new cenotes in Yucatan

This will be the final post of the ‘Mexican series’ for now, and I feel that another review of recently discovered cenotes is an appropriate finale. After I found out how beautiful and unique cenotes were – they are a special kind of sinkholes typical to Yucatan peninsula – I wanted to explore more of them. The problem with cenotes, in my opinion, is that being a tourist attraction, many appear overdeveloped to the point when they don’t even look natural anymore (with convenient stairs, decorations, souvenir shops around). So, we set up a goal to find some of the least explored cenotes.

We found a description of Chaak-Tun in a travelog that made us believe it was a kind of untouched natural wonder. But when we arrived there, it became clear it was ready for mass tourism, just waiting for the road built next to it to get asphalted. The price was already quite steep, at 200 pesos (for foreigners, 60 for Mexican citizens). Nevertheless, we enjoyed the visit, and it was not crowded. There were two caves, both with stalactites and stalagmites.

naturist 0000 Chaak Tun cenote, Quintana Roo, Mexicocaves

The second one did not have any natural light, so the mild artificial lighting was justified.

naturist 0001 Chaak Tun cenote, Quintana Roo, Mexico

While there was no one around, I took a chance for skinny-dipping 🙂

naturist 0002 Chaak Tun cenote, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Another cenote that we visited in Tulum area  was ¿Cementerio de Mascota? (Pet Cemetery). It was discovered recently and has not been fully developed for visitors (yet). I put question marks around the name, because we are actually not sure if what we saw was cenote Cementerio de Mascota or an unnamed cenote in the same area. Tomas only knew that it was supposed to be further down the road that goes to the famous cenote Dos Ojos, and we got directions entering the park, but we never saw any indications to it, so we couldn’t be certain.

naturist 0004 Pet Cemetery cenote, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Once we passed the much-visited cenote Dos Ojos, we decided to continue the walk naked. The forest was green as the rain season was starting, and some trees were blooming.

blooming tree 0000 on the way to Pet Cemetery cenote, Quintana Roo, Mexicoblooming tree 0001 on the way to Pet Cemetery cenote, Quintana Roo, Mexico

And some were even fruiting, like this wild papayo (papaya plant).

papaya 0001 on the way to Pet Cemetery cenote, Quintana Roo, Mexicopapaya 0000 on the way to Pet Cemetery cenote, Quintana Roo, Mexico

I liked those ‘tree-hugging’ epiphyte cactuses too (they reminded me of myself on the coconut palm tree).

epiphyte cactus 0000 on the way to Pet Cemetery cenote, Quintana Roo, Mexico

As the air was cooling down (it was late afternoon), more and more birds started singing, but we didn’t see the possessors of this hanging nest.

hanging nest 0000 on the way to Pet Cemetery cenote, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Eventually, the road had a steep turn to the left, and there was a sign to cenote Sac-Actun (one of the longest underwater cave systems). We decided not to turn and continued in the same direction, passing through the wooden gates; but almost immediately after that, the road turned right. We were not sure whether it would bring us to Cementerio de Mascota, and decided to follow the road for not more than half an hour. We soon reached a spot with a layer of sand that seemed to have been washed out of somewhere… then we saw the pipe that was probably used for that and followed along it.

naturist 0003 Pet Cemetery cenote, Quintana Roo, Mexico

The trail was going downwards, and the trees were getting bigger and greener – a good sign of proximity of water.

banyan 0000 on the way to Pet Cemetery cenote, Quintana Roo, Mexico

There it was!

cenote0000 Pet Cemetery cenote, Quintana Roo, Mexico

However, there was something weird about it. It almost looked like a crime scene! Or like people were rushed out, leaving their diving equipment, food, and half-full (or half-empty? :D) glasses of wine!

cenote0001 Pet Cemetery cenote, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Well, what I guess in reality happened was that there were some ‘cleaning’ works on the site, which will eventually transform this cenote into another tourist attraction. To us, it would have actually been more attractive in its virgin state, but at least we could explore it a bit before it was going to be discovered by mass tourism.

naturist 0000 Pet Cemetery cenote, Quintana Roo, Mexico

We snorkelled, and given the atmosphere of the place (and its name too!), we were happy to have seen nothing but fish in water.

naturist snorkel 0001 Pet Cemetery cenote, Quintana Roo, Mexico

After we got out of water, we heard some noise in the woods, then we saw the trees shaking! Almost as if someone was trying to fell them with brute force. Soon we figured out what it was: monkeys were jumping from one tree to another. They were actually coming in our direction, so I quickly installed a telephoto lens on my camera. The monkeys got quiet for a moment… and then they reappeared right above us! But they moved so fast in the canopy that we didn’t manage to get any decent shots.

