My last cavern dive in Mexico is in Cenote Maravilla, a gorgeous, deep dive site north of Playa del Carmen. It has similar characteristics to El Pit and Angelita, plus it has some interesting bell formations, which reminded me of Cenote Zapote. All four of these cenotes are beautiful and worth a visit whenever you can make it to the Riviera Maya.

Fighting hopelessness

I’m struggling to figure out what I want to say in this video. I’m so late to this conversation, that I’m embarrassed to even say anything. And that’s the sentiment I heard from many people in the area right now.

“It’s too late. We can’t do anything.”

I look at this footage and see one of the most magnificent water environments in the world. But as I was diving here, the reality of the future of these places kept stabbing me in the heart.

I feel like I have no power, no agency.

What’s the point?

But even if this is just me screaming into the void of the internet, I have to try.

The cenotes, freshwater sinkholes, located in the Yucatan and Riviera Maya are unlike any other cave system in the world. They provide homes to countless creatures in the ecosystem and drinking water to the entire zone. They are unique, precious, and fragile in a society that refuses to recognize the limits of capitalism.

You may be thinking, ‘Sarah, what the heck are you talking about?’ The Mayan Train, of course.

The Mayan train

The Mayan Train (Tren Maya) is a huge project taken on by the government to boost the economy, create more jobs, and connect urban and rural areas. In the execution of this project, construction has destroyed thousands of acres of jungle and they have drilled into fragile cenote systems.

Environmentalists have fought the project the entire way, stating the government rushed the steps without taking the appropriate regulatory measures for testing environmental impact. Construction videos posted by local activists paint a horrific picture of the destruction and beginnings of water contamination. The construction ripped apart cave formations that have been there for thousands of years, and pouring cement for the train infrastructure further complicates the long-term environmental impact.

If you want to see the videos posted by activists in the area, check out @soscenotes and @cenotesurbanos

Building on unstable earth

Taking all of these factors aside, another terrifying realization is that they’ve built this huge structure over unstable land. I feel like a collapse is inevitable, and whether it’s above or below ground will determine the amount of publicity the accident will provoke.

I also keep thinking about how terrifying the sounds will be for anyone diving in the caves around this train.

Aside from poor infrastructure, this train will open up areas of Quintana Roo, Yucatán, Campeche, Tabasco, and Chiapas, which have been protected from the double-edged sword that is tourism development. Communities and cultures will be affected by this, and I don’t think for the better.

Environmental impacts are already underway

During my time here I did not get to dive in the affected areas, however, I did see the impact of general tourism development on a popular cenote system called Taj Maha. Back when I lived in Playa del Carmen, that cavern system was one of the more popular locations for recreational divers. However, when I followed the cavern line on my way to one of its caves, I was shocked to see the layer of grime covering the surface of the water, and apparently, the grime hasn’t budged for quite some time.

The development of the area reminds me of similar environmental atrocities that were happening when I lived in the Riviera Maya back in 2015. Mangroves were cleared for coastline development and now, almost a decade later, people wonder why beaches are disappearing. Everything is interconnected.

The freshwater system that flows beneath the jungle in the Riviera Maya is essential for life, and my heart breaks every time I see greed win over conservation.

Tourism is so healthy in this area of Mexico because of the natural beauty. If we destroy nature, tourism will collapse.

Train boycott

Again, I feel like I can’t do much with these little videos/blogs, but if I can convince just one person to refrain from buying tickets for the Mayan Train, I will take it. The project went horrifically over budget and it seems the only impactful action we can take at this point is to boycott the train.

Finally, I want to say thank you. I know these topics are not popular online, so if you’ve made it this far, I really appreciate you.

Let’s stay in this fight for the planet. We can’t give up.

Join me on upcoming Azul Unlimited dive expeditions

See what trips are coming up. I always give my community first dibs on spots, so you can sign up for Patreon (and get trip discounts) or my email list to be the first to know about new expeditions in the future.

scuba diving trip to los cabos
whale shark snorkel trip to la paz

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