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5/8/2008 Yax Muul by Kevin Dow -- [View this report only]
Bottom Team: Kevin Dow, Nick Ambrose
Visibility: 100' - 100' Time:12:28 PM
Temp: 79F - 79F Surge:  
Max Depth: 44FSW Avg Depth: 30FSW
Bottom Time:   Total Time:  
Bottom Gases: EAN32Deco Gases:
Backgas Config: Double AL80Deco Tanks:
Deco Profile:
Nick and I were looking for a new cave to dive after doing several dives in some of the most commonly dived caves down in Mexico. During a previous dinner with Fred Devos we managed to get several promising leads to some caves that we had never dove before. One of the leads was a site called Yax Muul. We were told the system had an extensive cavern zone and was somewhat small and shallow downstream and maybe a short penetration possible upstream. We were warned though that the landowners had made a deal with a local tour company for exclusive rights and the Cenote could be closed for diving. After a quick discussion with Nick, we decided to go for it.

The very first question that we needed to answer was, could we find the turn off? Our instructions from Fred were passably vague: “There could be a sign on the side of a road, near a brick wall with some type of chicken wire fence.” Luckily we were able to locate the small sign beside the entrance and turned onto the very rough dirt road that would hopefully take us to the Cenote. Keep in mind that we were currently in a subcompact car that was loaded with four sets of doubles, gear and two dudes who weren’t the lightest cave divers around. Our main goal was to hopefully keep car from high centering and causing the sharp rocks from the road from piercing the undercarriage of the vehicle. A secondary goal was to arrive at the site with our internal organs in roughly the same place they started the day.

After about a mile and a half down, the road the ended near a large rock pile and somewhat small Palapa with a table under it. Could this be the place? We didn’t see any water around, but we did find two nicely maintained paths heading off into the jungle. As there was absolutely nobody around, there was nothing to do but pick a path and hope for the best. Maybe we would find something.

After a short walk down the first path we came to a very beautiful overgrown Cenote that looked promising. Only problem was, the water in it was only about 2 inches deep! Hmmm maybe further back in, it gets deeper? We slowly moved further in until the cave ceiling dipped down to about 2 feet and curved left off into the darkness. As I left my light back at the car, I couldn’t see exactly what was there, so we tossed in an exploratory pebble hoping to hear a nice plunk of water. Instead we hear a wet squish of mud. This did not sound good!

So we decided to go back and try the other path. Once back at the car we were met by a nice Mayan gentleman who worked on the ranch. Unfortunately for us, he did not speak a lick of English and our Spanish was sorely lacking. After some discussion between Nick and I that revolved around if either one of us knew the Spanish word for cave diving (turns out we didn’t) we elected to go with the sign language route and tried to see if it the Cenote was around and if it was possible to dive here. He indicated that the Cenote we were looking for was down the other path but the word “Prohibito” came up quite often. This did not look good. After making sure it was okay with him if we went and took a look at this Cenote we headed down the other path.

We eventually came to a small hole in the ground somewhat overgrown with foliage perhaps no more than 15 feet in diameter with steep stairs leading down. What we saw when we got down to the bottom quite literally made our jaws drop. Spread out before us was a very large underground cavern with crystal clear water covering at least 75% of the floor. Spaced throughout the room were several large scale decorations that seemed to be lit by shafts of light coming from natural sunroofs scattered throughout the room. It was at this point that our hearts were taken with the site and we quietly agreed that we would pay anything in our pockets for the privilege to dive in such a wonderful site.

