some of the area’s most beautiful cenotes there are 10 that really standout that are not much of a drive from Cancun and will make the trip worthwhile. They include:
- Cenote Siete Bocas, Puerto Morelos
- Cenote La Noria, Puerto Morelos
- Cenote Azul, Playa del Carmen
- Cenote Dos Ojos, Tulum
- Cenote Xkeken, Valladolid
- Cenote Samulá, Valladolid
- Cenote Zaci, Valladolid
- Cenote Yalahau, Yum Balam Nature Reserve
- Cenote Yokdzonot, Yucatán
- Cenote Choo-Ha, Cobá
While many people visit Cancun and the Riviera Maya for the beaches the cenotes are a natural wonder well worth seeing. They are an important natural resource for leisure in the community and the community officials seem to be doing what they can to keep them beautiful for locals and visitors to the Riviera Maya area for years to come.
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