Guest Author - Candyce H. Stapen
Eco-adventures abound in Mexico’s Riviera Maya. At Hidden Worlds, not far from Tulum, we snorkel underground rivers, pedal a SkyCycle at tree-top height, and fly along a zipline. What we especially like about Hidden Worlds are the choices and the small group experience.
In addition to its fine sand beaches, the Riviera Maya along Mexico’s Caribbean coast, gains fame for its thousands of cenotes, or sinkholes. These formed when the region’s porous limestone gave way, revealing miles of underground rivers. The ancient Maya used the cenotes as sources for freshwater and sometimes as sites for sacred ceremonies.
Hidden Worlds offers guide-led scuba dives through the caverns connected by tunnels as well as snorkel tours. Visitors can explore the lush “jungle” by pedaling the SkyCycle, a bike-like contraption strung along a high cable or by gliding along a zipline. Not divers, we choose to snorkel through the underground caverns.
As our guide Loca explains with some glee, the “pre-adventure” is the “Mayan massage” delivered as we bump along the rutted dirt path to the cenotes in a jungle buggy, a barebones truck with benches in the back. It’s a relief when, after 20 minutes, we arrive at the lockers to stow our extra gear. Back at the office we rented an optional wet suit since the cenote waters hover around 70-degrees. However, the family from British Columbia, Canada, who join us do just fine without wet suits, informing us that they regularly swim in lakes colder than the cenote.
Loca leads our group of eight through the chambers of taak bi ha, which means “hidden water” in the Maya language. This cenote starts with a high, wide domed ceiling and spreads out into a series of lower chambers. Loca points out “draperies” of stalactites on the ceiling and cave walls, tells us when to look through our snorkel masks to see a ridgeline of submerged stalagmites and he shows us where the bats nest. Occasionally, we swim by small schools of nearly colorless fish.
Out of the water, we wait on a platform to take on Avatar, a more than just gravity propelled zipline. Avatar ups the speed of descent by employing a series of rollers to connect the participant’s harness to the cable. And instead of a straight line angled downward, the Avatar zipline features roller coaster ups and downs and twists. The improvements propel riders along at a fast 8-10 mph.
Doesn’t sound so thrilling? When suspended from a cable, swaying back and forth, rushing downward, and up and over loops until landing with a splash in the cenote, the Avatar is, for us, quite thrilling enough. The entire time—maybe three minutes—we ride Avatar, our “whoopee” scream comes out as the more cautious “whoa.” Maybe if we do this again we can get a rebel yell going. That’s for our next visit.
It’s wise to book Hidden Worlds’ adventures online ahead of time. That way you get the lunch $6, and the wet suit rental, $3, for free. Another surprise: the chicken faijtas with rice and beans is tasty. Afterwards, we head back to our hotel for a well-deserved snooze beachside in the shade.