On the way back, we stopped by another small cenote just a bit off the road to/from Dos Ojos.

naturist 0000 on the way to Pet Cemetery cenote, Quintana Roo, Mexico

It made a perfect refreshing skinny-dipping experience before we would get back to the main road to catch ‘camioneta’ (minibus) to Tulum.

naturist 0005 Pet Cemetery cenote, Quintana Roo, Mexico

A couple of days later we were joined by Miguel, who showed me some less known cenotes previously. This time we wanted to see recently open cenotes in a place that was called, very promisingly, Cenotillo.  Apparently, Cenotillo boasts more than a hundred of cenotes! We had a map that listed just a few of them.

Cenote Usil (Ucil) seemed to be the closest to this little town.

cenote 0003 cenote Usil, Yucatan, Mexico

Probably for this reason, there was some rubbish around but surprisingly there was nobody there.

cenote 0002 cenote Usil, Yucatan, Mexico

It was the perfect time of day to see solar reflections on the roof of the cenote.

naturist dive 0010 cenote Usil, Yucatan, Mexico

The water was quite cold, and it seemed bottomless! Perfect for a skinny dip-dive 🙂

naturist-dive,-cenote-Usil,-Yucatan,-Mexico-(s)

We were up to visit more cenotes, so we left pretty soon.

naturist 0000 cenote Usil, Yucatan, Mexico

By the way, cotton trees seemed to dominate the forest around Usil, but I preferred them to keep the cotton for themselves. I don’t mean that just because we didn’t need clothes in that weather, but also because quite a lot of that fibre was accumulated on the water surface of cenote.

cotton tree 0001 cenote Usil, Yucatan, Mexicocotton tree 0000 cenote Usil, Yucatan, Mexico

After that, we went back to the village in hope to ask for directions for other cenotes. Local police happened to be the best at giving advice, and we were even escorted by a policeman to a guide-vigilante Dani who curated some of the cenotes just recently open to public.

The first one we went was cenote Xoch. Luckily, Dani was absolutely cool with the idea of naturism and didn’t even blink when I got naked while walking through the forest on the way to cenote.

naturist 0003 cenote Xoch, Yucatan, Mexico

We were truly amazed when we reached the cenote. It was almost as big as the Sacred Cenote at Chichen-Itza. Unfortunately, to my view at least, they’ve already made some basic constructions next to it, but hopefully there won’t be much more than that.

naturist 0000 cenote Xoch, Yucatan, Mexico

Another disappointment came from the strictly enforced rule of wearing life vests, because “the bottom of cenotes hasn’t been explored yet”.naturist 0001 cenote Xoch, Yucatan, Mexico

For someone who can swim well, it seems to be an absurd requirement for swimming in absolutely tranquil waters of cenote, but at least Dani didn’t make me wear swim trunks 😀

naturist 0002 cenote Xoch, Yucatan, Mexico

Then we went to cenote Kaipech.

cows 0001 cenote Kaipech, Yucatan, Mexico

It was next to a cattle farm, but nobody was around; the cows seemed to be intrigued by our appearance.

cows 0000 cenote Kaipech, Yucatan, Mexico

Despite being next to the farm, Kaipech was probably the least developed cenote of this scale that I’ve seen!

cenote 0002 cenote Kaipech, Yucatan, Mexico

There was no ladder, so we had to go down by the rocks (luckily trees and their roots were of great help with that), but this is what made this cenote my favourite one perhaps.

naturist 0001 cenote Kaipech, Yucatan, Mexico

This cenote still felt untouched, although we definitely weren’t the first ones to visit it: a couple of plastic bottles were floating in water. Dani said this cenote was next in their plans for development to bring tourism in the area. But in my opinion, they should not change anything about it, it is just as perfect in its virgin state as it gets. They should only keep it clean…

We cleared the entry point of floating rubbish and went for a swim.

naturist 0000 cenote Kaipech, Yucatan, Mexico

This place seem to be teeming with wildlife. Judging by the constant buzz in the distance, there was a beehive around, so one has to be careful not to come too close to it. I also saw a basilisk, aka Jesus Lizard because of its ability to run on water, but this time it was just sunbathing on a branch above water. The seeds on the photo below are “snakes’ food” according to Dani, but it is hard to believe that, as all snakes are exclusive carnivores, as far as I know. I wouldn’t mind sitting there for a while and observe if any snakes come to eat those berries.