After admiring the view for a while, we poked our heads back out and endeavored to convince our gentlemen to gain approval to dive here. After several minutes more sign language and some belatedly remembered Spanish words, it seemed we had met with success, so we trekked on back to the car to begin our setup. Unfortunately our hopes were quickly dashed as when he saw our doubles tanks, “Prohibito” was again making itself known. After a bit more discussion we found that we might be able to get permission from the Senora back at the Ranch at the beginning of the road. This would mean another two trips up the kidney grinding road. Were we up for that? Hell yeah!
Back at the ranch we quickly located the Senora and started in on negotiations. We quickly learned that the local tour company did have exclusive access to the Cenote and it was looking like we were going to be out of luck. In desperation we showed her our Cave 1 cards and made mention that Fred and Danny had told us of their wonderful Cenote would be appropriate for divers at our level. Her eyes lit up with recognition with the mention of Danny’s name and her stance immediately softened. She agreed to allow us to go diving, but warned us that it would be on our responsibility and we were not to get hurt. We quickly paid our dues, thanked the Senora for her kindness and after having her write a permission note in our wetnotes for the gentleman we headed back up the road for the Cenote.

After gearing up and humping our tanks the 200 yards down the path to the Cenote we quickly put on our drysuites and splashed in the water and spend at least 30 minutes snorkeling around checking out the nooks and crannies that existed in the cavern zone above the drip zone. We were able to quickly locate the cave line running through open water and even found a permanent cookie on the line that identified the cave as Yax Muul.

We quickly got on the rest of our gear and picked a direction for our first dive. As it turns out we headed in the upstream path. The line started out very shallow with no more than 15’ max depth but heavily decorated. After just a few minutes we hit our first arrow pointing back into the cave. Little did we know that within 5 minutes we would pass right by another unknown (to us) Cenote. After passing and having to mark several more arrows we came to a portion of the cave where the line dropped sharply down. From our briefing with Fred, we thought that this potentially could be the portion where the cave turns to no mount. The strange thing was that it looked quite open down there. After deciding to at least head down to take a peak we quickly followed the line down to 35’. To our surprise and joy the cave opened up to even bigger passageway. We had dropped below the halocline and the cave had changed to the cheese cloth type formation with a fine layer of silt across the bottom. It became quite apparent that the cave hadn’t been dove that often as any stoppage on our part caused percolation and bits of cave ceiling to rain down around us. Proceeding on down the line we saw Styrofoam cups attached to the line and were marked with distance and the name “Lunas and Sombres” (Moons and Dreams). The line arrows were marked with names such as Pablo Diaz, Mike Madden and somebody simply named “The Bear”. We ended up calling the dive all too soon afterwards, for of all things, running out of cookies! While I still had a few left, Nick had run out.

After returning back to our starting place we decided the dive was cool enough to do all over again and went back on in. This time we did some judicious cookie redistribution and were able to get a little farther in before running out of cookies again! The cups at this point were suggesting that we were only 300 feet away from something as they had been counting down on our entire trip in. After forlornly peering further into the cave in hopes of seeing anything we turned and swam on back to our entry point.

After humping our empties back to the car and bringing out second set down we geared up and went exploring downstream. According to this briefing, the cave would be very shallow for quite a while before eventually the line would dip down to 17’ and become no mount. As it turns out shallow was an understatement. For the first 10 minutes we were at times swimming with our fin tips out of the water and sucking in our bellies to keep them out of the silt. Eventually the depth settled down to around 8’ to 12’ and remained there for the rest of the dive
The cave passage here was quit a bit tighter with a somewhat silty floor but was absolutely covered with decorations. Most were stained a nice light shade of orange from the tannins in the water. Once again the cups made their presence known, this time a bit more annoyingly as we often had to cross the line, and the Styrofoam cups, being buoyant would cause the line to float up. After a good 25 minutes swimming, we reached the spot where the line jumped to the right and a final forlorn cup signified that this was 3300 feet from Lunas and Sombres and was indeed End of Line. To me this suggested that the original explorers were running on back mount and the cave narrowed up at that point. Looking at the line that continued on past it was clear we had reached the no mount section. We turned for home and swam on back to our entrance. Once back at our home Cenote, we agreed that we had done quite enough swimming for the day and we were both tired. We packed up our gear and headed out.

These dives were very spiritual experience for me. Being able to wipe the silt off the arrows and read the names of the giants who explore and dove these caves still sends shivers down my spine as I think about it today. It’s a connectedness that leads all the way back to the ancient Maya who used these caves and I feel incredibly blessed to have been able to experience just a small part of it.