Cenotes are natural pits or sinkholes resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater underneath. Especially associated with the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico, cenotes were used by the ancient Maya for sacrificial offerings. The term derives from a word used by the low-land Yucatec Maya, “Ts’onot” to refer to any location with accessible groundwater. There are an estimated 7,000 cenotes in the Yucatán Peninsula.
Cenote water is often very clear, as the water comes from rain water filtering slowly through the ground, and therefore contains very little suspended particulate matter. The groundwater flow rate within a cenote may be very slow. In many cases, cenotes are areas where sections of cave roof have collapsed revealing an underlying cave system, and the water flow rates may be much faster: up to 6 miles (10 km) per day. Cenotes around the world attract cave divers who have documented extensive flooded cave systems through them, some of which have been explored for lengths of 62 miles (100 km) or more.
The Škocjan Caves - A Unique Natural Phenomena
An ancient cave system considered one of the largest discovered underground chambers with the most famous underground features in the world.
Due to their exceptional significance, the Škocjan Caves in Slovenia were entered on UNESCO’s list of natural and cultural world heritage sites in 1986. International scientific circles have acknowledged the importance of the Caves as one of the natural treasures of the planet.
The Škocjan Caves are a unique natural phenomenon ranking among the most important caves in the world. They represent the most significant underground phenomena in both the Karst region and Slovenia. Above the caves lies the village of Škocjan, now famous for its archaeological treasure below.
Research has shown that people have lived in the caves and the surrounding area in prehistoric times up to the present – totaling more than 5,000 years of history. The first written sources on the Škocjan Caves date back as early as the 2nd century B.C. and were marked on the oldest published maps of that part of the world.
Nearly 100 years after the discovery of Dead Lake within the cave system, the last important event took place in 1990 when Slovenian divers discovered over 200 meters of new cave passages. It is still believed there is even more to be discovered in the extraordinary
Dining in a Cave
In the sea-side town of Polignano a Mare in southern Italy lies a most unique dining experience in a rare architectural setting, a restaurant built inside a cave. The Grotta Palazzese restaurant was created inside a vaulted limestone cave that looks outward towards the ocean and is only open during the summer months.
Melissani Cave, Greece
This amazing cave was first discovered in 1951 and was opened for the public in 1963. Melissani Cave is located on the east coast of the island of Kefalonia in Greece. The cave has two large, water filled halls with an island in the middle. The first hall has a big oval opening to the surface where the sunlight streams in, illuminating its stunning natural beauty. The second is a huge cavern with an arched roof featuring numerous stalactites and stalagmites.The entire length of the cave is 100 meters. The best time to visit the cave is in the middle of a bright sunny day. Tours are done by boats that take you on a tour through both halls of the breathtaking cave.
Underwater Secrets of the Ancient Maya
Ancient Maya believed that the rain god Chaak resided in caves and natural wells called cenotes. Maya farmers today in Mexico’s parched Yucatán still appeal to Chaak for the gift of rain, Meanwhile cenotes are giving archaeologists new insights into the sacred landscapes of the ancestral Maya.
In ancient times, the natural well, or cenote, acted as a sacred sundial and timekeeper for the ancient Maya on the two days of the year, May 23 and July 19, when the sun reaches its zenith. At that moment it is vertically overhead, and no shadow is cast. The fact that the cenote is directly northwest of the main staircase of El Castillo, the famous central pyramid of Chichén Itzá, is not coincidental. The ancient Maya came here during times of drought to deliver offerings and to give thanks for a plentiful harvest. The Maya people have a strong relation to their gods, their sacred city and their extraordinarily accurate calendar.
(Source: National Geographic)
The Glowing Spider-Worms of New Zealand
The glow worm (Arachnocampa luminosa), is unique to New Zealand. Thousands of these tiny creatures radiate their incredible blue luminescent light throughout the caves.
The cave glow worm is no worm at all. It’s a fungus gnat larva — predatory, and, if the going gets rough, cannabalistic. The handful of species are found only in New Zealand and in eastern Australia. A newly hatched larva measures just a few millimeters long, but it soon sets about spinning a series of sticky fishing lines it suspends from the cave ceiling.
Playa de Amor - Mexico’s Hidden Beach
Located in the mouth of Banderas Bay are the beautiful Las Marietas Islands, about 22 nautical miles west of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Formed by volcanic activity over thousands of years, the islands are a nationally protected bird sanctuary, also providing shelter for countless marine species. On one of the islands is Playa de Amor, more commonly known as Hidden Beach. To reach this secluded paradise, visitors need to swim through a short tunnel, opening up into the stunning beach seen here. There are a number of tour operators providing day trips to this ecological marvel.