snake berries 0000 cenote Kaipech, Yucatan, Mexico

There was also a nest with one egg that could be easily seen, but I guess the trick was that it was on a palm tree leaf right above water, so any crawling intruders were likely to fall down.

nest 0000 cenote Kaipech, Yucatan, Mexico

As usually near cenotes, there were some blue-crowned motmots, locally known as ‘pajaro toh’. These birds are brightly coloured and have various distinct calls. I can still hear them calling to visit those picturesque and yet mysterious cenotes!

toh bird 0000 cenote Kaipech, Yucatan, Mexico

beaches of Sian Ka’an biosphere reserve, natural and naturist?

Unfortunately, I have to start from bad news: just one month after I posted about eco-resort Papaya Playa and its clothing-optional beach, upon my second visit there I found out it was no longer clothing-optional. There was a warning on the beach that read: ‘Welcome to Papaya Playa. Clothing is mandatory!’ Unfortunately, Papaya Playa also bought neighbouring resort Copal that was known to be clothing-optional. So, now there is no nudist beach in Tulum’s eco-hotel zone to my knowledge. I’ve read about a couple of luxurious nudist hotels in the area – Hidden Beach Resort, Dolce Vita B& B, and Desire Resort, but they seem to be very expensive and do not offer day passes to the beach. However , if you don’t mind staying away from the hotels, you could go to biosphere reserver Sian-Ka’an or Xcacel-Xcacelito for some more secluded beaches where you can sunbathe and swim ‘as nature intended’.

I’d recommend renting a bicycle to move around Tulum, but make sure to find a good one – most of the rented bikes are in terrible, really terrible conditions (you feel like something is about to fall off as soon as you take off). iBike seemed to be the only bike rental that offered mountain bikes. We rented cruiser bikes from them because they were much cheaper and the road seemed to be pretty smooth, but now my advice is to go for their mountain bikes, because they seemed to be in much better state, and not so much because you’ll need suspension, although that helps too, once you leave the asphalted road and enter Sian-Ka’an. The closest open access beach in Sian-Ka’an is about 15-20 min by bike from the hotel zone (about 35min from the town). After you enter Sian-Ka’an through ‘the arch’, continue further and look for mark “3” on the right side. There is a  trail opposite of it,

naturist 0011 Sian Kaan beach, Quintana Roo, Mexico

and it leads to this idyllic beach.

naturist 0002 Sian Kaan beach, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Shortly after our arrival, we saw the rain was approaching, but as the sun was still shining, the colour of the sea got only more intense juxtaposed with dark clouds.

naturist  0001 Sian Kaan beach, Quintana Roo, Mexico

When the rain started, we followed advice of the pelicans not to be bothered

pelicans in the rain  0002 Sian Kaan beach, Quintana Roo, Mexico

and ran into the sea.

naturist 0001 Sian Kaan beach, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Soon the rain stopped, and we were rewarded with a rainbow.

naturist 0004 Sian Kaan beach, Quintana Roo, Mexico

I felt like doing some stretching and a coconut palm tree seemed perfect for practicing ‘bridges’.

naturist 0003 Sian Kaan beach, Quintana Roo, Mexico

That’s when I noticed two ripe coconuts hanging at the top. Maybe it was the influence of videos of Indian pole gymnastics, that I had impressed me so much shortly before the trip, but I decided to climb the coconut tree.

naturist 0006 Sian Kaan beach, Quintana Roo, Mexico

My first attempt, though, appeared more appropriate for the tree-hugging day 😀

naturist 0005 Sian Kaan beach, Quintana Roo, Mexico

I tried to remember techniques for that but mostly had to improvise. Unfortunately, I hadn’t seen this video of free climbing a 100ft coconut palm tree, so my way up wasn’t as efficient, but I did manage to reach the coconuts (granted my tree was much shorter, but on the other hand, I didn’t have any equipment at all, so my climb was truly ‘free’).

naturist 0007 Sian Kaan beach, Quintana Roo, Mexico

I hope my fascination of coconut palm trees can be forgiven, given that they represent an ultimate tropical beach icon and I came there after some chilly New York spring days… But sometimes they also form some interesting structures… this one was somewhat ‘alienesque’…

naturist  0000 Sian Kaan beach, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Next time we came to the same place with my local friend, and we were up for a treat. We made ceviche from freshly caught bought fish. It would be cool to catch our own fish for lunch, but fishing is understandably forbidden in Sian Ka’an biosphere reserve.

