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The Underwater Caves of
Isla Cozumel

last updated 08 August, 2014

Isla Cuzamil, the Island of the Swallows, contains a variety of underwater limestone caves. The longest caves on Cozumel are located on the island's western shore. Both Cueva Quebrada (length: 11555 m or 37911 ft) and Cueva Aerolito (length: 6100 m or 20014 ft) release large volumes of fresh water directly to the Caribbean through coastal caletas or lagunas. Many dedicated biologists and explorers have studied these caves since the early 1980's. Their science work has been reported in many journals. However much of their original survey and exploration work remains to be accounted for. We hope to be able to report more accurate information for these and other Cozumel caves as the survey information becomes available.

Cueva Aerolito was reported to be at 18.3 km in length (60,000 feet) in Underwater Speleology (vol 27, no 4, p.18) in an article authored by Tim McMahon. We are seeking confirmation on this length (ie. no open water traverses included in the cave length).  

Cave diving in Cueva Quebrada requires an official permit from the Chankanaab Park office when entering the cave from certain cenote entrances. Exploration from the Park's entrances may be limited to those with scientific goals. Cavers applying for this permit must produce a Full Cave certification card. There are other entrances to the Quebrada cave on private property. Please respect the landowners' property use rules. You can contact German Yanez Mendoza about current access protocols at Quebrada. As a resident caver of Cozumel, he has also provided us with the below cave descriptions concerning four inland underwater caves.

August 2000 Update:

Cenote Cocodrilo - (Length: 2493 m  (8180 ft), with a  maximum depth of 17.4 m  (57 ft).

This cenote is closed for diving unless permission is obtained by the landowner. It is located on private property, and contains both Prehispanic and colonial artifacts. The cave has one cenote entrance, which is a short distance from the Caribbean Sea. Its entire length extends nearly due east in upstream passage with a few side passage leads. Although the maximum depth of Cocodrilo is 17.4 m (57 ft), much of the explored cave averages 6.1 m (20 ft) in depth. Explorations in Cenote Cocodrilo continue to yield more going passage. A detailed map of the cave was produced in August 2004.

Cenote Chu-Ha - (Cenote is Closed/Destroyed due to many reasons.)

Upstream explored length is 244 m (800 ft) with a maximum depth of 38.1 m (125 ft). Downstream explored length is 305 m (1000 ft) with a maximum depth of 18.3 m (60 ft).

This cenote is closed to the public due to the presence of archaeological artifacts; as well as being surrounded by very private commercial property. About 9 large Mayan artifacts were recovered from this cenote. According to INAH, these artifacts are dated to 400 years old (ca. 1600 ad). The most interesting quality of these artifacts is their style and fabrication is exclusively that of the Maya of Cozumel.

Cenote Tres Potrillos - ( Length: 94 m (310 ft). Maximum depth of the sink is 38.1 m (125 ft). Maximum depth of a branching tunnel is 15 m (50 ft).

This cave was discovered in late 1998. Its entrance is a series of minor restrictions which opens into a very large classic sink chamber at - 9 m (30 ft). Without a daylight zone, the main chamber and its one branching horizontal passage are rich in speleothems. Furthest penetration into the branching tunnel is 61 m (200 ft). This cave is on private property and requires an entrance fee. 

Cenote Bambu - (Length: 61 m (200 ft), with a maximum depth of 51.8 m (170 ft).

Cenote Bambu was explored in the Spring of 2000 and is very similar to the Tres Potrillos Cenote. Maximum visibility in this classic sink is 3 m (10 ft). It appears that the initial entrance gallery is huge, yet poor visibility makes it extremely difficult to fully explore this deep cave. Furthermore, the floor of the cave presents a very deep and heavy silt which makes survey guideline tie-offs nearly impossible.

08 August 2014 Update:

Sistema Cueva Quebrada - Sistema Dos Coronas is now connected to Sistema Cueva Quebrada. Two associated teams are working together to survey and explore separate sections of Quebrada. Their new exploration and resurvey projects are producing steady and exciting results. We can expect to hear more about the Quebrada cave in the future.

11 February 2014 Update:

Sistema Dos Coronas - (Length 2410 m (7907 ft), with a maximum depth of 16 m (52 ft).

This is a significant depth and length increase for Sistema Dos Coronas. R. Neto and D. Dewberry report this update after their latest explorations. An updated map of the cave is forthcoming. Apparently numerous leads remain to be explored in Dos Coronas.

21 June 2013 Update:

Sistema Dos Coronas - (Length 1070 m (3511 ft), with a maximum depth of 7 m (23 ft).

Sistema Dos Coronas was explored in 2011 and 2012. The entrances are located off the coast of Cozumel. The 2012 map credits seven surveyors and explorers. Jon Lillestolen is the cartographer for the current map. Both exploration and survey of the cave are not complete.

Sistema Sin Nombre - (Length 989 m (3244 ft), with a maximum depth of 14 m (46 ft).

Sistema Sin Nombre was explored in 2011. Access to the main cave entrance is closed to access according to the 2011 map (Jon Lillestolen, cartographer). Apparently the main entrance is located in an active construction site. Eight surveyors and explorers are listed on the map. Both exploration and survey of the cave are not complete.

Updates and corrections are welcome at: chac<at>consolidated.net

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