naturist ceviche 0000 Sian Kaan beach, Quintana Roo, Mexico

So, we chopped half an onion and squeezed about 10 limes onto the fish filet of about a kilo and left it to marinate for 20min.

naturist ceviche 0002 Sian Kaan beach, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Then we diced a tomato,

naturist ceviche 0003 Sian Kaan beach, Quintana Roo, Mexico

and added some cilantro too.

naturist ceviche 0005 Sian Kaan beach, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Our ceviche turned out just perfect (at lest for our hungry stomachs).

naturist ceviche 0006 Sian Kaan beach, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Maybe it’s time to start a new section on this website, something like ‘cooking with active naturists’?

naturist 0013 Sian Kaan beach, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Later in the afternoon we continued cycling further south; we were aiming to reach the point that I saw on the satellite view map where coral reef came closer to the beach. Surprisingly, most of the shore was actually privately owned or on sale – not sure how that works on the territory that is a biosphere reserve – so we had no choice but go until we’d find free access beach. We almost gave up, and Will’s bike got a flat tire, but then there was a sign for a public beach, playa publica. We decided to deal with the tire next day, and settled down on that beautiful beach.

naturist 0009 Sian Kaan beach, Quintana Roo, Mexico

There was just one other group of 3 guys on the beach and someone jogging, so we felt the place was pretty much ours. We found a nice spot under coconut palm trees (of course!) to set up our tent, and there were some pretty bushes with orange flowers.

naturist 0012 Sian Kaan beach, Quintana Roo, Mexico

It’s hard to imagine a better place for beach camping!

When we walked around, we noticed that one of the guys in the other group was skinny-dipping too. We were a good influence 🙂 At night, we went for a walk by the water again in hope to see bioluminescent plankton. There was almost none in the water, but surprisingly we noticed that we had many of those sparkling dots in our hair! Probably the previous beach had more of bioluminescent plankton and it got stuck in our hair. Then we saw two men wearing some kind of military outfit approaching. We just behaved as if our outfit was as natural as theirs (and in fact it was, but you know what I mean), but they didn’t seem to be bemused at all; they just asked where we stayed and where we were from…

naturist 0008 Sian Kaan beach, Quintana Roo, Mexico

As the sun was rising, it was a good time to get out of the tent

naturist 0010 Sian Kaan beach, Quintana Roo, Mexico

and take photos of the shorebirds.

frigatebird 0011 Sian Kaan beach, Quintana Roo, Mexico.jpg

Frigatebirds and pelicans were the most numerous.

pelican 0002 Sian Kaan beach, Quintana Roo, Mexico

We saw some successful catches,

pelican 0000 Sian Kaan beach, Quintana Roo, Mexico

but they also seemed to enjoy the dives.

pelican 0001 Sian Kaan beach, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Synchronised diving of pelicans was particularly impressive. Too bad I didn’t manage to get a photo of three of them plunging simultaneously.

pelican 0003 Sian Kaan beach, Quintana Roo, Mexico

By the way, where you see the waves breaking in the sea in the background goes the barrier reef. It’s not very close to the beach, but we decided to swim towards it. It was a nice long swim (it took us about half an hour one way), but we didn’t see anything particularly interesting at the reef like I did previously at Akumal beach (turtles) or in front of Tulum ruins (squids).

naturist snorkel 0000 Sian Kaan beach, Quintana Roo, Mexico

After that, we had a fruit snack, pumped the tube at the nearest ‘rancho’ (looked more like some kind of small boat maintenance place) and headed back to Tulum.

Another beach in vicinity of Tulum is Xcacel-Xcacelito. It’s really pretty and not crowded at all. We figured that at the far left side we could be naked as there was hardly anyone, and we saw some topless women too. That is also where the reef comes close to the beach, but again it wasn’t particularly vivid, as you’d expect from the most prolific type of marine ecosystem.

naturist 0000 Xcacel-Xcacelito beach, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Papaya Playa and other places in and around Tulum

Ever since my pen pal Luis wrote about beautiful clothing-optional beaches in Tulum, Mexico, I had been aiming to go there. We planned a trip with Luis exactly one year ago, but unfortunately he had to cancel literally last minute. I still went on my own, and I wasn’t disappointed to say the least. Out of two resorts recommended by Luis, I picked Papaya Playa.

naturist 0013 Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico

It is a quiet place with cabins, open-air showers, restaurant all built in rustic tropical style, that blends harmoniously with local environment. There were many people but it never felt crowded. In the mornings, I often had the beach to myself.

naturist 0009 Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico

I didn’t just stay at the resort, of course. I made friends with Tomas from Papaya Playa reception, and he organised a couple of trips in its vicinity and also joined me when he didn’t have to work. The obvious choice was Mayan ruins of Tulum, which is not a clothes-free place, of course…

naturist 0021 Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico

… with the exception of iguanas, that guard the ancient site.

iguana 0022 Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico

However, we went for a snorkelling tour on the coral reef right in front of the ruins, and I asked the boatmen if I could swim naked. They said they had no issues with that, as long as the only woman in our group of about 6 tourists wouldn’t mind. (Apparently, it was obvious to them that men wouldn’t.) She and her husband were totally cool with the idea, although they said they had never been to a nudist beach. I was really happy that both local and visiting Mexicans seemed to be much more open-minded re nudity, than they were portrayed by some of my Mexican friends, who believed their country was too conservative….

naturist 0012 Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico

So, there I was snorkelling naked in the warm Caribbean Sea!

naturist 0000 Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico

By the way, that reef is a part of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, the second largest barrier reef in the world!

corals 0023 Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Although I knew that it wasn’t very rich in terms of biodiversity (for a coral reef! which means that it would still be probably the most diverse marine ecosystem around), I was disappointed that visually it wasn’t nearly as bright as the coral reefs of the Red Sea that I saw in Israel and Egypt.

corals 0024 Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico

But then I saw three squids, and two of them were facing each other. I had just watched a documentary about cuttlefish before going to Mexico, so I immediately recognised that those were two males in a competitive dance that involved display of change in colours. Unfortunately, one of them retreated when I came closer to take a video.

squid 0025 Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico

We also went to the beach of Akumal, which is famous for sea turtles. It’s not a clothing-optional beach, but I felt it’d be a waste to swim clothed in such a nice warm water, so I took off my swimming trunks as soon as I was in water. Not long after, I saw some huge sea turtles grazing on sea grass! They looked so majestic and didn’t seem to be bothered by my presence.

sea turtle 0026 Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico

We also went to the beaches of Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, south of Tulum. Those are really beautiful, and I would like to say truly pristine, but unfortunately there was quite a lot of trash! It wasn’t garbage left by visitors of Sian Ka’an, but all the stuff that people through away from numerous boats into what they think is unlimited vastness of the Caribbean. It probably doesn’t occur in their head that if those things don’t sink down to the bottom of the sea, they will float until washed away ashore… and with time they accumulate in noticeable and disturbing amounts! The only reason why we don’t see this garbage on beaches at the resorts is because of constant cleaning. I think it would be good to leave small sections of urban beaches unattended, so that everyone is reminded about the amount of trash that floats in the sea…

naturist 0001 Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Despite that, it was probably the most stunning beach in the area!

naturist 0002 Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico

The water was beautiful,

naturist 0007 Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico

and we discovered some ruins too, doubtfully though as ancient as to be tracked to Mayan civilisation.

naturist 0006 Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Palm trees grow all along the beach,

naturist 0003 Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico

and of course we were tempted to go for a walk in the forest too.

naturist 0004 Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico

It was probably the first time I saw a forest comprised entirely of palm trees.

naturist 0005 Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico

In the evening, I read short history of Mexico under coconut trees of Papaya Playa. 🙂

naturist 0010 Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico

And with the full moon rising,

naturist 0008 Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico

it was a perfect time to take some night shots with that kind of iconic tropical background.

naturist full moon 0019 Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Oh well, I couldn’t decide if that place looked more beautiful during moonrise or sunrise! 🙂

naturist sunrise 0020 Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Then, I had some delicious mangos for breakfast at the beach, and those attracted some new friends.

iguana 0017 Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico

I didn’t realise iguanas were such mango-lovers, they seemed to have lost all their shyness and typical careless look.

iguana 0014 Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Pelicans were passing by and just checked out if there was anything for them, but I usually don’t eat fish for breakfast.

pelicans 0016 Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico

However, I did make quite a few iguanas happy with mango skins.

naturist 0015 Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico

At some point, they were all satisfied and retreated to sunbathe…

naturist 0011 Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico

So did I, and I would definitely like to come back to Papaya Playa to see my friends again. Maybe next time, I should give them some papaya 😉